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The 2016 Annual Lead SA Change Makers Conference

Written by: Sithandwa Ngwetsheni

Written by:Celeste Jacobs

In case you missed this weekend’s Lead SA Change Makers Conference, here are some of the take-outs that arose on the day.

The event took place at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town on Saturday, 20 August. The speakers ranged from a variety of industries including beauty, academics and the arts. The one thing they had in common was the type of vision it takes to be thought of as change makers and their ability to share those insights as a means to ignite conversations about change.

Highlights of the day include a key note speech by our Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. It is always a privilege to hear her speak. She is as regal, well-informed and composed as you can imagine. Advocate Thuli Madonsela was awarded the Lead SA Leadership Award for 2016.

Emile Jansen, from Heal The Hood, received the prestigious Lead SA Hero of The Year Award for 2016 and Franck Leya, from A Dollar and a Dream, received the Lead SA Youth Leader of The Year Award for 2016. In addition to that and thanks to the generous support from the Dis-Chem Foundation, our Lead SA heroes are able to donate R100 000 each to a charity of their choice. Here are some of the themes that emerged on the day:

Leadership is a position of service

This theme is increasingly apparent when you consider that leadership, although it can be considered as being a privilege is the type of role a person occupies in order to activate change and move a group of people from one point to another. This transition requires a great deal of insight, foresight, dedication and planning.

According to Advocate Thuli Madonsela, “following is an important part of leading.” You need to know which battles to pick and possess the kind of wisdom that affords you the humility to listen to the advice of other people. She illustrated this by mentioning the way in which the late former President, Nelson Mandela, took the high road and listened to the advice of the late Walter Sisulu while on Robben Island. Madiba thought it was incredibly unfair that certain groups of people were allowed to wear trousers, while they were given shorts. He wasn’t wrong, but it was about choosing which battles to fight.

This belief holds true for businesses too. "You go into business to serve the needs and wants of people," says Sorbert CEO, Ian Fuhr. He explains that too often businesses consist of employees kneeling before bosses and while doing so, they have their backs facing the people they’re geared to service. His philosophy is that leadership services employees — in that way, employees are free to do what is actually required of them.

Women in leadership

Being Women’s Month, we’re even more focused on the urgency of transformation with regard to women in businesses. At the current rate of transformation we will only achieve gender equality, particularly with regard to the rate of remuneration, in 2096. Sibonile Dube, Corporate Affairs Director at Unilever urges, “don't remain silent on women empowerment.” You’d think that in 2016 this would be common practice, but it isn’t. We need to work towards achieving this and it begins with girls in school. Studies show that when we have 10% more girls in school GDP increases by 3%. We need to support the girl child and fighting gender inequality in South Africa should be a priority.

Corporate responsibility should extend beyond the corporate space by addressing social issues, such as abuse and violence against issues. Domestic issues don’t simply remain at home, there are far reaching implications on the well-being of people, which affect their ability to perform at their best.

In the words of Social Entrepreneur and CEO of the Afrithon Group, Nkosinathi Biko, “live a life of critical consciousness, open doors for others, leave a legacy.” We simply cannot move forward if we choose to do so by ignoring the urgency of creating organisations where women are included and fairly represented.

The power of the individual to ignite change

If you ask Hip-Hop Activist, Emile Jansen, he’ll tell you, “your state of mind is important.” It sounds simple, but mastering this concept can be challenging. Accepting that it is an ongoing process is part of what makes it easier. Keep in mind the words of the Founder of Silulo Ulutho Technologies, Luvuyo Rani, “learn to develop a thicker skin. People will laugh at you. It doesn't have to affect you.” Once you have power over your thoughts, an internal locus of control empowers you to make better decisions, fosters self-efficacy and helps cultivate desirable traits to affect change.

According to Daryl Brown, an Ambassador for SADAG, “you have to live for something bigger than yourself.” It’s the only way to build a foundation for a purpose driven life. Be somebody who encourages other people. “Sometimes, all it takes is one person,” says Dr Ruben Richards. Part of this ties in strongly with the philosophy behind being a leader with no title. According to Advocate Thuli Madonsela, “if you’ve never lead without a title, having a title won’t change that.” It’s not about simply doing what you’re paid to do, you’ve got to go beyond that. Knowing why you’re doing something is often more important than what you’re doing.

The power of individuals to ignite change is clear when we look at the student protests that have taken place across the county in the last year. "An education should give students these three things: knowledge, vision and courage," says Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town. She adds that we need all our young people to get involved because what this new activism that we're seeing becomes, depends on who is participating. There is a difference between anarchy and being radical. We need to be radical in times of injustice in order to affect change. Advocate Thuli Madonsela confirms this and says, “the millennials know what is promised in South Africa and that social injustice can no longer be tolerated.” "Be brave and rename your future,” says Dr Ruben Richards. Change begins on an individual level, but its affects have greater reach. The Lead SA Hero of the Year for 2015, Marlon Parker, touches on this too and says, “change makers make hope contagious.”

The stories shared by speakers at the Lead SA Change Makers Conference were inspiring, thought provoking and the type of thing everyone needs to keep in mind as we move forward as a country, but also as individuals. Change occurs in varying degrees, but even the smallest step in the right direction holds weight and the power to create a better future.

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