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Developing future leaders

Wilhelm Crous - Friday, July 05, 2019

In the Financial Mail of 20 June, Advocate Thuli Madonsela wrote about a course in Administrative Law that helps leaders in government to know (and do) the right thing. In essence, it’s a course about instilling ethics in future leaders. 

This immediately reminded me about the foreword she wrote in the book the "Leadership: Perspectives from the Front Line" which I believe is worth re-visiting. In answering the question: “What are the features of leaders who make a lasting, worthy difference?”  

She listed these five differentiating characteristics:

Firstly, they live out uncompromisingly and with integrity their values, regardless of the persons, institutions and circumstances involved. They do the right things for the right reasons for the right outcomes, regardless of the level of resistance and critique. 

Secondly, they are authentic as a person in all they do. They are true to themselves, and what they stand for. 

Third, they are service-focused, selfless and people-centric. They reach out to others from the premise that everyone is trying to do the best they can. And if they knew better, they would do even better. The leader must strive to create win–win situations. 

Fourth, these leaders apply systemic, big-picture thinking linked to their values and principles. They seek to understand the impact of their daily, transactional actions on the goals and vision they are endeavouring to achieve. These leaders always begin with the end in mind and stay with the end in mind throughout the path they are following towards their vision. 

Lastly, such leaders are resilient by doggedly sticking to what they have set out to achieve, again regardless of persons and circumstances.”

While in the Financial Mail article, Thuli Madonsela highlights that true leaders also do the following things differently: 

  • In achieving their goals and vision – as informed by their life purpose – these leaders realise that leadership starts with themselves as persons in the first instance. One cannot lead others if one cannot lead oneself and those dearest to oneself, like being a true parent to one’s children. 

  • These leaders lead from the perspective of being servants. He/she seeks to find the challenge, issue or problem they were ‘born’ to solve to the benefit of all, in this way adding value for all. It is not about themselves and their personal interests and benefits. The ‘Me’ is subservient to the ‘Us’.

  • To make a difference, these leaders infuse everything they do with passion and dedication in the way that they want to make the best of whatever area or situation they are entrusted with as a leader, regardless of the resistance and critique. 

  • Such a leader always seeks, as a starting point, to understand others, their world views, and circumstances before pushing to be understood as a leader. The leader seeks to uncover the unsaid, the undiscussables, what is skirted around, or avoided. She/he realises that she/he may also be hampered by her/his own blind spots. Regardless of what a leader asks her/his followers to do, they will start doing things based on how the leader interacts with them as opposed to what the leader tells them to do.

  • Difference-making leaders ensure at all times that their day-to-day transactional decisions and actions are tied to their overall purpose and vision. 

  • These leaders allow followers to influence them regarding the vision, the path to the vision, and the pace at which to move towards the vision. 

  • They communicate on an ongoing basis to all concerned parties to keep them informed, and are personally visible where it matters. 

  • Though they have ‘hard’ power which they have the full right to apply, they seek primarily to use their ‘soft’ power: engaging people by appealing to their aspirations, hopes, ideals, needs and dreams.

  • They engender teaming and team work: ‘We are in this together, and are all needed to realise the vision.’ 

  • They act as inspirational role models by setting the example. 

  • They are good followers which is reflected in assisting fellow leaders to achieve common goals. 

  • Replicate leadership by building the next generation of leaders, especially amongst the upcoming youth, realising that they want to be part of building a new world. With or without leadership’s permission, they will play that role.” (Madonsela A. T., 2016)

If you'd like to learn more about the “Leadership: Perspectives from the Front Line” book, you can do so here. To this day it remains one of the most comprehensive books on leadership development available in South Africa.

In addition, for us here at Knowledge Resources, the need to develop future-fit leaders is so important that we’ve also included a special one-day track, a seminar within a conference essentially, on leadership development at the upcoming Learning and Development Conference on 10 September. This Leadership and Executive Development Seminar/Track can be attended by L&D Conference delegates or registered for separately.

Here are some of the topics that will be covered in this track:

  • The future of leadership development in the digital age 

  • Can authenticity in leaders be developed?

  • Developing accountable leaders

  • Developing leadership core capabilities that drive adaptability, resilience and agility

  • Leadership development case studies

  • And more!

With speakers from leading organisations such as: LinkedIn, Mercedes Benz, Nedbank, Deutsche Telekom, Massmart, Unilever, McDonalds, Standard Bank, Exxaro, Media24, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft – this is an event you won’t want to miss! Click here now to learn more.


Madonsela, A. T. (2016). Foreword. In T. H. Veldsman, & A. J. Johnson, Leadership: Perspectives from the Front Line (pp. iv-vi). South Africa: Knowledge Resources.
Madonsela, T. (2019, June 20-26). Instilling Ethics in Future Leaders., p. 8.




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