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South African perspectives on Leadership PDF Print E-mail
Written by Corina Mihaela Paraschiv   
Sunday, 09 March 2008 19:12
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On March 4th 2008, while in Capetown, I organized a conference onboard the Scholar Ship with EDUCO to learn about their South African experience of leadership. Until now I had never realized how the “ideal leader” is something that changes depending on different countries. The ideas presented here are meant to contrast the American vision of leadership with the perspective I've been presented with from my trip to South Africa, with interactions with locals, EDUCO and the Western Cape Business Opportunities Forum.

North American leadership is built around the concept of teams. Different activities we play in group stress the importance of trust and communication. We are taught about our responsability towards our community (corporate responsibility in the business world), and accountability as members of a team.


African leadership takes on a completely different approach. It starts with the individual himself, and “from the heart, not from the head”. That is because it is not enough to know how to lead others if you don't know how to lead yourself. The Western Cape Business Opportunities Forum would probably agree, as they also described the “ideal leader” as someone with hands-on abilities rather than just conceptual thinking. In addition, they added a leader should be strong and follow his own conviction – even if that may be unpopular.


I believe this difference may stream from the past of South Africa; many ideas that may have made sense economically and intellectually have destroyed the lives of many people. Education has, until recently, been accessible largely to the white population, more than to the black one. This may be why what we call hidden leadership may exist in people who have no education. Leadership is therefore more about having the right morals and will, as the Western Cape Business Opportunities Forum puts it, than to have a lot of knowledge.


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