Patrick Kuwana: How to rescue a visionless, leaderless nation heading for chaos

By Patrick Kuwana*

Patrick Kuwana, founder and CEO of Crossover Transformation Group
Patrick Kuwana, founder and CEO of Crossover Transformation Group

South Africa is crying for leadership…

One of the fundamental must-have skills for a leader is the ability to cast vision and clearly articulate the desired future that he or she wants to take their organisation (or nation) to. This unique ability is what determines if people will be inspired to willingly follow the leader or if the leader will have to coerce and manipulate them into the journey. The leader must be willing to be held accountable to the process of taking the organisation (or nation) from a current reality to this desired future, and must be prepared to boldly tackle the constraints that stand in the way of this journey. Some of these constraints might even be deep rooted historical legacy ‘demons’ that keep rearing their ugly heads to stop the forward momentum.

The decline of once popular movements on the continent

Most liberation movement leaders in Africa were able to draw the majority of the people into the vision of fighting for political freedom, and at the time this was rightly so a very compelling vision for millions of people who wanted to see the end of segregation based political and economic systems (colonialism and apartheid) on the continent. The challenge is that when this desired future of non-segregation was achieved most of these leaders could not ‘reinvent’ themselves into leaders who could offer their nations a new sustainable vision that would be compelling enough so that their followers would continue to follow them in the new democratic dispensation.

Some tried to cast a new vision but failed in the implementation because of lack of practical economic based experience and even more importantly erred by not allowing the process of reconciliation to run its full course to bring balance to the previously segregated population. Sadly, positional leaders who don’t have a compelling vision to influence people with will often develop dictatorial (control, manipulation, militant, fear, etc.) tactics to keep their positional power.


Where there is no vision the people perish

So what is the big deal with vision? A biblical quote ‘where there is no vision the people perish’ best encapsulates why this is a huge issue. We could use this quote to say ‘where there is no vision’ anarchy will continue in the universities, racial division and mistrust will continue unabated, anger and frustration will continue to grow, the economy will splutter along and erode the current and future wealth of South African’s. Whenever there is no vision to drive a collective people forward (especially when they are coming out of a previously segregated environment), the people will revert to spending most of their time fighting in the ‘muck’ of the past. A compelling desired future is what empowers diverse people to arise from the ‘muck’ of the past, deal with it and build platforms that will enable them to forge a path forward to a new future that will benefit all.

So where to now?

For a country to move forward it needs to have a vision that is compelling enough for all segments of its population. That is the only way a country can activate its most valuable asset (it’s people) and get them pulling in the same direction towards a common desired future. When there is a compelling vision that draws people into a new sense of hope they will each do their bit to contribute towards it’s attainment (irrespective of their socio-economic position, race, gender, religion, etc.). Those that willingly buy into a vision will always contribute positively to the process and those that are coerced will unfortunately always find ways to do as little as possible and selfishly extract as much as possible from the process. So perhaps we need to ask ourselves the question – “is there a compelling common national vision that every South African is aware of and sold out on?”

Read also: Straight faced Zuma: “Leaders must go when people don’t want them anymore.”

A compelling common vision is what brings hope, hope changes behaviour, changed behaviour enables trust to be built, trust is an ingredient for unity and unity takes an organisation (or nation) to new levels of effectiveness and prosperity that have never been achieved before. Vision is a catalyst to inclusive nation building, but where there is no vision there is no hope, and where there is no hope people will be destructive (as we are increasingly seeing in South Africa).

Let’s dream a little

What if all political leaders would lay down their own party agenda’s and call for the various stakeholders in the different spheres of society to come up with an encompassing national vision for the country and a strategic framework for its implementation? This national vision and framework would then be ‘cast in stone’ as being the roadmap for South Africa irrespective of who or which political party is in office. This would take away the need for us to be bombarded with political party manifesto’s every 5 years that never get implemented.

Read also: Ronnie Apteker on art of leadership – 5 tips to opening your ears & heart

The political playing field would then shift to parties vying to win votes based on their ability (or perceived ability) to implement and deliver on the national vision blueprint which has been agreed to by all for the good of all. This will take away unrealistic populism driven promises that the electorate is fed during election time and which eventually leads to unrest and violence as non-delivery leads to frustration and anger. Responsibility, transparency and accountability in delivering the national vision blueprint would become the main political driver and focal point for all South Africans.

New thinking new results

If we keep thinking the same way and doing things the same way, we will always get the same results – some call this insanity! Maybe it is time to think differently, do things differently so that we can get different results.

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