Pictured is Long Street in the Cape Town CBD. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Pictured is Long Street in the Cape Town CBD. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Four words to save South Africa - Secure, Accountable Free Enterprise

By Murray Williams Time of article published May 5, 2020

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Four words to save South Africa: Secure, Accountable Free Enterprise.

The acronym: the “SAFE Economy”. Safe from the coronavirus - and from severe damage or collapse.

The devastation to SA’s economy by the “hard lockdown” was directly caused by a failure of leadership.

The wrong leadership model: “top-down leadership” - that put the government first.

The right model: “servant leadership” - that put citizens first.

Let’s explain.

In the top-down model, leaders ask questions like:

Q1: How is the government going to stop the virus?

Q2: How is the government going to stop people from spreading it?

Q3: How is the government going to control economic activity?

Q4: How is the government going to ensure people have food?

Q5: How is the government going to control the whole of society, in this crisis?

Top-down leadership used to be widespread, across society. Then a few emotionally smart people woke up.

In “human capital theory”, a country’s people are the biggest resource. By far.

In 1970, the American thinker Robert Greenleaf felt power-centred authoritarian leadership in US institutions was not working.

His revolutionary new concept: “Servant Leadership - A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness” (also the title of his book).

Replacing self-interest with service to others. Honing influence, rather than power and control. Focusing on others’ strengths rather than weaknesses. Listening rather than giving orders.

“While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid’, servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible,” Greenleaf wrote.

If the South African government leadership had understood servant leadership, their questions would have been, how can government:

Q1: Enable South Africans to survive all the risks they face?

Q2: Enable South Africans to live and work safely?

Q3: Enable South Africans to take the best decisions?

Q4: Harness South Africans’ desire to stay safe and feed their families?

Q5: Unlock all South Africans’ maximum energy?

The difference is radical: top-down government leadership is “The Boss” at all costs.

Servant leadership makes every citizen a smart leader.

The government should “enable” every profession to be “SAFE”:

Secure: Secure their working environment with proper hygiene and distancing.

Accountable: Prove they have safety in place. Hi-tech must be used, to load proof.

Free: To nurture, sustain and build their businesses with minimum government interference. Strip out every unnecessary rule and obstacle.

Enterprising: Create, innovate, pivot, adapt, leapfrog - legally.

In a SAFE Economy, government’s job is to enable every South African to survive.

In brutal summary:

Command-and-control leadership must die.

Servant leaders must set our people free.

** Murray Williams’ “Shooting from the Lip” column appears in the Cape Argus newspaper every Monday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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