The Rainbow Nation was once epitomized by the charisma of the greatest icon of our times. We now call sohpiatown music the genre of disappointment and it’s hard not to just sit back waiting around for a race war.
I recently attended a JT Foxx seminar, and took the age-old advice of ‘leave if you feel like buying anything’ when he introduced his new tie collection. Let me tell you NO ONE sells me on shit fashion! Anyway that’s a story for another day. Personally I’d recommend attending his seminars, you learn a lot and it’s a great networking space (go here: http://jtfoxx.com/)
Whatever anyone (myself included) feels about Foxx’s events, one thing I repeatedly notice is that they’re attended by a refreshing demographic of…well…South Africa’s demographics. I’ve studied, worked and attended seminars at universities all over the world; I attend various churches regularly; am and have always been involved in a variety of organizations from nature freaks to NGOs and weekly business networking breakfasts. And I’m increasingly struck by how tribal we are in our associations. No let me stop talking trash. It’s ME! How tribal I am in my associations.
With everything polarizing all over the globe right now, I feel increasingly uncomfortable in homogeneous crowds. As if a poorly placed racial slur could set off a chant and the next thing I’d be swept up in a pogrom.
But this is not how I feel at J T Foxx’s seminars. Each way you turn seems a segment of the reality of our nation. Home to every race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, sense of fashion. I can’t describe how great it is to feel so completely in the minority and not one bit out of place at the same time. It’s like being hugged by ubuntu.
At some point in the seminar (I forget the context) a short clip played featuring Nelson Mandela and his iconic dance, and I was unable to stop the tears rolling down my face. How could one man sway the hearts of so many, and turn such hatred and despair into hope and love? And how can we as a nation, how can I as a South African, continue to press on without Madiba?
The best thing about Mandela was that he did everything with a smile, a shuffle-dance, and great fashion. Now more than ever I feel we need Madiba, a leader not consumed by greet and hatred, hard as stone to evoke trust and loyalty. But an ordinary man who loves to dance, who loves his fellow humans no matter how distantly related, and who encourages us to embrace our diversity, because it is what makes us all the same.
I struggle so much with my ability to lead, both in the past and with this business. Whether getting students to pay attention in lectures, or seamstresses to care about the quality of their work, I exhaust myself in motivating others towards a common goal. And these past three years of business have been rough as I’m constantly failing against the same brick wall of my inability to build a team.
I’ve read countless books, blogs and memes about great leaders, and know what leadership qualities, in point form, I concentrate on for myself. But when I look back at any of my successes as a leader, a follower, a friend or just personally, they’ve all come when I dropped the bullshit. When I stopped trying to be #successful and was just my authentic self. I think there’s something in all of us that refuses to believe someone as ordinary as ourselves could ever be great. That somehow great men are different, and thus we cultivate certain qualities to emulate them.
Although I’ll never stop trying to better myself, Nelson Mandela gave me the courage to be who I am. To lead not with force, but with a dance.