African Leadership Group

From the Founder’s Desk

From the Founder’s Desk

Thought Leadership

South Africa’s Olympians represent leadership in action

Often in life, it is necessary to take a birds-eye view of things, particularly in terms of leadership and how to apply it to those things that really matter in the life, for example the  growth and development of a people, instead of the myopia of life, getting bogged down in the day-to-day issues.  We need to look at ourselves in a detached way so that we understand exactly those decisive values or steps that we are taking that will cause us to manage our problems, to master our weaknesses, and channel those learnings positively into strengths that can make a difference in our lives and in society.

Let us use the example of sportsmen and women, particularly pertinent given that the Olympic Games have recently taken place and our country’s athletes performed on the world stage in their sporting disciplines in search of medal glory.   Whether these athletes are running a marathon or playing a competitive game of cricket or rugby, it is not uncommon to find that they are not actually enjoying the act of sports exertion whilst they are doing it, because it is a painful process – this is particularly the case during the preparation phase – it is hard.  When they are finally engaging in the actual competition, they encounter pain, suffering, injury, loss – all kinds of adversity and emotion happens in the competitive sporting arena – just as in life.

The immediate reaction from sports-people if they have suffered a dreadful loss in a competitive sports match, or if they have run a particularly tough marathon without achieving success, is to say they will never run again, or they did not train well enough and that was to blame for their loss, or a host of other negative reactions.  Yet talk to those very same athletes again in just a week or a month’s time, and they will be talking about how they will win next time, how they will train differently next time, how they will battle through the pain barrier to achieve victory next time.

So, when does the enjoyment or satisfaction of a job well done occur?  During the physical exertion, during the pain and fatigue, during the stress?   No, it is when they look back and learn from what they have done and where they went wrong, recognising their weaknesses and learning from their mistakes, using that learning process to perform better next time.  Sportsmen and women know what it takes, the sacrifices that need to be made, to get them to where they want to be, the leadership qualities they have to demonstrate on the sports field to get their teams through in times of struggle, difficulty and pain.

Today’s leaders in our society can learn a lot from this sporting analogy.  Each day, top sportsmen and women recognise their weakness and use those learnings and experiences to confront personal difficulties, to get better in their chosen disciplines, to become better people, to become better leaders in their fields, to make better decisions based on experience.  Something to think about when watching our valiant sportsmen and women in action and seeing them experience what it takes to be a leader and to learn from both victory and failure in equal measure.

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