Chairman of Regenesys Business School, Dr M Saravanja,
Dean of Regenesys, Dr P Law,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured and humbled to receive this Regenesys Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership. South Africa is a country that has given birth to many great leaders, people who have earned the respect and admiration not only of their fellow country people, but of many others around the world.
We have learnt from the lives of those people that leaders are not born. They are made. They are moulded by circumstance, influenced by their elders, shaped by their peers, formed by the organisations they join and seasoned by the struggles they undertake. No leader stands alone.
They are a product of relationships formed over a lifetime. They are the product of lessons learnt, battles won and battles lost, advice followed and advice ignored, ideas shared, insights gained. An award for leadership is therefore not so much about recognising the innate qualities of an individual, but about recognising the contributions of the many people who helped form them.
It is also about recognising the various organised formations through which they gained purpose, capability, discipline and understanding. The most outstanding leaders our country has known were forged in the crucible of struggle. They were unionists, activists, combatants. They learnt from workers and peasants, from the poor and the displaced. They learnt humility, selflessness, courage and almost all that can be known about the human condition.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
An award for leadership is not only a recognition of past achievement.
It is also a statement of intent. In this case, it is a statement by Regenesys of the values it embraces, the society it wants to build and the leaders it seeks to produce.
Two decades ago, I had the honour of chairing the Constitutional Assembly, which was tasked with drafting a new Constitution for our country.
For all involved, this was a challenging undertaking. We bore the responsibility to balance the realities of our society with the ideals of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous future.
This meant that each of us had to reach beyond the limitations of ideology, culture and partisanship to produce a document that would provide all South Africans with a sense of belonging, dignity and respect for their humanity. It was made possible because we had leaders who were able to put aside parochial interests in pursuit of the greater good. It was made possible because we had leaders who, even at moments of great uncertainty and upheaval, held fast to principle. In the face of apparently insurmountable challenges, they were inventive, creative, persistent, undaunted. Those are the kind of leaders we need in business, in politics, in world affairs today.
We live in times when all we have known about world markets, diplomacy, politics and ideology is growing more and more indeterminate. Some of the features of this emerging world order were described two decades ago in an article by George Soros called The Capitalist Threat. In this new world, he argues, the pursuit of narrow self-interest has become the overriding feature. In this world people no longer know what they stand for.
People increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value. Soros makes the observation that:
What is more expensive is considered better. People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles. [And] society has lost its anchor!
In many societies, in many parts of the world, in many economies, this observation still holds true. As a business school, tasked with producing the next generation of business leaders, this presents a challenge to Regenesys.
In a country and on a continent where poverty, inequality and unemployment is so severe, how does a business school like Regenesys understand its purpose?
Does it consider its mandate to extend only to the production of excellence in finance, management, marketing, operations and the other disciplines that are required to perform in business? Or should it do more?
As a business school, Regenesys not only imparts knowledge and develops skills. It also plays a role in the reproduction of organisational culture, in inculcating social values and in promoting business practices. As an institution of higher learning, you have to recognise your responsibility in shaping the consciousness of the business leaders you produce.
You have to cultivate the type of leader who sees the development of others as a value for shared growth and progress. We need innovative leaders with imagination, fortitude and foresight. These are leaders who can manage change. We need leaders with honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. Leaders who relish the opportunity to seek knowledge, chase ideas and change lives by constantly striving for innovation.
We want you to create leaders who see Africa as the next frontier for human and economic development, people who will take calculated risks to increase productivity, unlock value and share its benefits. We want you to cultivate a new cohort of young business leaders who recognise their fellow Africans as traders, entrepreneurs and industrialists; as people who are able to feed themselves and live with purpose.
We look to you to develop ethical business leaders who are not interested in quick profits and unsustainable returns. We need business leaders who will not undertake projects at the expense of the environment or sustainable livelihoods. We cannot achieve growth for as long as our people, the majority of whom are young, have no opportunities.
It is important that the leaders who emerge from this school are willing and able to work with all social partners to build a state that is responsive, accountable, effective and efficient. They need to have the skills, the aptitude and the attitude to become part of the collective effort to implement the National Development Plan. They should be able to work with government to set clear targets, allocate adequate resources and work together in public private partnerships.
Together we must seek ways to improve good governance and service delivery. Together we must promote solidarity, cooperation and positive relations for good business practice in South Africa. We must take collective responsibility for the promotion of sound ethical values, moral regeneration and socio-economic transformation.
Nelson Mandela said:
It is the duty of leaders to produce an African reality that reinforces humanity's belief in justice, strengthens its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustains all our hopes for a better life for all.
That duty rests on all our shoulders. Whether we find ourselves in business, labour, government, academia or civil society, we are all leaders.
We therefore all have a responsibility to produce a new African reality in which the purpose of commerce is the achievement of shared prosperity and the progress of humanity.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa