An Open Letter To Leaders

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Tiekie Barnard, CEO of Shift Impact Africa and SVAI

Leadership is complex and challenging, and leaders often face criticism from a stakeholder base whose limited and subjective perceptions may oversimplify an extremely complicated reality. Leadership is not simple, nor is it easy. It can be extremely lonely sometimes and building and gaining trust is even more of a challenge. Then again, if leadership was easy, all of us would be CEOs.

Covid-19 has resulted in a society afflicted with fear, anxiety, a loss of hope and the perpetuation of a total lack of ethics and rampant greed. When the entire world is suffering more than any other time in recent history, it is difficult to understand why those that were entrusted with the wellbeing of the people have reneged on their responsibilities.

Through all this, authentic leadership has had to be steadfast and make decisions based on very little data and research. The real challenges faced by leaders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are almost insurmountable. One moment there is a fully operational company and a reliable team and supply chain and everything is on track to make growth projections. Until it all changes almost overnight and leadership has to make decisions that will directly impact people’s lives.

Just like the economy and organisations and governments have to recover from the pandemic, we have to allow our leaders time and space to do the same. No sooner had we come out of the pandemic with numerous changes, that economists announced the possibility of a recession. For leadership, the bullets keep on coming and they need a will of steel and an unchallenged faith to stay alive.

We have seen many senior executive changes in the last year. The pressure of COVID and a changing work environment have no doubt contributed to this fact. More than 40% of people who responded to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index (a global survey of over 30,000 people in 31 countries) said they are considering leaving their jobs this year.

Going further into 2023, here is some food for thought for business leaders:

  • Be accessible – Beyond annual reports and in the media, take the time to truly engage with the internal teams – seeing and understanding each other as humans will make for better leadership and workplace.
  • Be your own voice – Your media team, writers and support structures are only good if they are led by your intentions and your voice – not the other way around.
  • Drive profit with purpose – It is about people and society long before it is about the money and shareholder returns. Be bold and fight for those that need it most and make decisions that will change lives. Remember, as so many have said before; a company cannot be successful if the society around it is failing. Healthy company, healthy society.
  • Be ethical, authentic and real – Lead by example in all aspects of the business and people will follow.

Please look out for the new Leadership Series that will be written by Tiekie Barnard and posted regularly on her LinkedIn page.