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2017 has been a challenging year.  Apart from the obvious political instability and economic turmoil, Bloomberg rating SA as the second most stressed country in the world made a lot of sense to many of us this year.  But now is the time for leaders to instil hope.  We should never forget that it is, in the absence of hope that people die – beautifully illustrated by Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist interned in the concentration camps during World War II.   In his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” Frankl describes how together with his best friend, they had survived the most terrible atrocities when his best friend said “The Allies will break into this camp on 30 March”  Although he had the year right, he had the date wrong.  On the 29th March, his friend became delirious, on the 30 March, he lapsed into a coma and on the 31 March, he died.  Frankl said  – Although it may have appeared that he had died of typhus, he said, I know he died, because he had lost hope.”

So too, is this a time for leaders to instil hope.   The world is not broken.  We live in the era of the ascendancy of people-oriented leadership.  The winds of change have already begun blowing up north in Zimbabwe, so too, will the pendulum, inevitably swing back for South Africa.  More than ever, hope is the sine qua non – an indispensable condition of leadership.

Now is the time to reflect on effective ways in which to judge great leadership.  I am reminded of the words of Professor John Adair, the world’s first professor of leadership studies who said “We judge great leadership by three achievements:

  • “Did they achieve the common task?”
  • “Were they able to create harmony in their team?
  • Were they able to meet individual requirements?”

If we explore the legacy of Nelson Mandela – we know he negotiated this country out of a revolution, he enabled our first democratic elections and the implementation of one of the most progressive constitutions in the world – he very much achieved his common task.  He created harmony in his team by encouraging the friendship that evolved between Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa who negotiated our constitution and met individual requirements by bringing polarised elements of society together.

Now is the time to remember him, now is the time to look at his leadership impact and legacy and now is the time to instil hope for all.


Gail has 30 years of experience as an executive coach and is the founder of The Image Excellence Group – a 24 year old coaching company in Johannesburg – one of South Africa’s foremost leadership coaching businesses with a proven track record of mentoring and developing leaders in commerce, industry, sport, politics and the public sector.  A Fellow of Trinity College London, Gail’s proven consummate skill has enabled her clients to lead with confidence globally. 


Gail published her latest book Authentic African Leadership in November 2013.  Gail says ‘We’ve dedicated ourselves to improving the quality of leadership in modern South Africa. As we’ve done so, it’s become apparent to us that one of the biggest challenges facing these leaders is how to create an impactful personal presence that is aligned with company culture that truly releases the potential of management and staff”