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Economic recovery will need authentic leadership

It has been almost five months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, China. As we all now know, the world has changed forever. More than 70% of employees working from home during lockdown want to continue to work from home. We have seen the increase of Gender-Based Violence and, particularly in South Africa, the increase of femicide. America is trying to work through the #blacklivesmatter movement which demonstrated the power of the collective. What COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated is that change is needed and whatever we thought was enough in the past, clearly was not.

Prof Mark Kramer, at the 2020 Africa Shared Value virtual summit, alluded to the fact that we all produce our glossy Sustainability Reports, tick our ESG boxes and give our money to CSI and we think we have satisfied our investors, shareholder and stakeholders. Sadly, we are not doing enough. Too many businesses have closed down; too many employees and families have lost their livelihoods and loved ones; we see that most of the survivors are the bigger entities which have the resources to do so or the ability to tap into relief funds.

What we need now is authentic leadership, enabling us to move from the Old Power which is held by few to the New Power of the collective. Leaders who lead with heart, empathy and courage. Leaders who are real and accessible and who are not always protected by the gatekeepers and the reputation management teams.
We need leadership with integrity and with a willingness to be transparent and to share the challenges and the shortcomings on the road to recovery.

We need authentic leaders who will foster workplace inclusion and consider all employee needs, creating a workplace where there are open lines of communication between employees and management and an elimination of the culture of fear within businesses. We need workplaces where employees are valued, can speak up and can share their views and opinions – that is, can become a real part of the business and contribute to its future success.
We need authentic leadership that strategically investigates the operations of organisations and look at their supply chain policies and support structures. That will make it easier for smaller entities to participate and become part of the bigger supply chain. Our SMEs are struggling. They can survive if supported by the larger entities.

We need authenticity and understanding as we plan the move into economic recovery. And we need an openness and a willingness to collaborate as a collective to ensure that whatever we create or invent will benefit all.