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 Responsible Leadership – The African Connection

2012-08-30 00:00
By Dr Arnold Smit, executive for USB-ED’s Centre for Business in Society

The latest buzz is about responsible leadership.  In my everyday world it pops up in conference themes, in scholarly articles and in classroom discussions.  The discourse finds its legitimacy in a leadership legacy with doubtful and unfortunate outcomes and it highlights concerns about guidance towards an uncertain tomorrow.  It can certainly not be separated from the discussions about the global common good in a world whose mood seems determined by economic woes, social instability, environmental stress and leadership failure.

At a global level the need for responsible leadership is about the ability to deal effectively with the big issues of our time such as the recession, climate change, resource depletion, social upheaval and political tension. From a continental perspective, African leaders are faced with the challenging tension between environmental and resource protection on the one hand and human and social development on the other.  In South Africa we face the leadership dilemma very acutely in the Lonmin tragedy, service delivery protests, a failed education system, widespread poverty and systemic corruption coming from the very heart of our political system.

In this context responsible leadership does not only refer to the behaviour of leaders, in other words whether they act responsibly or not, but also to their ability to respond appropriately to the societal challenges of our time.  With responsible leadership we do not just refer to proper behaviour, but also to the ability to give proper guidance in the midst of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.  Such leaders should be knowledgeable, ethical, wise and courageous. 

It is in the context of this need for responsible leadership that a special event, Africa Leads, will be convened at Spier Wine Estate from 18 – 20 November 2012. On the one hand, the event will tap into the networks, expertise and resources of a global organisation such as the GRLI and, on the other, it will feed from the leadership wisdom and academic work of people from the African continent. While the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) is the host of Africa Leads, the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria (UP) will take responsibility for conference themes around concepts such as hopefulness, responsibility, accountability, sustainability and management education.  Universities such as Rhodes, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the University of the Free State (UFS) have already pledged their support as well. 

All the relevant information for Africa Leads may be found at Early bird registrations close on 31 August.​​

1 Comment
good day
i watched our former President presenting at one of your conferences and i have to say that i was  impressed with his presentation. He has really made me to get to know your organization.  i would like to attend one of your conferences one day
Posted by lebo serei on 14-02-2013 3:26 PM


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