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Dale Imerman

Dale Imerman is mad about technology and marketing. He's a travel seeker, photo taker and enjoys the outdoors.
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[Discovery Invest Leadership Summit] Knowledge on a silver platter

16 Aug 2010 14:00:00

Want to learn the secrets influential leaders are sharing about challenges facing the world economy, business, government and society? In a series of blog posts, I'll serve you all the knowledge I got from the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit - on a silver platter.

As a marketing manager, entrepreneur and network builder, I was very fortunate that Bizcommunity.com give me the opportunity to attend the summit last week.


A source on the web defines leadership as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Now you try and take a statement like that and apply it in the real world... you can't.

So whom do we learn the lessons of leadership from and where do we find secrets on how to apply them? I've been searching for answers to the latter for years and I'm not convinced anyone will ever know for sure.

But at least we have some optional routes: first we can go down the road of trial and error - employing traditional knowledge - jumping into the proverbial fire. Or, second, we can cruise down the street of tacit knowledge - the kind of knowledge that is grounded in practice - taking the advice of others who have been there before us.

In a nutshell, the event taught me a couple of important aspects of leadership, including several popular theories and styles. I learnt things such as the role of emotions and vision, as well as leadership effectiveness and performance, leadership in different contexts and how it may differ from related concepts (ie management), and some critiques of leadership as generally conceived.

To be honest though, there were not too many things I had not heard or read before, so the quality of the speakers and their achievement were where the real value lay.

Tokyo Sexwale

I've always admired Tokyo Sexwale and the tipping point where I became a fan was when he invested in creating South Africa's A1 Grand Prix team and brought the event to our country.

As an automotive fanatic, this move by our current housing minister created a common ground for me to relate to and since then I've hoped to listen to the man speak. So my expectations were high, considering he wasn't on the initial list of speakers.

He opened his talk by saying that "the art of leadership is located in the university of real life" and continued by emphasising "there is a time to follow and a time to lead". But either way a leader needs to understand that any "victory is the child of many fathers".

He shared that "courage of our own convictions is the basis of leadership" and demonstrated by courageously taking a firm position on the current media tribunal mumbo jumbo by clarifying that "any challenge against the media will never see the light of day in South Africa. It's against what Mandela has and does stand for".
With what seemed like a short speech instead of an engagement, he put across some key anecdotes, and shared personal stories that helped me get an idea of how Sexwale was moulded into a leader, almost as result of his past and willingness to conquer.

Message: Wealth creation is based on honesty and integrity. Courage will make or break a leader.

Adrian Gore

Adrian Gore's vision of a diversified financial service group (Discovery) has impacted over 3.5 million individuals around the world. How can a passionate guy who has been the leader of an organisation that generates revenues in excess of R30 billion across South Africa, the UK, and the US not impress you?

His talk, which set in motion a tone for the entire day, focused on South Africa's success - the power of attitudes, perception and reality. Who would have thought that the growing science of behavioural economics could be so interesting and stimulating?

"Did you know that 50% of people would rather earn less, provided they're earning more than their friends?" he asked us before swinging into his next slide with a view of common images we (and the rest of the world) see on TV.

"Why don't we see a guy sipping a coffee at Melrose Arch?" he asked, before acknowledging that, although this isn't the common picture, it was still a part of what happens in South Africa, but doesn't get covered. "There isn't a balanced view about South Africa in the international media."

Let me stop there and make a confession... Before Gore came on stage, I was thinking to myself, "Here's the filler. It's the talk by the guy who sponsors the event." But, after 10 minutes I was engaged, interested and trying to sneak photos of his incredible keynote.

Gore didn't talk about leadership. He edified South Africa visually with facts and figures that painted a picture few South Africans will ever see because they are, as he put it: "irrational with a binary view".

Did you know that if we lived like they do in Singapore, we could fit the entire world population into a space the size of Nigeria? I didn't!

He was the first to raise the 2010 FIFA World Cup and called it "a microcosm of South Africa's ability". He demonstrated that we as a country have the ability to operate at the highest levels and explained how the result of building "skyscrapers" (stadiums, Gautrain, etc) impacts the psyche of South Africans in a positive way.

After plotting our infrastructure, housing, employment and debt statistics against the US, Russia, Brazil, India, China, etc he was able to open the eyes of everyone there, allowing them to see that South Africa really is a great place with great achievements.

He laid it on thick when he produced a South African "balance sheet" that clearly showed how our "assets" outweigh our "liabilities" in a big way.

Message: Vision, values, discipline and boldness are needed to be successful leaders.


Gore, in my opinion, was the only speaker that never focused on telling us what a leader is or how a leader should be. Instead, through his rollercoaster of information and infographics, he managed to walk on and off the stage demonstrating how to be a leader - putting across a message (of tacit knowledge and genuine leadership) that was more powerful than any other speaker on the day.

Gore sewed the first stitch of the common thread that linked all the speakers: we have much to be positive about in South Africa and that there is a serious need for quality leaders who hold the right values - a message that Mamphela Ramphele was extremely vocal about in her talk. But you'll need to wait until my next piece to hear about that, as well as what Stephen Dubner, author of Freakonomics, had to share with us.

[16 Aug 2010 14:00]

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