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The Jewish Report Editorial

Leaders keep calm and carry on

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If I had a dollar for every time someone prefaced whatever they were going to write or say this week by, “I’m not a royalist, but…” I would suddenly have become very wealthy.

My point is that no matter what people feel about the monarchy, British rule, or colonialism, there appears to be deep respect for a woman who reigned with quiet dignity and was clearly seen to put the service of her people above all else.

She didn’t get involved in day-to-day politicking, and some may criticise her parenting, but she was an excellent example of someone holding her own dignified power while minding her Ps and Qs.

Her reign wasn’t without glitches, many of which emanated from the dramas of her own family, yet she kept her “stiff upper lip” and continued to do what she did best in serving the British people until the end.

I may be going on a tad about this woman who really played no part in my life, but – and here’s my opportunity to say it – I’m not a royalist but, I saw Queen Elizabeth as an example of excellent leadership. In this, she set the groundwork for her heir and the ground rules for future royals. King Charles need have no questions, his job is clearcut.

Leadership is all about setting a good example for those who follow and those who work for you. Falling apart when times are tough, or at least, being seen to fall apart, only makes people panic. Alternatively, holding it together with confidence and a clear strategy can inspire hope and confidence in others.

The truth is, nobody ever saw Queen Elizabeth fall apart. She always looked the picture of calmness and serenity, no matter what was bubbling inside.

Wars, internal strife with British miners, economic crises, and even pandemics, you never saw her falter, and that’s what people require in leaders. A calm confidence and a vision of where to go from here is ideal leadership.

Show me a leader, and I can assure you that stress isn’t far behind. Having to forge a path is never easy when there isn’t a clear route mapped out, and sometimes even the forks in the road get a bit hazy when times are tough.

But when you’re leading, you need to keep the pace and move forward with gusto and strength so that those following will emulate it. Alternatively, if you stumble and fall or show that you lack confidence or are indecisive, staff, citizens, or supporters are more likely to want to jump ship than follow someone who seems not to know what they are doing, where they are going, or how to do things. It’s also vitally important that those closest to you in rank don’t publicly question your authority or challenge you.

This may all sound obvious, but look around us at the leaders of our own country.

We have a leader in President Cyril Ramaphosa, who when he came to power, inspired hope in so many of us. After his dodgy predecessor, Jacob Zuma, it wasn’t difficult.

Since he’s been in charge, I don’t recall ever seeing him appear stressed or flailing, but I have seen him looking almost despairing. He always comes across as calm and confident, but is sometimes absent when he should be at the helm.

He does seem to be challenging corruption, but this country doesn’t seem to be feeling it yet. He also seems to be surrounded by people who want him to fail and want to push him off the throne.

Also, it’s difficult to look up to a leader with confidence when the fundamentals of a country aren’t in place. How tough it is to see light at the end of the tunnel when the country is in darkness and promises of unfettered electricity seem so far off.

However, I still think that as long as the African National Congress (ANC) is in power, he’s the only one who can be trusted to do his best for country, Phala Phala debacle or not.

Does he inspire me with his leadership now? No, but in terms of the ANC, he’s still the best of a bad bunch. Only I worry that he doesn’t particularly want to run this ship. I have a sense that he would rather be in business and not have the stress.

In the background of his party, there are constant rumblings from people challenging his leadership. There’s no solid base under him trusting him to take us into the light.

Leadership is about confidence, and I’m not sure he feels confident in his own leadership while so many are trying to topple him.

I recall banking on his leadership during lockdown. I trusted that he was doing what he believed was best for the country, utilising all the advice he was getting.

At the time, our focus was much narrower. It was a matter of how to get through the pandemic alive and intact. Now, we’re looking around, seeing the rubble and damage done to date, and asking questions about the future, our financial and economic security. And Ramaphosa doesn’t seem convincing in his ability to hold it all together and move us forward. Right now, we desperately need confidence in our leadership, and we don’t have it.

Though this has been a better year than the two preceding it, opening our doors and finding our feet in a new, post-pandemic world has left some of us unstable and nervous.

I would love to see an exemplary leader emerge who has the wisdom to deal with our lack of confidence and the knowledge (albeit from wise advisors) to carry this country forward socially and economically.

Would that this leader possess a strong moral backbone, dignity, and the strength to ensure that the country comes together as one, and moves forward to a better tomorrow!

As we move toward the end of the Jewish year 5782, I wish for such a leader.

Also, as we move through the month of Elul and we consider the year we’ve had, let’s connect with each other. Let’s find the right path forward together. If natural leaders don’t emerge, we have the wherewithal to move forward – as we always have done – without them.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost


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