This week I’m publishing my selection of the 25 best or most relevant quotes from the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit (DILS) 2012, which took place last week in Sandton. I’ll be releasing five a day throughout the week. The series includes quotes from all the speakers: Adrian Gore, Garry Kasparov, Pravin Gordhan, Prof Tim Noakes, Sir Terry Leahy, Michael Porter and Tony Blair. See if you can identify a common thread or theme. Submit your summary of that theme, and if your summary gets chosen I’ll publish that next week so you can win bragging rights over your peers!


Michael Porter #1 | On the challenge for business

leadership Michael Porter“Government and NGOs lack sufficient resources and capabilities to fully meet the current societal challenges. More and more of the public [are seeing] business as prospering at the expense of society. Despite growing corporate citizenship activities, the legitimacy of business has fallen. Yet only business can actually create wealth in a society. Government can only harvest it. NGOs need donations. They both need resources, and they don’t scale. Only business can scale, and creates wealth – when it makes a profit. The opportunity for businesses to think more broadly about what needs they are serving and how they are addressing society through their business will be the greatest innovation challenge and opportunity in business in the next twenty to thirty years.”


Tony Blair #1 | On Europe

leadership Tony Blair“This is the most challenging time for leadership. Decisions are tough, choices are ugly, and consequences are unpredictable. The Eurozone crisis is going to be painful whichever way it is resolved. The crisis has exposed the need for us to change. Major decisions have to be taken. They can’t be postponed.”



Pravin Gordhan #1 | On a multi-polar world

leadership Pravin Gordhan“We are witnessing an epochal transition from [having] had two world powers to a uni-powered world, and that has evolved in a short period to a world referred to as multi-polar, with different centres of influence.

“In 2009 the beginnings of a new economic model began to emerge, but three years later we’re not in that [new] situation. A lack of strong leadership has led to this. [There has been an] inability to balance the interests of [each one’s] own country with interconnectedness. Now we are muddling forward. We lack pragmatic cooperation. While we might have ideological beliefs and debate, let us at least take the globe forward.

“Many predict that this kind of muddling along could continue for three to five years. We as South Africa must find our own way forward. We should learn to build on the Mandela-Sisulu-Tambo model of decisiveness in line with a vision for society and use the model created for us to take our country on a new path.”


Garry Kasparov #1 | On risk and reward

“You never know if you will change the world, but you will learn a lot if you try, and nothing if you don’t. Taking big risks is not the only way to succeed. Warren Buffet has proved that. However we can’t all be that conservative: the world would not grow if we all avoided risks. Can you imagine Columbus and Magellan trying to raise venture capital for their expeditions today? Can you imagine them doing a focus group on that prospect when most people believed the earth was flat? We can’t reject the risks and keep the rewards.”


Sir Terry Leahy #1 | On decision-making

“You have to make a CLEAR decision (eg. after a meeting) and have the discipline that when the decision is made, that’s the one that for better or worse gets put into practice. So many times what [gets] done isn’t what was decided, so you never knew whether the decision was correct.”




Adrian Gore #1 | On what’s normal

leadership Adrian Gore“The world operates much less according to a normal distribution than we are led to believe. … The Pareto principle is often more relevant. For example, [a small handful of] leaders have made an exponential impact on the world. So greatness will not happen according to a Gaussian [normal] distribution.”



Neil attended the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit 2012 courtesy of Leadership magazine. Look out for more comprehensive coverage and commentary in upcoming issues.