This is number three in the series of the 25 best quotes from the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit 2012, which took place last week in Sandton. I’m releasing five a day throughout this week. Today the focus is on leadership qualities, plus Garry Kasparov on adventure and courage and Michael Porter on the blind spot of business schools. Submit your summary of the theme as a comment, and if yours stands out I’ll publish it next week so you can win bragging rights over your peers!
Prof Tim Noakes #2 | On leadership
“Leadership is really about coaching. The best leaders are the great coaches. I learnt this with Lewis Pugh. He asked me if I thought he could swim around the Cape Peninsula; everyone else had said no, and I said yes. After he had done it, he phoned me and said, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you.’ I asked him why and he said, ‘Because you believed in me.’ That was when I became a coach.”
Garry Kasparov #3 | On adventure and courage
“Many people today ask why we should explore space when we have so many problems here on earth, but so many things that are core to our lives today were invented by the space exploration that happened in the Sixties: internet packet switching, and GPS. By investing in space we can move forward, create new technologies, whole new industries. Courage is the common denominator. If Americans had the same computing power as we have today and could have calculated the odds of a crew getting stuck in space, I wonder if any American president today could afford that risk?”
Pravin Gordhan #3 | On leadership
“We require special leaders who: recognise the political economy; who overcome discrimination; who build trust; who are humble (when you’re not you can’t listen, can’t receive messages, you put sycophants around you); who balance romantic idealism, which is important, with pragmatism that converts the idealism into reality; who are principled and don’t become part of the muddling culture that has beset the world; and who fight short-termism. We have to realise that at best we live 100 years; there’s life before and after us. We have to say, ‘I’m only here on earth for a short while but let me leave it a better place.’ ”
Sir Terry Leahy #3 | On leadership
“A leader will take you further than you would go on your own. It’s what you inspire others to do, their confidence, contribution, self-esteem. You don’t want one leader, you want thousands, you want them to feel so good about the business that they’ll step forward to put things right.”
Tony Blair #3 | On leadership
“The great insight I would offer about politicians is that we’re human. We suffer the same doubts, worries and lack of confidence that everyone else does, but you’re in a position as a decision-maker. You’re making ten to thirty decisions a day. I started out trying to please all the people all the time, but that wasn’t leadership, that was politics. Leadership is about trying to change things. You have to take yourself out of the criticism and attack and see that it’s a privilege and a responsibility to do what you think is right. My wife would help me with this: she’d say, ‘Stop moaning, it’s voluntary.’ It doesn’t mean that your decision is right, but when it’s over all you have is your values and what you stood for. Mistakes are for other people to comment on.”
Michael Porter #3 | On externalities
“Business schools have taught a narrow model of how we create value (mostly about products for a middle class) and [this has resulted in businesses that] have not seen societal problems as [their] problem. Just throw some money at it, has been the proposed solution. This is being in a bubble. Societal needs represent the largest opportunities on the face of the earth. There are huge needs for housing, health care, that’s where we’ve got to look. We’ve been in the bubble. Certain things have been seen as externalities, things that belong to society, and business has been forced to recognise them through taxes and laws. Now they are starting to see them in terms of their real cost.”
Neil attended the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit 2012 courtesy of Leadership magazine. Look out for more comprehensive coverage and commentary in upcoming issues.