HomeLeadership & InnovationUneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

By Carol Butcher – 

The expression, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” from William Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Part II (1597) could easily have been coined by four leaders in South Africa –Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, Acting Eskom CEO, Matshela Koko, Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan and DA leader, Msumi Maimane.

Leadership carries with it great responsibility; it also carries accountability.

Zille’s, insensitive, ill-conceived, irresponsible tweet earlier this week offended millions of South Africans. An important lesson for leaders is that Twitter, with its limitation of 140 characters should be used with great caution. One cannot ‘cry wolf’ afterwards and claim that one’s words were taken out of context. Any experienced leader and particularly a seasoned politician should know that as a leader, you need to ensure that whatever you say is factually irrefutable, and inoffensive to the majority of the electorate.

Maimane is included in the list of leaders whose “heads lie uneasy,” since as DA leader, he has the unenviable task of “disciplining” Zille. Good leaders, great leaders, are often called upon to make unpopular decisions, which may ‘fly in the face’ of personal loyalty. Maimane’s leadership mettle will be tested. Much hangs in the balance – his handling of this crisis will either win or lose party votes in the next general election. It could also impact on the ability to govern Tshwane and Johannesburg. The EFF has asked Maimane to remove Zille.

Leaders, managers and individuals in the talent management space can learn from this experience – always think very carefully before you tweet. A tweet should never be impulsive, a knee-jerk response. A tweet should always be able to withstand rigorous scrutiny for accuracy and the potential to offend. Also, ask yourself the question: as a leader, does your decision making, always transcend personal loyalty to any individual?

Transparency, integrity and trustworthiness are characteristics which followers generally want their leaders to embody. Many South Africans may be ‘sleeping uneasy’ since the revelation that Acting Eskom CEO, Matshela Koko’s stepdaughter was the director of a company, which had secured contracts worth about R1bn from Eskom. Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown has instructed the Board to investigate. The Minister has provided the assurance that “if there is any wrongdoing, Koko will face a disciplinary process.” Koko contends that he was unaware of the fact that Koketso Chomo was a Director of Impulse International.

Leaders, managers and individuals in the talent management space need to ask themselves two questions: firstly, do they always disclose a potential conflict of interest, and secondly, would they be brave enough to be a whistle-blower?

President Zuma has recalled Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan from an international investment roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States. The reason for his recall is unknown. However, there is speculation that there may be a Cabinet reshuffle. To my mind, Gordhan is a leader who always inspires confidence. His response was unemotional: “That’s the boss’s prerogative.” Markets, however, are sentiment driven and news of Gordhan’s recall caused the Rand to weaken, sharply.

It is unusual to have so many leaders in the limelight at the same time. No-one holds a crystal ball, which enables them to predict the fate of these leaders. However, based on the fate of leaders in the “hot seat,” in the past, experience shows that when it comes to likely outcomes, Lewis Carroll’s words from Alice in Wonderland, “Curioser and curioser,” may ring true.

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Carol has nineteen years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and case study writer. Her writing experience includes a stint as the resident Case Study Writer at the Wits Business School.


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