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Who is your leader of the year for 2017?

I celebrated an early Christmas dinner with a group of friends. I was very surprised when one of the guests asked the following question at the dinner table: “Who is your leader of the year for 2017?” The guests included myself, two accountants, a corporate treasurer, a forensic auditor, a life coach, a consultant and an architect.

I volunteered to go first. Top of my list, Rosie Mashala one of the top ten finalists in CNN’s hero of the year.  Mashala runs a children’s home in Khayelitsha which cares for Aids orphans and children from child-headed households. Only one of the other guests had heard of Mashala.

My choice did not enjoy any support, which prompted me to motivate the reasons for my choice: “Leaders are supposed to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Mashala has made a very positive difference in thousands of young people’s lives. Great leaders give back – they are not driven by power, or greed. If Mashala wins the R1.3 million in prize money she intends ploughing her win back into the home.”

I have always contended that if you want to find great leaders, look among the ranks of ordinary South Africans. These individuals do extraordinary things away from the lime light.

I added two more contenders to my list, Dr Makhosi Busiwe Khoza and Imtiaz Sooliman. Khoza stands out for her courage and integrity. It takes great courage to speak one’s mind and to act based on principle. Sooliman, founder of the Gift of the Givers always impresses. The organisation that he founded has distributed over R2bn in supplies over the past 25 years. To my mind, compassion is an important attribute for any leader.

Pravin Gordhan was a popular choice for always speaking out and being such a strong, principled man. The forensic auditor in the group cited Herman Mashaba – she provided some interesting insights into the work he is doing to combat corruption.

Thuli Madonsela was also a popular choice – she was commended for her integrity, her courage and her strong moral compass.

The Life Coach in the group cited Julius Malema for asking the tough questions, which everyone else appears too scared to ask.

I was fascinated by the fact that Malema was the only politician on the list. It was also fascinated by the fact that no Cabinet Ministers, or captains of industry made it on the list.

Perhaps what impressed me most of all was the fact that although everyone conceded that it had been a very tough year in business, and despite all the corporate scandals, and allegations of corruption among many of our leaders, there was consensus that South Africa was “turning the corner”.  One of our greatest assets – our Constitution and our independent judiciary.

Who is your leader of the year for 2017?

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