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Image“The South African business environment is characterised by volatility and change”, says Brand Pretorius. “There are many factors that result in a complex labour environment. Staff have higher expectations than ever before and are looking for meaning in their lives at work. Shareholders are still demanding sustainable growth and quality returns.”

In a measured and thoughtful presentation during the 50th Anniversary Convention of the South Africa Institute of People Management, Brand Pretorius, who has built a reputation for business excellence in the automobile industry, spoke of the demands of effective leadership.

“The world we used to know doesn’t exist anymore.  We have to transform and to perform at world-class levels,” he said.

What does a Leader Need?

So, asked Pretorius, what does a leader need? “A leader needs IQ – good basic intelligence,” was his first response. Citing Nelson Mandela as the supreme example of this, Pretorius added, “Our integrity should be unquestioned.”

“A leader needs spiritual intelligence,” he added. “The ability to work towards a greater purpose, to look at the long term and to move beyond self-interest. A leader needs emotional intelligence, an understanding of their own emotions and a sensitivity and empathy to deal with one’s own team members. Emotionally illiterate managers become isolated and ineffective leaders because they cannot deal with their own emotions.

“A leader needs humility. Ego tends to destroy many leaders and ego can be the biggest single obstacle to successful leadership. A self-serving leader is only interested in Me Inc. and does not care about his people. A humble leader instils a felling of equality in his organisation and moves away from hierarchy.

“A leader needs integrity. Only high integrity leaders will remain successful over the long-term. Such a leader prefers service to power and principle over convenience.”

‘Leadership is a way of being’

Describing leadership as ‘a way of being’, Pretorius spoke about the qualities of leadership.  “A leader needs hardiness – to be tough and resilient, able to hang in there.  A leader needs passion, energy and enthusiasm.  Benjamin Zander said, “Leaders are the dispensers of enthusiasm.”  Do we suspend or dispense enthusiasm?” he asked.

Speaking of the need for strategic thinking, Pretorius likened leadership to “a radar screen that is always switched on.  To look ahead at what lies on the horizon, to adapt or change the company strategy?”

He went on, “A leader needs innovation and creativity and to be capable of making rational decisions. To know how to take emotions out of decision making, to assess, research, consult, judge and then make decisions.

“A leader needs the skill of self-management.  Without it, one cannot survive in this high-pressure world.  We cannot manage others if we cannot manage ourselves.  Do we have the skills to prioritise, to live balanced lives, pay attention to the emotional, spiritual, physical sides and not be obsessed with jobs.  To ensure that success does not destroy our relationships and hurt others.  Do we live life to the full? Do not live half a life.  To be successful, one has to recharge batteries and enjoy magic moments.

“A leader needs the skill of effective communication. Effective leaders are those who succeed in inspiring, conveying meaning so that people know what to do. Mastering the art of emphatic listening, without which one does not truly communicate.”

The Characteristics of Leaders

“So what are the characteristics of Leaders?” asked Pretorius. “Leaders embrace change; they acknowledge that it is the price of survival and embrace change and transformation with enthusiasm.” Quoting Jack Welch, he noted that, “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, then the end is in sight.”

“Leaders have a bias for action,” said Pretorius.  “They don’t procrastinate.  Leaders are not transactional; they seek not reluctant compliance but positive acceptance.  Leaders have values of equity and fairness.  They have respect and ‘walk the talk’ and live by the values they articulate.

“Effective leaders succeed in bringing about synergy, alignment and common purpose; they set the team to fly in formation. Leaders create a culture for every team member to do his or her best. The Eurocentric culture is not one that is always comfortable and the spirit of ‘ubuntu’ is alive in many organisations.

“Leaders empower with skills, learning and knowledge.  They follow the concept of distributed intelligence where every contribution is considered important.  The biggest responsibility of leaders is to enable people to develop, to discover their hidden gems, to liberate people so that they can achieve their own potential.”

“The effective leader,” said Pretorius, “is a trusted leader and rewards people fairly, creating a culture of abundance, not a scarcity mentality. One who is prepared to serve their people, to care about their people and to earn their respect and loyalty. He referred to former President Mandela’s statement during his inaugural speech in 1994, “I am here not to lead but to serve.”

“Effective leaders in South Africa today are socially responsible,” noted Pretorius. “They look beyond their company walls to make a difference to South Africa and its people.”

Pretorius spoke of leadership as the light switch in an organisation. In terms of assessing the effectiveness of a leader, he said, has the vision been translated into reality? The results, he suggested, should be self-evident.

What do People Expect from Leaders?

Addressing the question of what people expect from their leaders, Pretorius said. “Clear direction and results – people only follow performers. Trust and hope that tomorrow will be better than today; hope for success and a better life. People expect a positive vision of the future; based on realism and hope with substance.”

Closing his presentation, Pretorius called on his audience to “move from success to significance,” and to leave “a legacy defined, not by wealth, but in terms of character and contribution.”

Brand Pretorius’s business career began with Toyota South Africa, where he rose to the rank of Managing Director in 1988. Under his guidance Toyota became the market leader in terms of both sales and customer satisfaction.

In 1995 he joined South Africa’s largest motor retailing group, McCarthy Motor Holdings and was subsequently promoted to Chief Executive Officer of McCarthy Limited, the holding company of McCarthy Motor Holdings. The group currently employs 5,400 people, has an annual turnover in excess of R16bn and boasts extensive interests in motor retailing, auctioneering, car rental, vehicle insurance and financing.

Currently the President of the South African Retail Motor Industry Organisation, he is the recipient of numerous awards including Communicator of the Year (1994), Best Boss (1994), Automobile Man of the Year, the Manpower award of Excellence (1995) and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Business Communication. In 1998 he was named as one of the top 5 “high integrity” business leaders in South Africa and in 1999 as the most admired leader in the Motor Industry by a representative panel consisting of prominent chief executives, fleet managers and motoring journalists. He became the first member of the SA Automotive Industry’s “Hall of Fame” in March 2006, in recognition of his significant contribution to the industry.

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