Stuck in the Muddle: Rethinking Our Global Challenges in the Biggest Election Year in History

Posted on February 28th, 2024 by Morne Mostert

Complex problems, conflicting ideas, and the feeling that things are spinning out of control. It’s easy to get bogged down in negativity, but what if we shifted our focus?

This article by Dr Morne Mostert, originally published in Business Day,  takes a critical look at some of our biggest challenges and proposes a new way forward:

The Economist has dubbed 2024 as the “Biggest Election Year in History” with over 64 countries holding elections in 2024 as outlined by Time Magazine.

And I, for one, am sick of the idiots winning.

You see, it is easy to be overly critical of global forums like Davos.
The power. The perceived elitism. The suspicion of vested interests in the status quo.

Despite these (and more) diverse perceptions, such forums play a vital role in shaping our collective future. Indeed, if global decision-makers were not connecting and highlighting the major forces shaping our collective futures, it is highly likely that commentators would be considerably less critical.

It then follows that sense-making of the global theatre is more complex than the optimism I am failing to hide. It’s crucial to recognise the value these gatherings bring in connecting decision-makers to address our world’s complex challenges.

As any decent advisor on Strategic Foresight will understand, the trends are simply the text. Sense-making demands reading the context, but also the sub-text and pre-text. To make sense to the point of finding opportunities for global redesign, we must furthermore explore the forces which may have precipitated these trends, as well as the counter-trends inspired by the dominant shifts.

For instance, while Guterres reminds us that faith in governments may be waning, a counter-trend is emerging: citizens are gaining a greater sense of agency, empowered by technology to provide real-time feedback. This dynamic interplay between government action and citizen involvement highlights the evolving landscape of governance and public participation. Many governments are entirely deserving of their deteriorating reputations. This dynamic interplay between government action and citizen involvement highlights the evolving landscape of governance and public participation.

It would be considerably worse if people continued to trust in archaic voting cycles, given the opportunity for real-time feedback to governments afforded by 21st century technology. von de Leyen (President of the European Parliament) acknowledges that, while “governments hold many of the levers”, business brings innovation – an apparent departure from work by Mazzucatto on the Entrepreneurial State.

While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has flagged geopolitics and fragmentation as significant threats to financial stability, the reality is that globalisation is a complex force that cannot simply be reversed. We want to buy our favourite wine and fruit throughout the year, despite the lack of local supply. Yet, this same globalisation contributes to rising inequality, a challenge acknowledged by leaders and institutions alike.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), bemoans the ‘divergence’ (i.e. inequality), but her organisation inspires both countries and individuals to become wealthier, thus exacerbating the rise of inequality, according to some far-leftist ideologues, at least. And, once again, we all defend our current wealth, and typically aspire to higher levels of wealth for ourselves. All while joining the global call for ‘equality’. Even Houngbo (ILO), explains the risk of poverty mainly as a threat to prosperity – the kind of financial resilience and mental well-being we would all prefer to enjoy.

Climate change presents a similar paradox. We bewail the realities of it while failing to notice how our aspirations for luxury and convenience often contribute to the very environmental issues we aim to solve. And almost all our pension funds are invested in carbon-intensive industries – a claim I make with little fear of contradiction due to the opaque and layered nature of global investment instruments.

The circular circus does not end here. The calls for ‘less talk; more action’, as an example, are always expressed by people who seem to talk an awful lot, while the ‘culprits’ take strategic action in their own interests without fail. And the latter seem to be succeeding!

This is where the role of a strategist becomes critical. Strategists are not just observers of global trends; they are actively engaged in crafting pathways to success, driven by a desire to see meaningful progress in addressing the world’s most pressing issues.

I personally work as a strategist mainly because I want you – the readers of papers like these – to win. I am sick of the idiots winning.

The Economist has dubbed 2024 as the “Biggest Election Year in History” with over 64 countries holding elections in 2024 as outlined by Time Magazine. And this presents us with a crucial opportunity.

Will the allure of Artificial Intelligence trump (deliberate!) the reality of pervasive and relentless Natural Stupidity? The current model can only produce the current future. Incremental improvements will never get us there. Mindsets of Pro-silience (inventing forward) must be selected over resilience (vainglorious Putinesque attempts at bounce-back). One clear opportunity is found in the inventive education of senior decision-makers who are imaginative about reinventing the future itself.

Creative, futures-based decision-making is no longer optional.

It is a matter of global survival.

Dr Morne Mostert is a global advisor on Strategic Foresight and decision-making for senior leaders. He was appointed by President Ramaphosa as Commissioner on the national Planning Commission. He is the inventor of the Mindset Index, a world-first scientific instrument for strategic decision-making. He is a full member of the Club of Rome, and is the author of Systemic Leadership Learning – Leadership Development in the Era of Complexity.

Read the Business Day article here.

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Leadership skills from Namibia’s Businesswomen of the Year

Posted on November 12th, 2019 by SBS-ED

This post is part of the Leadership in Africa Series by USB-ED. As part of our commitment to providing transformative executive education, we shine a spotlight on the most innovative people and extraordinary concepts coming out of the continent. This is episode 3 of the series.

The annals of famous female leaders in history include the indomitable Katharine Graham, who became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company – The Washington Post – in 1972. Since then, a lot has happened to drive equality in the workplace and catapult more women in leadership roles, including awards events that recognise exceptional women in business and their leadership skills, like the Namibia Economist’s Businesswoman of the Year Awards.

Now in its 19th year, the event recognises the innovation, perseverance and creativity of successful women in business across the categories of Business Owner, Young Businesswoman, Community and Government, Private and Corporate Sector, as well as an overall winner. This year’s winners have amazing stories to tell; here are lessons from their leadership styles for other leaders to emulate.

What leadership skills and lessons can we learn from great leaders?

Purpose + Service = Success

Hendrina Hango-Ndakola, the CEO of Natu Pharmaceuticals, walked away with both the Business Owner and the Businesswoman of the Year Awards. In her acceptance speech, Hango-Ndakola emphasised purpose and service as the key attributes to her success. “Having found my purpose in life, I’ve also found means to encourage other women, especially young women, to find their purpose,” she says. “I feel finding your purpose is the beginning of truly living your life.”

Through her determination to promote health in people’s lives, Hango-Ndakola founded Natu Pharmaceuticals in 2004, which now serves pharmacies in Oshakati, Ondangwa and Eenhana, all in the north of Namibia. The pharmacist and business owner also says that once you find your purpose, it will lead you to serve your community in a significant way and, ultimately, catalyse success: “Greatness is determined by service so I would encourage the young women of today to serve… wholeheartedly, in their purpose”.

Allow your people to think for themselves

The winner of the Young Businesswoman Award, Hilja Eelu, is passionate about levelling the playing field for young people in business. Having completed her Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours in Molecular and Cell Biology, this scientist now serves as the Director: Programs at the African Pathfinder Leaders Initiative (APLI), which strives to develop, empower and mobilise young innovators, change-makers and leaders across Namibia. In this role, she’s found that empowering a team to be proactive in their positions is the key to good leadership.

“As a young person myself, I know that we all have different ideas and different visions as to how to do things so I tend to work with more proactive people,” she says. She also believes that a self-leadership model drives success. “My leadership style has been relaxed… I don’t have to force people to do what they need to do. I’m not an authoritative leader… but it’s been really important for me to find other young people that are actively doing things.”

Find – and give – support

Ester Kali, the CEO of Letshego Holdings, is no stranger to big business, having previously been the chief executive at FNB Namibia. Yet, the winner of the Private & Corporate Sector Award remains humble, describing a support system as a number one tool for success. “As a leader, I believe in coaching and empowering my team, thereby helping them to set smart goals and give them constant feedback,” she says. “You don’t need to be a ‘boss’; you need to be a team player.”

And it goes both ways for Kali, who has identified a need for a women in business support network: “We need to come together and share common interests and learn from one another. [I want] to engage with women on various levels [so we] can help one another in order to grow.”

Passion leads to success – and Fulfillment

At the end of the day, business success is often fuelled by an authentic desire to make a sustained difference to other people’s lives. Uajo Akwenye, winner in the Community and Government Sector, is chief executive at the One Economy Foundation. She firmly believes in the organisation’s mission and it is this passion that has helped her become a leader that her team fully supports.

Her passion belies all the hard work done behind the scenes, which she says is what gives her real joy. “My colleagues and I are driven … [When we] come to work, [we ask ourselves,] How can we make lives better for those in the grassroots communities? We really see ourselves as a bridge between the dual economy.”

At USB-ED, we strongly support women in business. We believe that a good leader is the basis for a good team – and great work. Our Executive Development Programme (EDP) helps prepare you, as a senior executive, with the necessary management skills to accomplish your objectives.

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