In October 2019, I traveled to Johannesburg in South Africa, where I met Joe Mabuela, who took me to Soweto, the large township southwest of Johannesburg (this is where Soweto gets its name…South west township). Soweto is a densely populated township with 5-7 million people living in challenging conditions. Joe grew up in Soweto and his mother still lives there, so he knows it intimately.
As we walked through a section of Soweto, I asked Joe, “What’s the biggest need here: infrastructure, education, health care, clean water, security…?” Joe stopped, turned, and said without hesitation, “The biggest need is leadership. More leadership, better leadership. All of those other things are important needs, but they are mostly symptoms of too little leadership, ineffective leadership, corrupt leadership.” I was struck by his answer and the conviction in his voice.
A few days later, I read a summary of a global Barna Group study of Gen Z and Millenials, who “perceive deep, wide, systemic problems facing the world’s future.” Four out of five (82%) agreed with this statement: “society is facing a crisis of leadership because there are not enough good leaders right now.” It was one of the most widely endorsed statements in the entire survey.
A shortage of good leadership, not just on a local level, in places like Soweto, where the effects are in plain view, but also on a global level, as seen through the eyes of the generations who will inherit the future and are looking to take on a bigger share of the leadership roles from their Gen X and Boomer colleagues. As they do, they should be readily welcomed.
As Joe Mabuela noted, good leadership is critical because of the amplifying, multiplying effect is has on everything else. Adding more good leadership to the mix translates to better outcomes across the board. True locally in Soweto. True globally when applied to the big challenges facing the world today. True in every organization I’ve ever been a part of.