The IEC Cape Town conference was brought to a close with a truly inspirational leadership lecture from Nobel Prize winner, and former president, F.W. de Klerk.
De Klerk addressed the IEC delegates on: “The management of change: Lessons drawn from the transformation of South Africa”.
He told the IEC that he believes the ability to manage change is the secret to the phenomenal success of the human race. He went on to say: “Our ability to manage change continues to be, I believe, the key to success today for individuals, for companies, for industries and for countries.” He told delegates that if they only took one key message away about leadership and change, it is: “success belongs to those who can imagine something new and better”. He said that success belongs to those that will adjust to the changing markets and conditions affecting their industry.
F.W. de Klerk told the IEC that change is both inevitable and unpredictable, and it is happening today at an unprecedented speed: to be successful, a leader must learn how to manage these changes effectively. He shared with the IEC delegates some of the key lessons he learnt in the process of bringing change to South Africa.
Accept the need for change. According to F.W. de Klerk, the first step in the management of change, is accepting that it is necessary. The second step is avoiding the temptation to simply pretend that you have changed. De Klerk told the IEC: “Countries and companies will, for sentimental reasons, cling to industries that are no longer relevant”. Then, having accepted the need for change, and avoided pretending, according to F.W. de Klerk, the starting point is to articulate a clear and achievable vision of where you want to go: “A vision gives direction and purpose to our actions and provides a way of measuring progress. Without a vision we have no idea of where we are going or of how far we have come.”
Timing is also a critical factor in managing change effectively. De Klerk told his audience: “It is stupid for leaders to be vociferously right at the wrong time, or to move so far ahead in the right direction that their followers can no longer hear or see them.” He stressed that although sometimes events can feel to be progressing agonisingly slowly, and at other times with incredible speed, a good leader must watch the events carefully and time their actions accordingly.
F.W de Klerk concluded his leadership lecture to the IEC by reiterating that change is inevitable and unpredictable, saying: “Accept that the process of change never ends – as soon as you have achieved your objectives you must begin to address the next challenges that change will inevitably throw down.”
IEC conferences are held twice a year; the next one is being held in Vienna, Austria, 30th March – 1st April.