South Africa needs to adopt conscious leadership to boost economy.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Two prominent South African business leaders have called on corporate South Africa to adopt conscious leadership principles to help boost the country's flagging economy.
BSG founder Greg Reis invited seasoned technology executive Mteto Nyati to invest in the business as Executive Chairman last year, and together the pair drive the company’s purpose of being a proactive force for positive change, through a common vision and synergy. The 26-year-old consulting and technology company helps businesses transform their operations through insights and technology.
"Mteto and I are a microcosm of what South Africa could, and should be – the promise of 1994. Two completely different men, albeit born in the same year; myself a privileged white kid, he born in the rural Transkei, coming together with similar fabrics in morality," Reis said. "At this pivotal time in South Africa's history, two people with the same moral compass have come together in business to use a company as a vehicle to drive change for good."
Their long-held values led to the pair recognised as conscious leaders in the Conscious Companies Award 2023. "Conscious leadership means making decisions and taking actions in line with who your company is, and choosing clients who align with your values," Nyati said. Known for speaking out against corporate and government greed and injustice, Nyati said BSG had made a conscious decision not to work with certain departments within the public sector. "Business has a choice – be part of the status quo, or stop doing work with them. We call on business to say 'remain conscious and do the right thing', as this will push away the tide of those who are simply riding the wave to put money in their pockets without a thought for social consequences," Nyati said.
Reis believes BSG has a role to play to help grow South Africa’s capability to deliver essential public services to its citizens, by working in carefully chosen parts of the public sector - "being a conscious company is about more than avoiding possible scandal, it is about how you show up and authentically add much-needed outcomes".
BSG's approach of obsessing about growing their staff, and ensuring they are doing their best work, results in client loyalty, leaving financial results to take care of themselves, as Reis said.
"Our business has an ever-increasing need for data engineers, data scientists and data analysts, which are not being produced in sufficient numbers. To attract this talent requires more than just money – you need the type of projects and a culture which makes people want to come and work for you. This is why we are so proud of this Award nomination, as it demonstrates that we are an employer of choice," Nyati added.
In line with ethical and responsible leadership, BSG has various socio-economic development programmes in place, including a 15-year partnership with The Leap Science and Maths Schools, to whom they allocate a percentage of their profits.
"This helps to educate youth towards STEM-related paths to build capability to study at tertiary levels. BSG operates in a scarce skills environment and STEM subjects are needed," Nyati said. "The future of South Africa is contingent on developing skills which allow us to compete."
BSG is proud of having achieved a BBBEE Level 1 rating in the generic ICT sector codes to which their educational support programmes, learnerships for unemployed individuals and skills development courses contributed.
How a leader shows up for a company sets the tone and influences the culture, Nyati said. "You have to lead by example, act the way you expect everyone else to. Create an environment where everyone thinks they have a future - not just a certain segment of employees. As we deal with our clients' challenges, we need different perspectives, which diversity helps to address."
Companies should be able to outline their strategy on one page, and explain what is needed to execute it. "Provide clarity, and then hold people accountable," is Nyati’s advice to other business leaders.
BSG has a growth mindset, not only in terms of business, but also in instilling this behaviour in its people, enabling them to grow in their personal capacity. But achieving company objectives depends very much on always staying on the right side of history.