Choice, a leadership reflection by Steve Hall

A Leadership Reflection by Steve Hall

The car was being put through its paces and was revving high. The excessive speed with which it was moving through the suburbs caused walkers to weave closer to the sidewalks and cyclists to fall into an unusual single file formation. A stop street had been treated merely as a suggestion, and the speed hump down Smits had seemingly served no purpose whatsoever.

There were more than a few looks of indignation from the exercising residents and the odd hand signal to encourage a slowing down, but the blur was too fast even for words. I was left speechless by the speed of the unlicensed car.

The gears ground down as a rally car would into the corner, and with no hint of hesitation the vehicle was flung right into Christofferson accompanied by a squealing of tyres pushed to their road holding limitations.

It was then that I saw the whites of their eyes. And what was written in their wide open eyes was a blind form of panic. 

Whilst all around them were walking or running, the occupants of this vehicle were clearly on the run. 

Just a few days before, our gate buzzer had rung gently. It seems strange to say the word ‘gently’, as to my knowledge there is no volume control from the button outside the gate, but it was almost polite – just like the first few vibrations of a Scops owl’s call, and it was only pressed once. During lockdown, there has understandably been an increase in traffic of the most vulnerable of our society, and there have been a number of deliveries to the gate of food parcels or left overs. Sometimes in the desperate hope for attention, the button is held down for extended periods, or pushed repeatedly, and every now and then all buttons are pushed causing a kind of Mexican wave cacophony which reverberates through all sections of the house.

The soft ‘prrrrp’ was a welcome relief, and I took a moment to observe the young man on the other side of the security camera before I answered the intercom phone. It was Friday, but he was dressed in his Sunday best. Sporting a jacket and tie, polished shoes and a student like book sack slung over his shoulder, he had his mouth close to the receiver as if he was about to deliver an address.

He might as well have, because the voice which followed could make him famous on radio. He was beautifully spoken, with an engaging edge and a trimming of humour and hope.

He was here to sell books, and my unfettered assumption was that these would be religious books. I asked him to wait while I fetched my remote control and marched with a degree of self-irritation as to why I had disallowed myself the choice of saying No. There are many in my family who would rightly label me as a born sucker – this would no doubt be the latest piece of dinnertime evidence to be repeated at length and with mirth at my expense.

Well schooled in the new Covid way of greeting, Craig Kanyemba offered me the pointed part of his bent elbow, along with one of the brightest smiles and set of shining eyes I can remember seeing. Perhaps I hadn’t seen too many of these rare features due to lock down, and perhaps I had missed these Human interactions so immensely that now, upon receiving them, I felt like the starving man who is happy with stale bread. 

My children would say that I have the capacity to cut a short story long – another dinner time jibe mentioned when I sail into the explanation of anything I feel passionate about, so to eliminate that for now:

I bought three books.

Craig Kanyemba had authored these himself, and if it wasn’t for lockdown, there would be another three available, but which had been stalled at the printers. He is a Zimbabwean and lives at Gandhi square, only meters from where we take Leadership groups on immersions to learn about Life. He is studying Computer science at Unisa, and he writes to put himself through his own education.

He is not yet 24 years old. 

An extract from his book Against All Odds; A Road to USA reads as follows:

“A lesson from Nature; Zebras do not look at Tigers and wish they could hunt like Tigers. Accept yourself as you are, know your weaknesses and strengths and embrace your unique beauty and gifts. The Universal law of correspondence; Most of us have heard the adage that our outer world is nothing more than a reflection of our inner world – as within, so without, as above, so below.”

The young author and philosopher walked off with the spring of self-achievement in his step, and a smile without swagger. I left with three books downloaded onto my phone and a bunch of new reading material for lockdown.

In the course of one’s life there are sometimes quotes or stories, pieces of writing or poems which stick with you, and occasionally they become a companion in the quiet or a friend you introduce around the fire. Like a great memory they might remain dormant for a long period of time, but like a great relationship, they almost seem to spontaneously re-combust with the lightest of a catalytic caress. From a far-flung fissure in the deep recess of recollection, I remember a haunting yet humbling piece of poetry from a time and place far worse than what most of us are going through during lockdown.

“From tomorrow on I shall be sad
Not today.
Today I will be glad,
And every day, no matter how bitter it may be,
I shall say,
From tomorrow on, I shall be sad,
Not today.”

Apparently from a child in a Nazi death camp

 What is it that causes one white eyed youngster to be running from his past, and another to be whistling towards his future? One leaves damage and destruction, the other leaves only dignity. Reckless or respectful. Hopeless or hopeful.

Leadership is about Choice. We choose to Lead, or we choose not to lead. Life is all about choice too I guess. We choose to steal, or we choose to write books. We choose to engage with an intercom call, or we waive the opportunity away.

I look forward to meeting Craig again, perhaps for a coffee in Gandhi Square, and learning how much someone more than half my age could teach me about a quite different life. I wish I had written six books – even at the age of Fifty, but maybe that is like the Zebra wanting to hunt like a Tiger.

Because I have his cell phone number, I will choose to do just that. A coffee with Craig Kanyemba.