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Good leaders are those that are able to tap and best utilise the wisdom of those around them. So, says venture capitalist and former FNB head Michael Jordaan.
“The thing I learnt (while heading First National Bank between 2004 and 2013) is that if you can get the wisdom out of the best people in the room, that is quite amazing.
“That also puts the conventional wisdom on its head — that the leader is meant to know everything, that the leader is supposed to know the answer,” says Jordaan, who today invests in startups through his venture capital (VC) company Montegray Capital.
Jordaan was speaking last Monday (23 April) at an event hosted by the Creative Leadership Collective held at the Naspers building in Cape Town. The collective is a members-based organisation that aims to facilitate greater innovation capabilities within large corporates.
If you can get the wisdom out of the best people in the room, that is quite amazing, says venture capitalist and former FNB head Michael Jordaan
In addition, leaders he says, should empower those that work for them, allow them to take risks and recognise those who perform and above all.
‘Allow them to make smart mistakes’
“You have to have the ability to make smart mistakes — take risks and make mistakes,” says Jordaan, adding that startups are perhaps better suited to this than big companies.
He says the fear of getting fired or having their bonus cut, is what holds back many employees from innovating. “People just want to do things that don’t get them into trouble,” he says.
Above all, one should have fun doing it new things. “In South Africa we take each other too seriously, people don’t have enough fun. And if you have fun you can actually come up with really cool ideas,” he says.
Says Jordaan: “I think so many of those things that we conventionally think about leadership are wrong, because you’re looking for this perfect role model and that person who is perfect in every part of their life, whereas much of the leadership we need today is actually innovation — which is more about challenging the status quo”.
In his over 40-minute talk Jordaan was emphatic on how startups should tackle real problems and not what he called “stupid stuff”. He also called for corporates to work more with startups and develop an internal “startup culture”.