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SAP’s Signature Napkin Series #5: Leadership Activist – Adriaan Groenewald


Following is a blog authored by SAP as a responsive musing on the napkin’s content:

Ubuntu – How it pays to be nice in business

There’s no doubt that Nelson Mandela was one of the most inspirational figures in history. His integrity and courage have influenced people from all over the world, in all walks of life. But some of the attributes that made him such a captivating and inspirational leader are also relevant for any kind of leadership, particularly in the world of business. We take a look at one of Mandela’s core values, Ubuntu, that of basic human kindness and explore how this can be channelled by entrepreneurs and business leaders to ensure that the decisions they make are based on the right values.

AG-on-ARISE.jpgA sense of community, and that of working together towards a common goal, fosters empathy and understanding. Care and empathy aren’t traits that are usually associated with business strategy but encouraging the idea of working as, as well as for a community can have a positive effect on an organisation. Whether this is implemented by understanding office politics, or recognising, and rewarding weaknesses and strengths, business leaders who inspire this kind of atmosphere instead of cutting other people down, pursue their personal ambitions in ways that lift others up.

People don’t function alone, neither in business nor in society. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their business environment, leaders can adapt more easily to change and disruption, and these same principles can be applied to the society around them too. Having an awareness of social needs and showing that you have a vision and purpose that goes beyond your bottom line can help both customers and consumers.

An empathetic working environment instils a feeling of innovation and the ability to freely share ideas, both of which increase the potential of a company. Employees feel they are working together towards a common goal, in an optimistic atmosphere which improves the brand image, and ultimately customer perception of that brand. ‘Corporate Karma’ is the idea of engaging in enterprises that give something back to the global community, a task that can bring benefits back to your business eventually.


Nelson Mandela set an example to everybody, and his principles can be applied to any situation, whether it’s personal, political or business. His leadership highlighted the importance of leading by example, staying close to your principles and showing understanding towards your fellow man, whether they are employees who need your guidance, or rivals who need sympathy and tolerance.



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