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There’s nothing like being forced out of your comfort zone to give you new ideas and inspiration. And what better way than rapid immersion in not just another business environment, but another culture?

This was the opportunity I was given on a recent visit to South Africa together with a group of business leaders from Denmark. Just a few hours after stepping off the long flight from Europe, we were released into Durban’s Central Business District. It’s a far cry from the sterile, grayscale business district of a northern European city. Colors and sounds line the pavements. People swarm over intersections, dodging the taxi vans, busses and occasional car. It’s an eclectic mix of cultures where urban dwellers dominate, but there are still plenty of people with obviously strong tribal roots.

For the next few hours, we explored the district, interacting with people to learn about their businesses and lives as best we could, sometimes in English, sometimes through an interpreter, and almost always with wild hand gestures. Continue reading

Lessons in leadership from the savannah

I had the privilege of spending four days in the South African bush recently. The occasion was a leadership development course together with a group of business leaders from Denmark. Although the purpose wasn’t leisure, for me as a wildlife junkie, there are certainly worse things to do than spend three hours a day on safari!

The course was facilitated by Pete, Mick and Steve from Leading with Humanity. Their mission was to force us to reflect on leadership in business through the power of nature. They knew we’d be put way outside of our comfort zones; that we would feel vulnerable and insecure. And they loved it!

But it’s not only the boundary-breaking exercises that make you take a close look at leadership behaviour. Even more telling was the immersion in nature. Witnessing the wild’s dilemmas first hand is a transcendental experience that reveals an honest reality. The competitive coexistence of the vast array of species in the bush is a worthy aspiration for all walks of life. Learning from it will surely benefit any leader’s performance. Continue reading