The Global Shapers Community of the African continent was captivated by the presence of three remarkable leaders at the Coca-Cola Leadership panel on 8th May 2013 during the World Economic Forum Meeting on Africa. The panel consisted of Therese Gearhart President of Coca-Cola Southern Africa, Stuart McLeod Managing Director of Peninsula Beverages, one of Coca-Cola’s bottlers in South Africa and William (Bill) Egbe Group Director, Sustainability, Strategy and Business Planning for Coca-Cola’s Eurasia and Africa group.

Coca-Cola Leadership Panel
In true Coca-Cola style these leaders have a broad career experience covering a number of continents and various roles in the vast organization that is the world’s biggest brand. As an entrepreneur, that kind of scale is almost unsettling as I try to fathom the complexity of what it takes to lead anything of that size.

I was hoping to get some great new mental frameworks on leadership, or some fascinating insight or methodology on how to lead and operate optimally. Something that I could quickly apply with half a mind, but would dramatically simplify my life. Alas, it would not be so. Leadership it seems remains one of the most demanding tasks one can undertake on our adult lives.

It became ever more apparent to me, how much leadership comes back to leadership of self and how the quality of your leadership is often a reflection of how well you lead yourself. It appears to me that there is a series of circular self-reflective checkpoints an effective leader goes through repeatedly, everyday, multiple times a day if required. Starting with self: What are the most important things I need to do now? How do I feel about it and why do I feel the way I do? What would make it better? Then leading to the people around you: Who are the best people to engage for this? How do they see things? How do they feel about it? What is the stimulus that could drive them to the next step? Then the environmental context: What context are we operating in? What affects our ability to act? Am I still able to do the most important things…and back to the beginning.

It all seems a rather involved process and that is not even an exhaustive list. I asked Therese Gearheart if she really operates at that level of awareness and consciousness everyday, and she nodded her head the same way my mother does when she is tells me something I don’t want to hear.

I learned that being conscious enough to place yourself and the people around you in a realistic context in order to move to the next step is an on-going leadership effort. The deeper you go with self and the more authentic you are within yourself, the further ahead you can lead, because the greater your connection with your own humanity, the more intimate the connection to others.

William (Bill) Egbe Group Director, Sustainability, Strategy and Business Planning

Peninsula Beverages shared the EduBus program with the Shapers.

Over the previous two days, the Global Shapers had convened for SHAPE Africa – Social Innovation, the inaugural meeting of Global Shapers on the African continent by Global Shapers. Under the theme of social innovation, a vehicle that cuts across traditional boundaries to address key socio-economic challenges, Global Shapers explored approaches and methodologies that can be applied to the social impact projects we seek to have on our communities. 

I believe that as the tides of influence on our society shift away from a small, centralized and privileged minority and young people are become more active contributors to the world we live in, we will see a more inclusive leadership that recognizes sustainable progress and optimum results can only be obtained when everyone is in a position to play their part. The leadership principles of authenticity, self-reflection and awareness will be ever more important among youth leaders, including the Global Shapers. And perhaps it will be the youth’s ability to go further within themselves in different directions such as our more desperate questioning; our ability to imagine and create new beginnings and capacity to learn that will enable us to lead others that way.

Rapelang Rabana is a technology entrepreneur and is the Curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Hub in Cape Town. Mostly recently she founded ReKindle Learning in order to apply mobile technologies to foundation school learning as well as vocational and corporate staff training. Follow her on @rapelangrabana.