My own leadership crucible …

“Despite significant losses in personal wealth, the duplicitous media exposure for daring to ‘blow the whistle on my fierce opponents who know (and knew) the uncomfortable and inconvenient truth, feeling fearful of safely seeing my family in a country that post-Mandela kidnaps, tortures, and murders ‘whistle-blowers’, and fighting an 18 cm ovarian cancerous tumor, I found courage. Just 13 words from Nelson Mandela fortified my moral courage to ‘do the right thing’, and brought me to Harvard to impact leadership excellence and better our world. How to Lead and Stay Alive is personal for me. “ – Anne Pratt

In my personal pursuit for truth, transparency, and justice, there are many leadership lessons I take with me into my work today and into the world. My adversity has been my ‘University of Life’. When I reflect upon ‘my part of the mess’, an important reflection piece for all great leaders, I learned many lasting lessons. Notably, we must not let misinformation or disinformation go unchallenged in the immediacy of the moment. We must refute and present the truth with the facts and evidence immediately, and in the same media channel in which one is being duplicitously challenged. The truth, facts, and evidence matter, recording the truth in the same public media channel matters, and immediacy matters. Self-management is critical. our anchors and sanctuaries are immeasurable gifts with trusted confidantes, close allies, sacred sanctuaries, and comforting rituals are all important to keep us strong, and ‘stay alive’. I learned it was much bigger than me. I was up against an apartheid system. Waking up ‘too late’ to the system and its factions in the legal process, had irrevocable consequences. Allies became ‘time barred’ from intervening. It is seldom as ‘simple’ as it appears to be. Despite the moral questions, we need to ‘meet people where they are’. Changing a system is messy, it is hard, and it is slow. It always looks like a failure in the middle. Sometimes we need to lose the battle to win the war. As Mandela said: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’.

“ I learned the important leadership lesson that one must not let misinformation or disinformation go unchallenged in the immediacy of the moment.”
Anne Pratt

Our history and our story are crucial to know and to understand – our past is not past. Early childhood shapes us as we travel on our leadership journey. Most of us are tested at some juncture on a road less traveled. Our ‘leadership crucibles’ compel us to make tough choices and decisions, it tests us and our willpower to make ‘choices’ that align with ‘who we are’.

Understanding our personal ‘story’, our childhood, our defining moments, all hold the key that unlocks the door to find the clues about what truly matters. ‘My Story’ charts my journey that led me to this ‘leadership crucible’, and the journey beyond. The paradox of life is that the very adversity, often creates an unexpected opportunity. The law of unintended consequences prevails.

Not even Nelson Mandela, at the time of his 1963- 1964 Rivonia trial when he delivered on April 20, 1964, the world famous ‘I Am Prepared to Die’ three-hour speech from the dock, knew he would be the first democratically elected President of a free South Africa. In his own words ‘it is a long walk to freedom’. Our childhood shapes character, crafts who we are, accentuates what matters in life, propels us towards our purpose, guides us towards who we serve, and ultimately sets in motion a journey that defines our lasting legacy. Your ‘Story’ from early childhood and your leadership crucibles, will do the same for you. ” – Anne Pratt

I was excited. It was early evening in August 2003. Women’s month in South Africa, a celebration of the multiracial unity of 20 000 South African women who marched on August 9, 1956, to Pretoria, our stately political capital, protesting against the introduction of apartheid pass laws imposed on Black women. ‘You strike a woman, you strike a rock’ – Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo, are words from the famous resistance song that symbolize the courage and strength expressed at the Women’s March of 1956. Forty years on, some of those brave women leading the march, marching on long before my birth, were powerfully present today. The clean air outside was warm, and the skies were a brilliant blue. The plush deep green lawns carpeted the surrounds, nature’s luxury. The bright colors of an English country garden perfumed our entrance. The large, lavish, and animated ballroom of the elegant, plush Johannesburg Country club went dead quiet, you could hear a pin drop. And then a realization, the room awakened, alive and abuzz with excitement. Most did not know ‘he’ was attending. It felt like a bolt of lightning. In walked Nelson Mandela. A warm, broad, radiant smile, radiating happiness and harmony to honor and support a fund-raiser for the poorest of poor, South Africa’s rural women. I later reflected upon the serendipitous timing of this first meeting with Mandela (Madiba). It was the same year I ‘blew the whistle.’ Meeting Nelson Mandela, and meeting him ‘now’, was meant to be.

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