by Howard Feldman
I was about to embark on a new business venture. Before we officially kicked off as new partners, we sat around my dining room table and spoke about some of the expectations. One of the participants raised his hand and said the following: “It is important that we agree that we will behave ethically and morally and with integrity.”
We all nodded and agreed. “Absolutely”, we concurred. Integrity was key. Inwardly I felt awful for not having thought of this myself. What kind of person was I for not having listed these values? And what did it say about me?
It took a year for me to realize that the person who raised this concern had the least integrity of the group. For the rest of the team, integrity was a given. It turns out that we didn’t need to say that which was an assumption. It was in a sense, a basic component and what the experts call “Permission to play.”
The fact that he needed to say it, should have been a red flag.
Over the past weekend, a notification appeared in the press. Eskom is looking for a CEO, following Andre De Ruyter’s resignation. He had been in the job for three years and left for a variety of reasons. He left because the African National Congress undermined him. He left because he lacked support, because he came too close to interfering with the corruption that exists at Eskom and because, following the attempted poisoning, he realized that his life was simply not worth it.
He needed to keep his own lights on.
None of the reasons for him leaving was because he lacked integrity. Quite the contrary.
In addition to integrity, the new CEO must have between 15 and 20 years of experience, a history of turning companies around and a post graduate degree.
The advert is ridiculous. And reflects how out of touch the ANC remains. It functions on the assumption that good people will apply, that there are lists of people who want the position, who trust that they will get the support of government and that don’t like coffee. Given that that was the medium of choice for De Ruyter’s attempted murder by poisoning.
Instead, if the ANC understood how to read the room, the advert should have read as follows:
- We will support you.
- We will stand by you, and we will have your back.
- We accept that the hot mess that is Eskom is of our making, and we will not try and blame it on you or on Van Riebeek.
- We will not serve you coffee, instant or otherwise.
- And we will not try and kill you.
There has to be concern within the ANC as who would possibly choose to step up to the plate. It was a wonder that he took the position in the first place but considering how he was treated, who would have the courage to follow his experience?
Who would be crazy enough to put themselves and their family in that position? Likely someone more attracted to the package than the ideal of fixing Eskom and the country.
Andre De Ruyter committed to a 3-month transition to the new CEO. Whereas most people would have taken a long and well-deserved holiday in a country with a constant and reliable supply of electricity, he has continued to take the high road. Ironically, he has displayed the very characteristics required for the new CEO. Even after his resignation. Which seems like a great waste of time. Given that he seems to be exactly the CEO that they are looking for.