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‘Leadership is formed through ethical behaviour’
2012-08-20

Mr Edward Kieswetter
20 August 2012

“Being ethical is not about what we can do, it is about what we ought to do.” This is according to Mr Edward Kieswetter, Group Executive of Alexander Forbes Limited. During his lecture to MBA students in the Business School, Mr Kieswetter allowed the audience to engage in a discussion about ethics and leadership in the business world. Mr Kieswetter is also Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council.

Part of the lecture was discussing South Africa as a country that was not born in ethics. Mr Kieswetter commented that although context was is very important in making decisions, South African people tended to, for example, and “feed on corruption, instead of acting actively against it”. Questions about South Africa’s ethical foundation were raised. Mr Kieswetter explained that one of the greatest challenges with the South Africans was to help them understand that a person always had a choice. “If you have to compromise on your own values, you are not doing anybody justice.”

Ethics can promote common and social goals if they are not determined by what people feel and strive to reach beyond the barriers that religious beliefs put up. He shared of his life’s most valuable lessons learned about people in leadership positions. “A great leader has incredible self-awareness and displays a huge amount of humility.” He said that in life it was not about being perfect; it was rather about being authentic, even in challenging times where the outcome might affect the current situation negatively. “My greatest successes came from lessons I learned in making mistakes and growing from them.

“If you have nothing to die for, then what is there to live for?” Mr Kieswetter said when asked whether he would compromise his financial position if he did not agree with the ethics of the company he worked for. “By constantly complaining instead of progressing, we are giving up our power to change, and that is a scary thing for South Africa as a developing country.”