I talked on leadership tips and frames at a keynote at the annual Boss of the Year Awards Convention in South Africa in August 2011.

Brand Pretorius, recently retired former head of Toyota and McCarthy Motor Holdings in South Africa and a recognized ‘captain of industry’, also delivered a keynote drawing on his extensive leadership experience, with some very wise counsel for aspiring and existing leaders. I thought his leadership tips would be of particular interest to legal leaders – what follows is drawn from my rough notes of his talk –

Image by Patrick Hoesly

By way of introduction he noted that:

  • throughout his career he learned something new about leadership every day of his career and continues to do so.
  • a search on the internet will reveal in excess of 15 million books on leadership and management; clearly, a complex subject.
  • leadership is both an art and a science.

Important leadership tips:

Leadership is not management

  • to be an effective leader one has to strike the right balance between leadership and management
  • management is about things, processes, planning and speed
  • leadership is entirely different;
  • with leadership you have to have the courage to go first
  • leadership is about giving direction and inspiring and influencing people.
  • he said at times he felt he erred in placing too much emphasis on management and not enough on leadership – one often sees this in organisations, many of which are over-managed and under-led.

If you cannot manage yourself it is impossible to lead others effectively

  • you have to develop the ability to lead and manage yourself.
  • it is vital that leaders must have sufficient Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in that leaders need to be able to both understand and manage their own emotions and cultivate good relationships with others.
  • some leaders are functionally good but emotionally illiterate.

As a leader setting an appropriate example is not one of the thing that influences people, it is the only thing

  • leaders need to set the best example all the time.
  • this is a way of being when you are a leader, not a way of behaving.
  • it is all about character not personality.
  • in leadership positions character flaws are magnified.
  • leadership is about setting the example and applying these principles.


  • the importance of humility cannot be over-emphasized, however, mainly in regard to males, the ego is often the biggest obstacle.
  • he noted that as males we tend to believe our own propaganda and become infatuated with it.
  • a pre-requisite for good leadership is humility.
  • leadership is about principles we stand for and what we mean for our teams.
  • inspirational leaders never look down on people who look up to them.
  • without talented people we as leaders are nothing.
  • in his own example he felt he had only saved McCarthy as he had incredible people on his team.

Trust and respect

  • if you as leader want committed, enthusiastic and optimistic people in your organisation you must not be an autocratic, transactional boss.
  • autocratic leadership is a mortal enemy of motivation and through this style of leadership instructions become ineffective.
  • with autocratic leadership you may get compliance but you will not get commitment.
  • as leaders we have to earn trust, respect and commitment and be willing to serve our people.
  • as a leader you have to touch a heart first and then ask for a hand.

Change is the price of survival

  • we live in a complex, volatile, changing world.
  • as leaders we need to stare the reality of change in the face and be capable of changing and adapting quickly.
  • yesterday’s success will not guarantee tomorrow’s.

Translating vision into reality and results

  • in the final analysis leadership is about translating vision into reality and results; this is the moment of truth for a leader.
  • leadership is all about results.
  • people only follow competent leaders and as leaders we need to get results in the eyes of our followers. Our followers make the final judgement on our leadership and the prerogative lies with them.

Everything rises and falls based on leadership, both in families and organisations

  • in world-class organisations you will find the most potent competitive advantage is the quality of the leadership; it is the bedrock of every extraordinary organisation.
  • leadership is a key enabler and has nothing to do with position, power, authority and self-importance.
  • leadership is all about earning influence; influence comes from a place a lot deeper than position and power. It comes from humanity and the ability to capture the hearts and minds of people through servant leadership.
  • leaders have to grapple with when to be hard, when to be soft and when to pull the right levers. This sometimes comes down to being hard and being focused on results, but when it comes to people we need to have gentle hearts.


Throughout life we need to continue to work on our leadership and self-awareness around the following framework:

  • Our ‘heads’ – emotional intelligence, compassion, insight and knowledge.
  • Our ‘hearts’ – principles and values.
  • Our ‘hands’ – how we conduct ourselves and how we behave and interact with others

As leaders we need alignment of our ‘heads, hearts and hands’. Leadership magic happens when our ‘heads’ and ‘hands’ meet, but we need to know that the fountain to leadership is our hearts.

With thanks to Brand for these!