Published January 20, 2020

The Biggest Need for Systemic Change? Good Leadership

Joe Mabuela

In October 2019, I traveled to Johannesburg in South Africa with the Global Leadership Network, where I met Joe Mabuela, who took me to Soweto, the large township southwest of Johannesburg (this is where Soweto gets its name…South west township). Soweto is a densely populated township with 5-7 million people living in challenging conditions. Joe grew up in Soweto and his mother still lives there, so he knows it intimately.

As we walked through a section of Soweto, I asked Joe, “What’s the biggest need here: infrastructure, education, health care, clean water, security…?” Joe stopped, turned, and said without hesitation, “The biggest need is leadership. More leadership, better leadership. All of those other things are important needs, but they are mostly symptoms of too little leadership, ineffective leadership, corrupt leadership.” I was struck by his answer and the conviction in his voice.

A few days later, I read a summary of a global Barna Group study of Gen Z and Millennials, who “perceive deep, wide, systemic problems facing the world’s future.” Four out of five (82%) agreed with this statement: “Society is facing a crisis of leadership because there are not enough good leaders right now.” It was one of the most widely endorsed statements in the entire survey.

Society is facing a crisis of leadership because there are not enough good leaders right now.

A shortage of good leadership, not just on a local level, in places like Soweto, where the effects are in plain view, but also on a global level, as seen through the eyes of the generations who will inherit the future and are looking to take on a bigger share of the leadership roles from their Gen X and Boomer colleagues. As they do, they should be readily welcomed.

As Joe Mabuela noted, good leadership is critical because of the amplifying, multiplying effect is has on everything else. Adding more good leadership to the mix translates to better outcomes across the board. True locally in Soweto. True globally when applied to the big challenges facing the world today. True in every organization I’ve ever been a part of.

About the Author
Mitch Barns headshot

Mitch Barns

Founder / Strategic Advisor

Second Half Advisors / Global Leadership Network

Mitch joined Nielsen in 1997 with leadership roles across all major parts of the business. From 2014-2018 he became CEO, leading a staff of 45,000 employees in 106 countries. During Mitch’s time as CEO at Nielsen, the company was recognized as one of the “Top 40 Companies for Leaders” by Chief Executive magazine, one of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” by Forbes, a “Top 50” company by Diversity Inc magazine, a “JUST 100” company by JUST Capital, and one of the “Best Run Companies” by the Wall Street Journal. Mitch holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Miami University and completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He began his career at Procter & Gamble, where he spent 12 years in marketing research and brand management. Mitch has also served on the Board of Directors of the Global Leadership Network since 2015. He also currently serves an advisory board member of Growth Catalyst Partners and is the founder of Second Half Advisors. Mitch served as a member of the board of directors for Monsanto prior to its June 2018 acquisition by Bayer AG. He also served on the Board of Directors for CECP (Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose) from 2015-2018. He was a member of the American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable from 2014-2018.

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