I have been in the business of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment for more than 20 years, and in that time have thought about BEE a lot! But I’ve usually thought about empowerment in terms of other people, not necessarily in regard to myself. After all, I am gainfully employed and making a difference to the people of South Africa.
So, when I was asked about what empowerment meant to me, specifically, it gave me pause. I’ve always defined empowerment as people having power and control over their own lives. It is when people have the ability to accomplish something, giving them the confidence, they need to succeed.
When I thought about this in terms of my own experience, I remembered my personal struggle with accepting the title of CEO of Lanham-Love Consulting. I pushed it away for many years – I didn’t feel like a CEO, and so was anxious about what it would mean for me to fill those shoes. This resulted in me doing the job without having the title.
But I realised, as recently as last year, that not accepting the “label” of CEO was doing me, and Lanham-Love Consulting, a real disservice. I was giving away my power, and, in doing so, I was hamstringing the company by not providing clear leadership. When I decided to embrace the title, it gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. By taking the title – and living it – I restored balance to the company.
Titles matter – labels matter. Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment is not, therefore, about putting previously disadvantaged people into roles that they cannot fulfil. It should not be about having leadership in name only. We need to empower the people of South Africa to succeed, which, I believe, is best achieved through skills development. Lanham-Love Consulting, for example, has been instrumental in helping young South Africans equip themselves with the abilities and skills they need to get where they want to be. This in turn means that they have the initial skill set necessary to position them for future maturity and growth into more senior roles.
This is where empowerment is being done right – where there is room for empowerment to be done better, however, is in mentoring people into the role of company leadership. Instead of forcing senior management or directorship too early, and essentially setting people up to fail, I believe that creating the future leaders we need to run South African businesses can be achieved by ongoing development. There are some things that only come with experience!
I am (obviously) passionate about empowerment. If you see the value of empowerment for your business, of growing and developing your people for the sake of business sustainability and continued prosperity, then contact Lanham-Love Consulting. We specialise in finding strategic B-BBEE solutions that result in additional benefits and increased compliance across multiple elements of the scorecard.