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Bring in the Jazz

- Wits University

Vuyo Jack, founder of Empowerdex, says SA needs a new breed of leadership.

South Africa needs a new kind of leadership to deal with its unique problems and challenges in an increasingly changing world, and that type of leadership is called "Jazz leadership".

This is the view of Mr. Vuyo Jack, founder of Empowerdex, who addressed the 2016 graduants from the Wits Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management on Tuesday, 29 March.

Jack, a keen jazz enthusiast, said that South African society as a whole – including politics, the economy and education – needed what he termed “jazz leadership” to take the country forward.

“We need to be able to see new ideologies that talk to us; that talks to our present moment. We should not be constrained in socialism, communism or capitalism, but we need to come up with something that is new and that talks to us.”

Jack defined jazz leadership as a leadership style that is comfortable, and flexible, in all contexts. It allows individuals to rise and be heard, yet it is creative and have enough “clarity and sense of time and rhythm to return to the normal form”.

This is in contrary to the strict, instructive and fragile “classical leadership” style from the classical music world, and the spirited but destructive “struggle leadership” style gained from the world of struggle music.

“Jazz leadership is needed in the economy. We are not going to survive if we are going to do BEE if we do not create something. What are we going to redistribute? We need to create something before we can be able to redistribute it. So we need to create new jobs, and the new jobs are going to come from new ideas,” he said.

“Jazz leadership is needed across society, where everybody takes responsibility to create something out of nothing, rather than have entitlement for things they did not work for.”

Jack said there was a shared common weakness in all the “#MustFall” movements around the world, like BarackMustFall , GhadafiMustFall and, closer to home, RhodesMustFall and FeesMustFall.

“These are great and laudable initiatives, but what are going to rise in their place that then defines us?” he asked.

“(You speak about) FeesMustfall, but what must rise to ensure that we produce students of the highest calibre that can compete anywhere in the world, produced by universities that have world class infrastructure and relevant curriculum that talks to their Afrocentric identity and reality – taught by top academics that produce practical and ground-breaking research, and who apply the most innovative teaching methods that generate high graduation rates?

“A common weakness that runs through all these movements is that there is no balance between what falls, and what is created. It is a lack of creativity of what we must build from the things that must fall. The reality of the matter is that it is easier to destroy than to build something from nothing.”