Man among men
09:00 (GMT+2), Thu, 29 March 2012
“He who sees the invisible will achieve the impossible,” said Helen Keller, and coming from that great man Brand Pretorius it’s not just another nice quotation one remembers for a while and then forgets about it.
Brand saw the unseen when he took over the technically bankrupt McCarthy motor retail group in 1999. He built it up to a business that nowadays employs 7 000 people and has a turnover of R18 billion.
I’m a professional listener. I’m paid to go to congresses, farmers’ days, and so on, to listen and to report. It goes without saying that I have listened to literally thousands of speeches and presentations over the past years.
Most of them are forgotten the moment I’m done writing the story. Very few stick in my mind. But I’ll never forget Pretorius’ speech at the recent Bonsmara National Sale in Bothaville. It was inspirational to hear one of the most prominent business people in our land call for common decency, sincerity, trust and dignity.
It’s incredibly brave, in my mind, to call on people to become ‘servant leaders’ based on the example of Jesus Christ. It takes a strong man to tell farmers when they’re wrong and the “I’m the boss and you’ll do as I say” days are over. I wish all leaders in all the sectors of South Africa would embrace Pretorius’ philosophy that when the correct values are installed in people rules and regulations will become less important and values will become stronger.
Don’t be fooled – Pretorius isn’t a motivational speaker. He’s a hardened businessperson with a keen mind, who understands finances and economics. But he’s learnt that people matter. That leadership is more important than management. That a leader must be prepared to go first, to inspire. That leadership isn’t a way of behaving – it’s a way of being.
Good leaders lead with humility and suppress their egos, he said.
We can do with leaders like that in agriculture. We need good ‘servant leaders’ in all spheres of the sector to safeguard the future. We need people filled with humility, but with a clear vision.
I salute you, Brand Pretorius.