South Africa can write a beautiful story - David Cameron

02 November 2018 Discovery

Taking the stage at the Discovery Leadership Summit, David Cameron, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, paid respects to the leadership style of former President, Nelson Mandela. “He was a man with a generous spirit and a total lack of malice.

He was a great man with a great heart, and we need more of that today,” says Cameron, the youngest Prime Minister the UK has ever had.

Cameron is well known for his success in decreasing the national deficit in the United Kingdom and also leading the referendum that has paved the way for the United Kingdom to end its membership of the European Union. He focused his talk on certain leadership lessons and what he believes the qualities of good leadership encompass.

“How we lead in dangerous times, is extremely important,” Cameron says. Some of the dangers he referred to are the threats of corruption, climate change, economic uncertainty, and making sure that people are not being left behind in creating prosperity. “We have to ask if the “strong man” leadership style of leaders who believe they alone have all the answers, is what we need now.” Cameron was clear, these leaders exploit self-doubt among people and rarely take accountability for decisions. “And,” he says, “Just like fake news, fake leaders are not what we need now to find the solutions we need to continue to develop democracy.”

How does he suggest steering through uncertain times?

He shared some of the leadership lessons he feels are characteristics of good leaders. “A good leader does not give up on doing the difficult things and making tough decisions.” Here Cameron gave the examples of cutting down his cabinet, and cutting government costs – except health and education – to address the UK’s debt and unemployment. These decisions led to more jobs and development of more businesses. “You can take difficult decisions and still win the votes. It is about being a good communicator and creating alliances.” During his term, the UK had its first coalition government in 17 years and by coming together Cameron says they were able to find solutions to some of the most challenging aspects their country faced.

This was also his second lesson in leadership, “do the difficult things alongside people”. Cameron says that it is crucial for leaders to listen to and understand people’s grievances. This is the only way to address a sense of disillusionment and preserve good leadership to solve concerns. One such concern that is high on the agenda for every country to confront corruption. He says not enough attention is being given to this, a critical issue as corruption steals wealth from countries, lowers faith in government and underpins violence.

Cameron takes a strong stand on the fragility of states and says the only way to escape it is through power sharing, having a good democracy in place and having a properly functioning private and public sector. “We have to remember the importance of good governance in real leadership. Good governance is what distinguishes countries when dealing with dangerous trends. Leaders who listen to grievances and support building real democracy, are what we need to address the fragility.”

Cameron ended saying, “South Africa is at an economic and political turnaround. It may be a great challenge to turn around corruption. But, South Africa can write a beautiful story of building a real democracy where people thrive together.”

The future of successful countries and of healthcare

In a short question and answer session with South African media personality, Redi Tlhabi, Cameron highlighted some factors for thriving countries. These include strengthening the building blocks of democracy and the quality of rule of law, respecting human rights, transparency and protecting people and their rights, joining efforts and sharing a burden for elevated positive effects.

The interview also touched on the importance Cameron places on genomic sequencing and DNA testing. This became particularly important after the family lost their son, Ivan, who was disabled. It made Cameron question the care disabled children receive. On having another child, the family was offered genetic testing – but it only gave a probability of the condition recurring in other children. Today, Cameron believes genomics – understanding and sequencing the genome – will drive healthcare in the future. “It will be possible to make faster and more accurate diagnoses. But it is also a moral issue for world. This technology, I believe, should not only be for developed countries but should be available to every country,” concluded Cameron.


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