Mr FW de Klerk on inspiring leadership

Former President of South Africa, FW de Klerk on inspiring leadership

Former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mr FW de Klerk recently spoke to Lombard Odier clients in London about the need for strong leadership to address current global challenges.

Lombard Odier Managing Partner Hubert Keller introduced Mr De Klerk, who gave the group of assembled guests his views on the three big challenges facing global leaders today:

  1. Accommodating diversity: With globalisation and the increasing movement of individuals, countries are gaining more diverse populations. In a more heterogeneous world, how can we accommodate important minorities in a meaningful way? The recent events in Spain demonstrate how disputes can occur even in the heart of developed democracies. In Mr De Klerk’s view, the answer must always be to convince such minorities that their concerns are being addressed. For many, the ballot box will never be their means to gain control, so solutions must come from within existing governance structures. The ‘melting pot’ approach to assimilation can only go so far.
  2. Managing inequality: How can one deal with the 33% of the world’s population that lives in absolute poverty? How can today’s leaders win the war against poverty without killing wealth creation, or ‘the goose that lays the golden egg?’ In many countries, conflict comes as a result of two issues: the suppression of minorities, or wealth inequality and related economic issues. Mr De Klerk believes that tackling inequality must be at the heart of creating peaceful, harmonious societies.
  3. Tackling global warming: The problems posed by environmental change represent a ticking time-bomb for the global population, and different countries will be affected in different ways. This can prove a tough challenge to address, especially in those places lacking an immediate impetus to change, but forward-thinking leadership is nonetheless required today, in order to address problems that will affect everyone tomorrow.

Mr De Klerk also called for a review of global policy on nuclear arms proliferation, before introducing his work with the Global Leadership Foundation (GLF), which was established in 2004.

The GLF brings together a group of over 40 former global leaders, who make their experience available to today's heads of state free of charge, in order to provide discreet, confidential advice. Its aim is to help such leaders tackle big challenges facing their countries and make the right choices at crucial moments in history. The idea is not to present them with a masterplan, but through dialogue to help them to decide on what initiatives they need to take to change the situation.

The foundation puts together small teams that sit for a few days with the leader in question, to try and establish bonds of trust and help them identify which initiatives to focus on in order to bring about change. The GLF started with a pool of 12 individual advisers, and today boasts more than 40. They offer a lifetime of governance experience, whether through leadership of nations of multinational bodies, or through serving as high-level diplomats or ambassadors.

After his speech, Mr De Klerk took questions from the group, which ranged from the future of nation states, to the difficulties currently facing South Africa, the political situation in Spain, Brexit, and Mr De Klerk's view on great leaders in history (he selected Otto von Bismarck, Helmut Schmidt and Nelson Mandela, among others). 

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