Speaker Interview: Zelda la Grange
Zelda la Grange, Presidential Aide to Nelson Mandela
Author and motivational speaker Zelda la Grange was at the forefront of one of the most momentous periods of change in the 20th century. Acting as Nelson Mandela’s Presidential Aide, his ‘rock’, until his death in 2013, Ms la Grange witnessed the transformation of South Africa in the post-Apartheid era and saw how one man’s leadership inspired change for the better.
Zelda la Grange is the keynote speaker at The Travel Industry Exhibition and Conference 2017, focusing on her experiences with Mr Mandela and sharing his philosophy for changing one person at a time.
We caught up with Ms la Grange ahead of her speech to discuss how leaders manage, and inspire, change for the better.
What lessons have you learned over your career about working to change entrenched views?
We need to focus on introspection more than changing the other person’s views. Once we conduct ourselves in an exemplary way, others will be inspired by the change that has happened within us. One should not try and force people to change. People should be convinced to change for their own benefit, but be allowed to follow their own journey or else important lessons could be missed in the process. The process of change is as important as the end goal and therefore any person will have a different experience when introspection is done in an honest way. Most of the time it is a private and personal experience. People don’t want to be shamed and therefore they will not be honest in public about their views. They should be allowed to follow a journey at their own pace.
You saw a period of momentous change in South Africa from a most special position, what can organisations learn from your experiences that will help in surviving their own periods of change?
At times of change it is critical that solutions are inclusive. Solutions can only be obtained by listening to the participants and drawing from a wide variety of experience across the organisational spectrum. Change is only accepted if it is marketed and sold as a way of enriching people personally rather than views being enforced for a better society. People should be convinced that the change will benefit them on the long run – and it usually truly does. Employees should be encouraged to step back and critically view all aspects including their own functioning within an organisation. That way the end goal of the new direction will become clearer to an employee when they can understand their own personal contribution to a changed environment.
You often speak about discipline, respect and integrity. How are they integral to managing and inspiring change?
No company or industry can survive without these. You can’t fake authenticity and while a lot of our world is being replaced by robots and machines, people have now started to value human contact again. Therefore, when dealing with clients, it is of the utmost importance that respect and integrity are reflected in all forms of communication. When people feel respected, when they feel valued they will inevitably return and that is how one inspires loyalty.
In your experience, what leadership style works best to inspire change?
An inclusive leadership style but not necessarily exclusively democratic. A true leader will know at what point to close the conversation and enforce the most popular view or be in a position to explain the change so people would want to follow. Situational leadership, taking the abilities and willingness of the follower into account, works best. As the world adapts, so must leaders. What worked in management 20 years ago, will not work today. Leaders should first and foremost read their audience and adjust to be able to change their audience.
You personally had very definite entrenched views of Nelson Mandela when you first started working for him, what qualities in a leader or an organisation are necessary to change entrenched views for the betterment of everyone involved?
Even though a person may differ ideologically doesn’t mean they are lesser beings. Even those with different views should be respected. If management or leadership want to enforce change, they should reflect what they want others to become. That way people will find it easy to emulate. People don’t follow others blindly. They want to understand the complexities of the environment in which they function. Once the gap is bridged and people understand their role and importance in the functioning of a group, they will change in support of the ideals and principles the leaders want to entrench.
Zelda la Grange will discuss her story, and more, in further detail as part of her presentation, “Good Morning, Mr Mandela”, at The Travel Industry Exhibition & Conference 2017. This must-see industry event will run in Sydney from 20-21 July in the Ted Hopkins Room, Crystal Palace – Luna Park and in Melbourne from the 25-26 July at the MCEC (Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre).