The Elders

Graça MachelDear friends,

I am writing to you from Cape Town where my fellow Elders and I have been discussing the meaning of ‘ethical leadership’ this week during one of our biannual meetings.

There is always a moment in your private life, in your organisation, in your community, and in society in general when you ask: what is the right thing to do? A time when you look for a voice to Iead and guide you. Someone who has the insight and the wisdom to say the right thing, at the right place, at the right moment, and inspires us to live our lives with integrity. More importantly, someone who speaks and resonates with our highest aspirations, and ignites our motivation to live up to our full potential.

It is not by chance that when Madiba founded The Elders in 2007, he turned to Desmond Tutu to lead our group. Archbishop Tutu truly embodies ethical leadership. He speaks truth to power, as well as empowering the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and the marginalised. He is larger than life yet he remains simple and humble, and that is the ethical leadership we wish to emulate. Like him we must stand against injustice, motivated by a compassion that embraces every person and makes every single one feel they matter.

Though Archbishop Tutu has stepped down as Chair and is now an Honorary Elder, we will keep on knocking at his door to ask for guidance on the intractable issues we are bound to tackle. As Elders, we will strive to use our collective clout to bring people together, amplify the space to give voice to the voiceless, and catalyse action. We understand true leadership as that of service, leadership which promotes equity and dignity for all.

Of course, it is not just up to the Elders to define the nature of ethical leadership. What does it mean to you? Who are the ethical leaders that inspire you today? And how can we encourage and foster leaders who put common human values first?

These questions were at the heart of The Elders’ debate in Cape Town this week, which you can watch tonight on Al Jazeera. I hope you will share your ideas with us and be part of this important conversation.

Best wishes,

Graça Machel

 Graça Machel signature

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