American businessman and author Miles Anthony Smith once coined a quote that I believe is a profound lesson on leadership.
“If you can’t handle others’ disapproval, then leadership isn’t for you.”
I was reminded of this as the ANC announced on Monday that Danny Jordaan had resigned as leader of the opposition in the Nelson Mandela Bay council.
I must admit, the resignation itself came as no surprise.
After all, although drawing a salary, Jordaan has pretty much been missing in action since the outcome of the August elections.
However, I was taken aback by the subtext contained in much of the reaction from some ANC supporters.
Many intimated that the role of opposition leader was beneath him.
They believed that a man of Jordaan’s stature could not be expected to lead the ANC as an ordinary councillor seated in opposition benches.
“How can you take a mayor and make him an ordinary councillor, it doesn’t work that way,” one councillor told this newspaper.
I found this logic astonishing for a number of reasons.
First, let me say that since the new council term began Jordaan has never – as far as I know – publicly spoken about what his role would be in council.
He was not at the ANC press conference where his appointment as opposition leader was announced in August.
He has never answered questions from the media – a stance I believe is unfortunate but well within his rights.
He did not attend council meetings nor subsequent ANC gatherings where journalists were present.
Therefore, regarding his glaring absence in council, we have only had the ANC’s word to go on.
And so, for two months, we watched the ANC fumble as its regional bosses incoherently tried to explain away how a leader in whom they had pinned so much hope ditched them in their most vulnerable moment. The excuses were amusing. We were first told Jordaan was ill, then he was on leave, then ill again but attended soccer matches because football apparently had some sort of healing effect.
In the last two months, we have never heard directly from Jordaan whether he had any intention of being an opposition leader.
Hewas also not at Monday’s press conference to announce his resignation.
Since this term began, he has not taken ANC voters – the majority of whom are not in party structures – into his confidence regarding his commitment, if any, to this city. Herein lies the problem. Granted, Jordaan was never obliged to take up this role. No one is.
But when you have spent a year in public office, have had people invest in you and, in turn, consistently pledged solidarity to their cause, you do not get to opt out of your moral responsibility to be accountable simply because the context has changed and no longer suits you.
Leadership is not a title, it is the ability to subject yourself, with humility, to the will of the people, regardless of the circumstances.
Jordaan’s behaviour since losing the election has, frankly, been deplorable.
His silence, and the proverbial finger displayed in the last two months, left the ANC to stagger from one embarrassing moment to another.
It suggests, in my view, that similar to some of his supporters, he himself believes that he is larger than the task he was mandated to do.
I am one of many people in this city who believes that Jordaan’s stint as mayor was better than many we have had before him. I believe that, under extremely difficult circumstances, his efforts made a significant difference, albeit not enough to help the ANC retain power.
But his conduct since losing the election raises several questions about what he and those ANC supporters worshipping at his feet understand about the principle of leadership. It suggests that they see it not as a commitment to serve but a reward for those who are perceived to be better than the rest.
When Jordaan’s supporters said the caucus leadership position was beneath him, I could not help but wonder what they, perhaps unintentionally, suggested about Bicks Ndoni, Litho Suka and other ANC leaders who have had the guts to show up and represent their movement even during humiliating moments.
When his supporters claimed Jordaan’s experience and skill was beyond this role, I could not help but wonder if these are the same people who support government’s Back to Basics policy, which compels parties to deploy the most capable in their ranks to lead the municipalities.
I wondered, if the ANC believes that the DA is a party of racist bigots who do not care about black communities, why not deploy its absolute best, such as Jordaan, to council to fight for the development of Veeplaas or KwaNobuhle?
For a man who, not so long ago, stood on podiums promising to deliver to the people of this city five golden years, when it came to the crunch, Jordaan tripped at the last hurdle.
His ego got the better of him and exposed the powerful leadership lesson this ANC is yet to learn – selflessness.