JONATHAN JANSEN: The meaning of leadership
'Children know, friends know, colleagues know when the teacher or leader they are speaking to is present or not. Absentee fathers often live at home'
It is true. I was flirting with the idea of packing up, of leaving, of becoming a professor in a top university overseas where I would no doubt live longer, healthier and without a care in the world.
Until one morning in late 2016, just before I left on a research fellowship in America. I rushed into an all-night shop in a Claremont petrol station at 4am on the way to the airport. There was a woman standing at the door to the Woolworths, mopping the floor.
As I came in, head down, she spoke and, with the cadence of a Cape Flats woman, said: "I hear you're leaving the country, hey?" I was flabbergasted: how did she know about my movements?Then she said something that put paid to any idea of not coming back. "You can't leave, hey. My son needs you." I was frozen on the spot, emotional and humbled by the heartfelt words of this working mother. As the cold morning air stung my face, I realised that her plea was profound - to be present. After all, I would probably never meet her son. What, then, does it mean to be present? No doubt you would have experienced coming home from a busy day at work and heard your spouse or children say something like: "You're here, but you're not here." You were physically present but your mind was somewhere else, your attention was not on the people right there, around you. To be present means to be emotionally, cognitively and spiritually attentive to those around you. I once saw from a distance a university...