Our business premises bring our leadership premises to life.

YSA’s leadership development is founded on many principles and fundamentals.

Our business premises – the place where you will find us – reflect many of those premises. They bring them to life. Deliberately so. Next time you visit us, take a look to see how our houses have brought them to life. (Or is it vice versa? Have they been instrumental in bringing our houses to life?)

The Triangle of Tensions.

What should offices look like? Should they look like offices? In a building with an entrance, corridors and toilets? Yes, they must, if they are to be practical. But that is the ‘Canned Role’ for an office – the stereotypical expectations. How can your offices reflect your individual identity? How can they reflect what drives you? And how can they acknowledge the messy reality of what’s happening – compromises, chance events – the emergent process of being a leader?

YSA’s offices reflect this Triangle of Tensions. Our old, renovated buildings in Upper Houghton, Johannesburg:

1. They are not houses.
2. They are not hotels.
3. They are not offices.

Yet our houses are, simultaneously, all of these. They are our home. They are a venue that clients visit for many workshops. And they are the place where the telephone is answered, where we drive to during the week.

They are all three and, simultaneously, they rise above the narrow definitions of all three.

The importance of a cause.

YSA is not based in Cape Town, or London, or Stockholm. YSA is in Johannesburg. That’s a deliberate choice.

Johannesburg epitomises our belief that the future is not something you await around for; the future is something you create.

This is a city that doesn’t rely on natural beauty, or a river, or being a well-located port for its future. It creates its own future.

It is a city for people willing to take responsibility for their own lives. Who make choices every day, knowing there are no guarantees that they make the right choices.

How well we know that feeling.

But how well we know, too, that this is a city that rewards people with the courage of their convictions. With the resolve to get somewhere new.

Johannesburg brings us alive. It mobilises us. It inspires us to go beyond the ordinary.

Reality. In all its mess.

What Johannesburg reminds us, too, is that reality is not perfect. This city is not some utopia. It is not K-PAX. It is less-than-perfect.

Particularly on Louis Botha Avenue. This is as far as you can get from some dream office park with ducks and water features.

Deliberately. If businesses operated in a near-perfect world, there would be no need for leaders. There would certainly be no need for people willing, daily, to take less-than-optimum decisions, to inspire less-than-flawless people and to take on with the reality of the business world in all its mess.

Louis Botha Avenue reminds us of that. Daily.

Johannesburg is also a city that constantly re-invents itself. In many areas, the city’s buildings are the fourth generation of development.

Newer, supposedly better buildings spring up. More modern, more efficient infrastructure appears.

But at the expense of what? Of history? Of heritage? Of crafts and skills that money can’t buy?

That knowledge, too, is pertinent.

When you move forward, must it be at the expense of something left behind?

When you re-build, must you lose the history of what was there before? When you renovate, as we did with our house, you become acutely aware of what you lose, what you condemn forever to obscurity.

It introduces humility to what we do.

Renovation represents the journey that we’re all on.

It highlights the importance of finding a balance. Between the old and the new. The conservative and the contemporary. The unconventional and the too-radical. The authentic and the glamorous. The toughness of business and fragility of human beings.

You will find all this in our house. We renovated the house deliberately, carefully, proudly. You will see how we try to find the balance.

Progress is not linear.

You cannot have the new – no matter how worthy – without a cost.

Recognise this in your own work. As you change, you replace parts of yourself. You say goodbye to them forever. Do it with humility.