Nancy Ortberg, consulting Partner for Patrick Lencioni, starts her must read book, “Unleashing the power of rubber bands: lessons in non-linear leadership” with the following words:
I love great leadership… Great leadership is occurring in the hands of quiet and unnoticed people who are creating environments where people can bring the best of what they do to what they do best. But you will never see these inspiring leaders on the cover of a magazine or in the six o’clock news. We greatly underestimate where great leadership is to be found and what we can learn from it. If we only expect to find it in the hands of those select few in positions of obvious power, we are poorer for having overlooked the beauty and strength that is to be found in unexpected places.
Nancy’s words and book inspired me to contribute a full supplement on the stories of ordinary Business Professional leaders who makes an extra-ordinary impact in various ways and from whom we can learn valuable real-life leadership lessons. And seeing that August is a month for women, stories will be shared of 5 women leaders who make our Profession proud.I was privileged to meet and interview each of them. And to ensure that we get a realistic picture of each person, I interviewed and learned more of them from the mouth of their leaders, peers and followers.
Thank you to all who made time for the interviews (alphabetical order by name):
Alsue du Preez: Director – PWC Financial Services Insurance & Investment Management
Interviewees: requested not to publish names
Amanda Dempsey: Executive Dean – UJ Faculty of Economic & Financial Sciences
Interviewees: Angina Parekh, Erica du Toit, Stephen Kruger
Annalien Carstens: Managing Director – ALTIMAX Financial Services & Consulting
Interviewees: Annemarie Ungerer, Eduard Stander, Marietjie Vercueil, Noeline Slogrove, Sandra Bosch
Chantyl Mulder: Senior Executive – SAICA Professional Development, Transformation & Growth
Interviewees: Adri Kleynhans, Elizabeth Zambonini, Mandi Oliver, Matsobane Matlwa, Riana De Bruyn, Tonia Jackson
Manda Smit: Financial Manager – Monash South Africa
Interviewees: Christine Maritz, Gerda Bentley, Lodika Kruger, Martin Prinsloo, Nicolene Murdoch
From the interviews I have learned 7 Leadership Lessons that you as a Business Professional can use and start to develop early in your career:
LESSON 1: GREAT LEADERS HAVE A CORE MORAL COMPASS
A core foundational lesson that I have learned was that the majority of the team members stated that they believe that the success of Alsue, Amanda, Annalien, Chantyl and Manda is attributed to their strong moral values and beliefs that they live by and act from daily. It is clear that all these leaders have a strong inner moral compass and spiritual belief system that sets the course in each decision that they make and each action that they take. They do not rely on their own strengths and abilities. There is something deeper within their souls and minds that guide them each day. They are not the CEO’s of their own lives.
The benefit of having a clear inner moral compass that drives your vision is Consistency and Decisiveness, two important laws of great leadership. As a Business Professional you need to develop the ability to know what is right and what is wrong. However you also need to have the “guts”, wisdom and confidence to apply that knowledge. A wise leader that I recently met said: “Knowledge is not power. Wisdom is power. Wise people apply the knowledge they have.”
LESSON 2: PASSION + HARD WORK = SUCCESS
Based on question: “What do you admire about your leader/your team?”
The leaders and their teams are very diverse in terms of personal lives, strengths, roles, leadership approach, team size, organisational culture and industry. However one attribute that all the leaders have in common is a Passion for what they do and a High Work Ethic. An important lesson that I have learned from each of these leaders is that they have found their calling within their careers. However getting to this point took them long hours, patience, perseverance and hard work.
As a Business Professional it is important to be aware of this early in your career. You may dream and aspire to be a director atan auditing firm like Alsue Du Preez, the dean at a higher education institution like Amanda Dempsey, the managing director of your own financial services consulting company like Annalien Carstens, an executive at the Institute that regulates the CA (SA) profession like Chantyl Mulder or a financial manager at an international education institution like Manda Smit.
The one attribute that you do need to achieve this is a passion for what you do because this will ultimately motivate you to work hard and be patient to achieve your goal. You also need to be willing to work 11-12 hour days, 6-7 days a week, lead by example, go the extra mile for the sake of your team and fail forward. The “Entitlement Mentality” of gen Y is not going to get you your success. Each of these leaders started at the bottom and worked themselves patiently and with perseverance to where they are today.
LESSON 3: CAPITALISE ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Based on the questions: “If you can describe your leader in one word, what would it be?”
“What attributes contribute to your leader’s/your success?”
Each leader and her team know what her core strengths areand she capitalizes on itto make her successful. Each leader knows who she is and who she is not. She leans into and leads out of her strengths. She is comfortable in her own skin. Let’s look at words that the teams used to describe each leader’s core strengths:
- Developer & Strategic
“Dedicated”; “Organiser”; “Compassion”; “Balance”; ‘Innovation”
Alsue’s ability to plan strategically makes her on top of her game. This strength makes that this leader at a Big Audit Firm, is always prepared, she has a clear picture of where she and her team is headed, she is hands-on, informed and therefore more confident and professional. Investing in people and building good relationships with her team and her clients is important for Alsue and she believes that planning ahead and being organised gives her the space to be flexible when it is needed with her team and her clients.
- Focus& Adaptability
“Vibrant”; “Change agent”; “Focus”; “Problem solver”; “Loyal”
Amanda’s ability to focus on a vision, live in the moment and be adaptable contributed to her leading her faculty through major changes over the last 5 years. Staying focussed on the destination of her team, is powerful because she can instinctively evaluate whether or not a particular action will help them move forward toward their goals. When team members start to wander down other avenues, she brings them back toward their destination. Her inherent ability to expect sudden requests and unforeseen detours enables her to change her focus as leader, respond willingly to the demands of the moment and take her team with her.
- Futuristic & Positivity
“Perseverance”; “Dreamer”; “Inspirational”; “Dynamic”; “Bundle of energy”
What contributes to Annalien’s success is her ability to dream about the future and take people along with her. She is a natural Entrepreneur and having your own business has many risks. When the present proves to be uncertain she reminds herself that God is in control, therefore she does not have to be. Her positive futuristic outlook influences her team, her company and her clients to action. She injects drive and commitment into every project. Annalien influences those around her with her conviction that work can be fun, and no matter what the setbacks, you must never lose your sense of humour.
- Activator &Achiever
“Driven”; “Fast & Furious”; “Life wire”; “Impact”; “Determined”
Chantyl leads by action, because only action makes things happen and leads to performance. When your job is Transformation in our profession you need to make tenacious decisions, act on them, learn from them and move forward. Chantyl has an internal fire burning inside her to transform our profession and bring hope to our country. This pushes her and her team to do more, to achieve more.Chantyl’s strength of tangible achievement is the power supply that set the pace and defines the levels of productivity for her team. It keeps her moving forward and she moves her team with her.
“Quiet strength”; “Self-contained”; “Structured”; “Stable”
Manda’s ability to instinctively bring structure, set up routines and precision, is a core strength needed in her role as financial manager. She brings balance and consistency to her own work, her team and the business by implementing a systematic approach and adhering to quality. Valuing precision ensures that there are no grey areas. Manda’s ability to be consistent in her behaviour and actions, treating people the same, no matter what their station in life, ensures that the people on her team functions best because the rules are clear and applies to everyone equally and fair.
LESSON 4: THE CORE THAT DRIVES A GREAT LEADER IS HOPE!
Based on the question: “What do you do every day at work that makes you feel strong?”
Ortberg defines leadership as the hope that we can change the things that need to be changed and create what we cannot now imagine. Hope gives us the courage to move forward and it dispels fear. Each of these women leads well, because they possess the strong belief that their best days are ahead of them. Hope and leadership are inevitably linked!
Alsue is driven by her passion to help trainees and be part of their journey of development and growth to flourish and unlock their potential. Remembering who a trainee was on day 1 and seeing him/her on qualifying day, drives Alsue to create more opportunities for development and add value.
Amanda is driven by her passion for students and her loyalty to the University. The Faculty’s natural dedication to be the best and serve their students with excellence drives Amanda to empower and equip them with more opportunities to make their job easier.
Annalien is driven by her passion to grow her business nationally and internationally with her talented team. Seeing how her teams serve their clients with excellence motivates Annalien to continue to set the vision, set the light and to lead and motivate her team to see it to.
Chantyl is driven by her passion to transform our Profession and bring Hope to our country. Each time she remembers the faces of young people with no hope, she is driven to do more, try more and move forward.
Manda is driven by her passion to produce valuable financial information for sound decision making. She admires her team for always being willing to put in extra time when necessary, without complaining, especially over year-end which unfortunately is December when most “normal” people take their annual leave.
LESSON 5: TEAMS & STRATEGY
Based on the question: “What kind of a leader is she/are you?”
What was clear from the interviews is that a great leader is the kind of leader who strategically selects great people, take them with on the journey and give clear direction to achieve the vision and make it a reality!
Firstly, leaders who take action and initiative to make sure the right people are in the right places engender trust. You will never move forward in the way you are hoping to without the right people on the team – the right people in terms of integrity, in terms of giftedness, in terms of energy, in terms of initiative, in terms of drive, and in terms of team player mentality. The leader needs to identify what skills and strengths are needed on the team and who the right FIT should be. And when you need to move someone off the team because he/she is a bad fit, a great leader has the courage to do so for the sake of the team.
Secondly, leading well requires a structured collaborative approach on the reality, vision and strategy. All the leaders and teams confirmed this in the interviews. Being participative and democratic is important, however to avoid messiness there comes a point when the team needs direction and drive. A great leader has the ability/gut to know when to consult and when to direct, when to ask and when to tell, when to listen and when to speak.
LESSON 6: LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT PEOPLE
Based on two questions: “Besides the position, what role does your leader play on the team?” & “What do you admire about your team?”
Leadership is relationally intensive. It was evident from all the interviews that each leader’s role is about motivating, supporting, taking care, mentoring, coaching, nurturing, developing, sharing experiences and giving wisdom to her team members. Many leaders make the mistake of ignoring the relationship, focusing instead on systems and data. It is easy to lean into those things because they tend to be measurable, and they rarely argue back. These linear issues of leadership are very important, but they are not the most important.
Great leaders focus on the relational part because they mostly want to! It was clear from the interviews that the leaders like and enjoy being with their people. They are inspired by their people’s loyalty, commitment, technical ability and energy.
LESSON 7: THE ULTIMATE GIFT
Based on two questions: “If you can compare your leader to a Gift, what would it be?” & “How do you think your team view you?”
To become a great leader you need to be the most self aware person in the room. The Ultimate gift that any leader can give is the gift of Authenticity and Realness. Each leader that was interviewed had words for their brokenness, theyknow that they have blind spots and they know what their blind spots are. And they know that their team members know and they are comfortable with being REAL. Because of the realness, their team viewsthem as strong and lovely and compare them to gifts of inspiration!Let’s look at metaphors/gifts that their teams compare them to.
Alsue is the Gift of…
“A Diary”: Her planning& organized leadership brings clarity and direction to the team
“Insight”: She drives innovation& brings change
“Lindt Chocolate”: Her simplistic advice adds value and richness. You want more of her wisdom!
“A mug of Quality Coffee” you need her leadership 1st thing in the morning. She gives you a LIFT!
Amanda is the Gift of…
“An Expensive Porcelain Vase”: She adds value and is the right person at the right place for the job
“A combination of Gifts”: She can stay focused through the pressure of her schedule
“Crabtree and Evelyn products”: She is top quality, makes you feel special, inherently stylish and ageless
Annalien is the Gift of…
“Ferrero Rocher”: She is a hard business woman on the outside that permeates softness & sweetness on the inside
“A Rare gemstone”: She is willing to learn and has grown and developed into who she is today
“True Friendship”: She is loyal, trustworthy and puts herself in your shoes to understand your situation
“A BOX of Lindt”: Under pressure she always makes you feel better – pity you cannot eat her!
“Fox Terrier”: She goes non-stop and although she is tough, she also has a soft side
Chantyl is the Gift of…
“A Garmin”: She gives clear direction
“Brick”: She is solid and unpretentious. She is versatile that fits into any situation
“Inspiration:” She is a role model, someone to look up to
“God send:” she came at the right time to transform the complexion of our Profession
“Fire Cracker”: Her action follows her talk, she is forward thinking
Manda is the gift of…
“A Protea”: Feminine with a strong Inner strength
“Chocolate”: She brings reassurance and makes you feel better. You can never get enough
“Classical CD”: She brings calmness and patience
“Pearl”: She is a valuable person. Her worth to people and the business is rare.
I have learned valuable lessons from each of these amazing women! But I think the most important lesson I have learned is that there is NO one recipe for Great Leadership success except for HARD WORK.
Some of these leaders are married, some are not, some are mothers, some are single mothers, some are not mothers, some are baby boomers, some are Gen X (Gen Y watch your space!), some are extrovert, some are introvert, some are detailed, some are big picture, some are fast and furious, some are cautious and reflective. However, they all make it work! Why? They lead from their strengths and DILIGENTLY WORK HARD.
Leadership is hard, and if you are good at it and decide to do it, you may have signed on for one of the toughest jobs that will require dedication. But the combination of “good at” and “hard work” is amazingly satisfying. And that is why these women do what they do BEST – lead for a better future new emerging Business Professional.
Author & Contributor: Adel Du Plessis CA(SA) – (LinkedIn Bio – https://www.linkedin.com/in/adel-du-plessis-87961b17/)
Resources for Further Reading:
Buckingham, M (2006): The one thing you need to know about great managing, great leading and sustained individual success.
Collins, J (20): Good to Great. Why some companies make the leap and others don’t.
Fiorina, C (2007): Tough Choices.
Guiliani, RW (2002): Leadership.
Maxwell, J (2009): 21 Irrefutable laws of leadership.
Ortberg, N (2008): Unleashing the power of rubber bands. Lessons in non-linear leadership.