Acclaimed author, Jenny Handley, starts her first interactive monthly column with us - exclusively for you!
In my own career and having the privilege of helping others in theirs, I am constantly reminded that the word career, as a noun, means profession or work, and as a verb, to veer off path. We may start in one direction, but slowly but surely many of us, as we gain experience and hopefully wisdom, we stop going straight and take, from the conveyor belt of opportunity that passes us, the chances that present themselves.
I am delighted to be taking up the challenge of “talking” to the prestigious audience of Leadership readers in what we believe is a first – a serialised in-house academy of leadership information and insights that will inspire and encourage leaders to grow other leaders.
We live in a country of great opportunity, with a young population that has not always had great role models. They are our future and it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to lead and direct them, to skill them so that our next generation of leaders are creative, empowering, credible, visionary and most importantly, have integrity that will be reflected in a triple bottom line.
In the running of a successful PR and brand management business, and then a performance management company that focuses on identifying and then developing the potential of people in order to build brands, I often observed how confidence could be crushed when staff are required to tackle a new task. Often the best salesperson is promoted to become sales manager, and is then expected to lead.
But who has skilled or mentored them to become the best possible leader? Is leadership inherent or acquired behaviour? I co-wrote my first book, Raise your Game®, after writing the material for a rugby team that focused on the fact that because they were professional sportspersons, they were automatically expected to manage their public persona, give value to sponsors and cope with the media.
The first chapter, on personal brand (before anyone seemed to have heard of the term!), needed expansion, so I then wrote a second book called Raise your Profile. This was partnered by SABMiller, and I then had the pleasure of upskilling the young entrepreneurs in their KickStart programme. Both these books have brought with them many opportunities to address new audiences and to bring the material to life.
Raise your Leaders™, my third book, is no exception. Partnered by the Laser Group, I have proudly been facilitating their sustainable in-house leadership academy for three years. Their leader genuinely believes in identifying and then grooming every possible leader in their company, and seeing first-hand how the delegates grow from elementary into intermediate and then executive leadership. I do wonder why more companies are not doing the same.
I am grateful for many things, but in particular for my hungry, enquiring mind, my thirst for information and my appetite for sharing it. I have an ongoing urge to express myself, either verbally or in writing, and feel blessed to have a platform for exposing my ideas in this column and when facilitating leadership and performance workshops and courses.
When my younger son respectfully asked me what licence I have to write a book on leadership (having never governed a country nor a corporate company nor captained a national sporting side), I responded with my personal philosophy on leadership which is the quote above. I finished off by saying that I am an observer of leadership, not an authority on leadership. He seemed happy with my answer, but I began to wonder why I so earnestly wanted to write Raise your Leaders™.
The discourse about leadership seems to be moving from the position where leadership had all the answers to a place where it endeavours to outline the questions that persist. My older son then asked me “Why another book on leadership?” Thousands of books on leadership have been written, many by leaders who share their personal lessons. I love them and have learnt so much from reading, absorbing and applying nuggets of wisdom from each.
There are, however, not many that are conversational easy reads, relevant for the emerging leader of tomorrow. Few give an overview rather than one individual perspective. Not many are geared for raising the next generation of leaders in our unique and special South African business landscape. None seemed to give application and activity, the ‘how to’.
My questioning began. Conducting a series of interviews with credible, noteworthy leaders was one of the opportunities that accompanied writing the book. I secured precious time with these busy people under the guise of a request to fire pertinent questions at them, and then ended up in verbal sparring and healthy debates that allowed me the pleasure of bouncing my ideas, initially somewhat idealistic, off them.
These debates turned into mutually beneficial sessions that stimulated, encouraged and challenged me...and them. I then decided to interview potential leaders, and people being led by prominent leaders. I will take great pleasure in sharing both the questions and answers from these leaders, and any of yours that may arise, in my future columns.
To engage with this column and the ‘to do’ exercises that I have prepared, you can visit www.leadershiponline.co.za (as of December 2013). Watch this space for more details.
There are also QR codes that you can access on your smart phone should you wish to watch the videos that support the columns. I do hope that you will join me on this journey of exposing fledging leaders to the fulfilment of seeing their potential and developing it.
It is, after all, your responsibility and mine, an enjoyable one, to ensure that we do everything in our power to move towards enhanced leadership.