About a year ago or so, a young colleague was presenting at the United Nations Green Economy Summit and asked me to be the sounding board for her speech. Before beginning, she asked me, ‘What is a leader, according to you?’
The question startled me at first, because she had just asked me to dig deep into my own conscious and uncover my personal view. What did I think were the characteristics of a true leader? I did not want to trot out the clichés; to give an answer she might expect. She wanted my view. And by the way, It was this simple question that birthed in me what we today call the Leadership Bench. And so I thought for a moment and answered.
To me, a leader is someone who knows what to do and when to do it. They have this knack of doing the right thing at the right time, even speaking the right phrases in the right way. They are knowledgeable, but more importantly, they are in tune with their own sixth sense. They feel a situation, a mood, a climate, and they know what to do to bring out the best in all circumstances. Leaders are able to do the things that most of us look at and think, ‘Now why didn’t I think of that?’
Leaders have this ability to somehow find an easier and more efficient way of doing things, bringing others with them. They put the work in where it is required, so that later, others see the absolute sense of what they’re proposing and follow willingly.
To some extent this instinct is inborn – but I do believe it improves with experience and deliberate learning. Oprah once said there is no such thing as luck. I truly believe that. Where leaders seem lucky, they’re really just reaping the benefit of hard work put in behind the scenes.
Water runs wherever a way has been carved out. If no channel is prepared for it, it remains in a puddle and eventually stagnates. That’s how I see leadership and followers. Leaders have dug the channels beforehand, so that followers flow naturally to where they are needed.
Below are some of the leaders we have assembled for you.
- James Donald – Chief Executive Officer – Tomorrow Trust
- Charlene Lackay – Group CSI Head – Momentum Metropolitan
- Kennedy Dembetembe – Head: CSI – African Bank
- Alef Meulenberg – Chief Executive Officer – Afrika Tikkun
- Keri-Leigh Paschal – Executive Trustee – Nation Builder
- Fikile Kuhlase – Head Of Old Mutual Foundation – Old Mutual
Some are rising and some are in the thick of real issues, changing the way we do things. I encourage you to read all our forthcoming articles in The Leadership Bench – a total of 40 between now and the end of the year. If you read each and every one of these articles, I can almost guarantee that by this time next year you will be calling us to thank us for the invaluable free content we provide to the CSI industry.
A true professional is always learning.