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Leadership Self-Development Journey
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you.
You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
- James Allen
CULTURAL AWARENESS: In an age of globalisation and culturally diverse workplaces, sensitivity for differences is critical to the leader's success in mobilising people as a community.
BUILDING SUPPORT: A leader must be able to build support for his ideas and direction or else fail as a leader.
AUTHENTICITY: A leader cannot help others unless he shares himself openly and honestly.
EMPOWER: The more empowered and free people feel, the more they give to the cause. Rather than trying to control, leaders show trust in people's inherent capabilities.
PASSION: The leader does not only have to have a strong sense of responsibility, but passion for the cause.
SELF-CONFIDENCE: To lead requires the confidence to take the first step and have others follow you.
CREATIVITY/INNOVATION: Since leaders focus on potential and imagine the future to be different, they demonstrate and encourage innovative and creative thinking.
SELF-INITIATIVE: To be a leader is to take the initiative to make a positive difference.
ADAPTABILITY: Effective leadership is more a consequence of the leader's ability to adapt well to changes than a consequence of his knowledge or experience.
PERSEVERANCE: Leadership disappears when we give up and emerges when we choose to persevere when others would have given up.
VISIONARY THINKING: The mental picture of a desired destination, big or small, sparks focused activities and worthwhile endeavours, which is why leaders' first task is to imagine the ideal future.
SELF-MOTIVATION: The leader motivates himself with his personal vision, passion, potential and moral convictions.
STRATEGIC THINKING: With the vision or goal in mind, leaders accept responsibility for the most effective way to achieve the vision or goal.
SELF-AWARENESS: Self-awareness opens the door to effective communication and the leader's ability to relate to others.
SELF-REGARD: Positive self-regard is necessary for a leader in order to accept criticism, learn from it and continue leading with confidence.
INSPIRING HOPE: Nothing is as damaging to an organisation as the negative attitudes of its people. It is the leader's uppermost responsibility to inspire hope and create a positive climate.
DECISION MAKING: With firm and apt individual decision making together with skilful facilitation of team decisions the leader ensures momentum and backing for the direction taken.
BUILDING TRUST: By being honest, open and consistent and by showing the willingness to trust the team, the leader lays a strong team foundation for the good, but especially bad times.
COMMUNICATION: The leader's ability and commitment to communicate with clarity and appropriateness is essential to his leadership effectiveness.
HONESTY/INTEGRITY: The leader is credible and ethical to the extent that his beliefs, values, attitude and behaviour forms an integrated whole.
BUILDING TEAM: It is in the development and performance of the team that the leader's effectiveness can be seen.
BEING SERVANT: By choosing to serve and not boss the team, the leader builds them up and collectively they grow to become better leaders in service of the organisation.
SELF-DISCIPLINE: The leader's self-discipline sets the standard and example for others without which consistent performance is not possible.
CHARACTER: Leadership involves many tests of courage, resilience and morality which make strong character indispensable.
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE: Only by making good heart and mind connections with people can the leader hope to influence them to co-operate enthusiastically.
ORGANISATIONAL AWARENESS: Sufficient awareness of different aspects of the organisation, such as the reason for its existence, the history, structure and culture, enables the leader to align himself and his team effectively.
LIFE-BALANCE/RESILIENCE: To sustain his energy and ability to focus, and to set a credible example, a leader needs to have good balance between the different areas of his life and model resilience.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: Leadership is by definition action in the context of relationships. To ignore relationships contradicts leadership whereas building them enhances teamwork.
RECOGNITION: Leaders recognise people privately and publicly out of real appreciation for their contributions as well as personal qualities.
TREND/SYSTEMS AWARENESS: A big-picture view to spot trends early on and an understanding of the influences of systems and their relationships is needed for the strategic direction that the leader must give.
LEADERSHIP STYLE: Different situations require different leadership styles to be effective. Good leaders are flexible and versatile in their style.
TECHNOLOGY AWARENESS: Understanding the potential positive and negative effects of technology in the organisation enables the leader to balance human interests with efficiency.

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Trend/systems awareness
Organisational awareness
Visionary thinking
Strategic thinking
Cultural awareness
Technology awareness


Connecting with people
Building relationships
Being servant
Building support
Building team
Building trust
Leadership style
Decision making
Inspiring hope


You have too much to offer not to persevere with your doals and ideals

Let’s be honest. We face a simple choice from day to day, minute to minute and moment to moment. Are we going to give up on what we see as the ideal, or are we going to persevere with our efforts? Even if they are suppressed or dormant at times, we have ideals for our nation, our communities, our organisations, work conditions and efficiencies, as well as for our careers and personal lives. We have these ideals because it is in our nature to imagine a better life. As much as we are saddened by man’s, including our own, failures, limitations and potential to do harm, we remain deeply aware of our potential to create. And if we can create we can create good and better things.

Realism is as important to idealism as idealism is important to realism. To be real, we have and need ideals. No-one can deny that all improvements in life originated from ideals, mental pictures of what can be. But, to be real, the ideals could have died as millions do, were it not for the hard work and perseverance of their owners. The realistic aspect to our ideals is that they can only stay alive as long as we win both the ever-present mental battle over our fears, doubts and negative emotions, and persevere with the hard work they demand. Sometimes our commitment to keep on working without much thinking helps to get us emotionally back on our feet. But mostly, it is a mental battle. 

No doubt, in your journey towards your goals in life, you will be tested. Not only once, but over and over again. Promises you rely on are not kept, expectations come to nothing, doors don’t open, disaster strikes, one battle leads to the next and self-doubt creeps in. We always hope for the best and never feel prepared for bad news. Earlier enthusiasm is replaced with big disappointment. In such times you feel very alone and small in a big and unfriendly world. You will question many things in yourself and you will question if you are on the right path. It is a mental, inner battle.

The truth is that for the dreams that are really important to us, we need more resilience, hardiness and tenacity than what we thought would be necessary. It is not only at the level of our self-belief that we get tested (do we have the talent and skill?) but our deeper beliefs about life in general. The way heroes are portrayed can easily lead us to the wrong impression. We see them as conquerors in their struggle against opponents or enemies, we see them painted in the bright colours of success, but we don’t see them in their earlier painful battles with themselves and their beliefs. Those ‘dark nights of the soul’ have a purpose: Emerging from those inner struggles they were filled with the necessary courage and conviction to handle the conflicts and complexities of external hardships and challenges. It has been said that you can't lead others until you've first led yourself through a struggle with opposing values. The internal resolution of competing beliefs leads to personal integrity.

No-one argues the ideals of our constitution: Human dignity and respect for all people; non-racialism and non-sexism; unity in diversity; improving the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. The challenges are also there for all to see. The test for us all is to persevere in our efforts. The more people there are that give up on the noble ideals of our nation, the harder it becomes for those who are working towards those ideals. The more people there are that persevere, no matter what, the more attractive it becomes for everyone to take a positive stance about our future. It is dedication and perseverance even in the face of negative news that would instill the much needed pride in all of us as South Africans. Perseverance, perhaps more than anything else, is the highlight of the story of our first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.     

At a personal level the following reflections will be helpful when you feel like giving up on your goals and ideals:

  • What would the difficulty that you are experiencing now look like in six month’s time?
  • Do you fully own the ideal/goal or could it be someone else’s idea or expectation?
  • Are you totally passionate about it?
  • Can a relatively small adjustment or new perspective make all the difference and what could it be?
  • Are there personal barriers that you know you need to face and overcome?
  • Should you be more outspoken about your ideals/goals?

Leaders persevere where others give up. Calvin Coolidge emphasises its importance in the following powerful words: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-          Gerhard van Rensburg

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