I was looking at an interview in a leadership magazine about Whitey Basson and saw his answer to a question about advice to leaders. He is the managing director and chief executive of Shoprite Holdings Ltd, the largest food retailer in Africa.
If you want to become a leader or entrepreneur, you must evaluate yourself “genetically” to establish if a certain field is one in which you can excel, he says. You need to evaluate yourself first and secondly it needs to be all about passion. Apart from this, hard work and much commitment, including the support of your family, co-starters and people with whom you work, is important.
Some people take the opposite view and say that passion has been overrated and that the old saying that “do the work you love and the money will follow” doesn’t always work out. If you’re not particularly interested in a field or type of business or you’re not using your skills in an area that you enjoy it, how satisfied can you be?
It could be that some people have followed their “passion” but have not balanced their art with monetary reward. If you are passionate about something, say music, and go overboard leaving your day job to play music without fully understanding the risks and the saturated market for musicians, then you could be in for a big disappointment and your “passion” can be beaten out of you pretty quickly.
How then can you tell if you are excelling in the right area of your life or business?
Here are three questions that could help you read the temperature of your satisfaction or fulfilment of what you are presently doing:
- Are you energised by what you are doing in your working life?
- Can you truly say that what you are doing is what you love?
- Are you really having fun and enjoying what you are doing?
If you answered yes to all three of these questions, it’s more than likely that you are excelling in the right area for you. But if you said no or were doubtful about your answers, then you’ve probably got some work to do to find out what it is that gets you excited and gives you satisfaction and fulfillment.
One way is to try find the drivers that mean the most to you or give you the biggest charge in your life. Drivers could include such areas as to have accomplishments, to be challenged, to achieve financial independence, to make money as a means to measure success, to develop your skills and talent or help make a difference in your community or society. By doing some internal reflection you can come up with a list of 4 or 5 of your key drivers that give you the greatest satisfaction and reward.
Drivers go a lot deeper than interests. Your drivers are unique to you and are at the core or very essence of your personal make up. Yes, drivers can change over time and you need to be aware about this.
But drivers can also take different forms over time. For example, your driver could be to be a problem solver and you have worked for several years as a salesperson helping solve customer problems through your products and services. But your problem-solving driver could be expressed in another form such as training or coaching salespeople or being a financial adviser.
Some gurus who jet into the country pant breathlessly about how important leadership skill is and underplay the crucial role of innovation. No one is saying that leadership isn’t important – personal leadership is a crucial skill for anybody. Yet as a leader if you don’t understand how innovation works and what innovation really is, how are you going to bring about change in a rapidly changing marketplace?
If you are going to succeed, you need to establish if a certain field is one you can excel in but at the same time you need to arrive in that field with the attitude that you are going to introduce something new or better so you can compete more effectively. Playing in a field where you can be your best and innovate will put you ahead of the pack and also bring reward, fulfilment and satisfaction.