A little bit like Marmite….

A little bit like Marmite….

February 4, 2011 6:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Leadership is complicated. Who defines a leader? Where does leadership come from? What is leadership? Big questions and there are no straight forward answers. There are a few things that will happen when you lead in big organisations. The more senior job you get, the more decisions you’ll need to make, and you will also work on massive and complex tasks. On top of this there will be many conflicts to handle. The people you have around you are sharp and they probably also want some of your power.

I have had the chance to try out my own leadership in JCI, both as Local President for JCI London and as National Marketing/Website Director. It is not always pleasant to be a leader; you deal with criticism, resistance, and people who dislike you for what you do or how you do it. You, as a leader in JCI and working with volunteers, have to try with all your energy to shape an environment that will give the results that the organisation aims to reach. I do believe that most leaders are a bit like Marmite: Some people will love you, others will hate you. Blog » Marmite-love-hate-.jpg

In JCI there will always be some objectives that are the same: membership growth, get more active members, improve the knowledge transfer and communication. I know that JCI London has worked out very good processes for these objectives. The chamber now has more than 150 members, loads of active members and the knowledge transfer between the presidents and council has worked out well. One factor I think that is key to the success in JCI London is that they don’t let conflicts grow and if there is a conflict you deal with it – you don’t give it energy to grow.

JCI has many leaders around the world, and there are some people who I truly admire: the JCI National Presidents. They commit to take on a massive and complex leadership task for one year.

I had a conversation with three past national presidents about leadership and what it means to them.

Sally-Anne Greenfield, Chief Executive, Leeds Community Foundation. JCI UK National President 2004.


What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is about setting a direction to achieve an end goal and then inspiring or influencing people to follow the direction you have outlined. What is particularly interesting in a JCI UK situation (and in other voluntary sector organisations too) is that leadership is also about leading beyond authority i.e. although you may have a leadership role as President or project leader, you will only gain results by encouraging and inspiring others to follow as opposed to compelling them. In other situations i.e. at work, they have more of a duty to follow you as a recognised leader given your position.

Where does leadership start?
With yourself. It is not easy being a leader – having a goal, setting a clear direction, remaining committed to the end goal and, at the same time, inspiring others to follow you too. It needs a certain mindset and, above all, commitment and passion. How many great leaders do you know who don’t have a great vision, a clear path to achieve the goal and a burning passion that carries you along with them?

Who can become a leader?
Becoming a good leader requires a combination of attitude and aptitude. To be a leader you need certain traits and characteristics as well as having a combination of skills. Arguably anyone can learn to develop these but it is the way that they are combined together to implement the plan / set the direction that creates a true leader.  Not everyone can do that, nor is it good for everyone to be a leader or the world would come to a halt: you always need leaders and followers/team members. There is also nothing wrong with not wanting to be a leader; it is not for everyone.

Do we need more leaders in the world?
I think we need more “good” leaders in the world who have an understanding of the impact of their words and actions and a commitment towards creating a more just society.

Who is your favourite leader?
Martin Luther King

What is it you like about this person?
He stood up for something he felt passionate about: the abusive treatment of fellow countrymen and women, just because of the colour of his skin.  He was an amazing orator with a passion that was hard to resist.  He knew that what he was doing was very dangerous and, in the end, he paid for his beliefs with his own life, but has gone on to have an incredible impact for many years after his death.
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Jonathan Stone, Commercial Director, Cygnum Engineered Timber Structures. JCI UK National President 2006.

What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me is about giving people the practical skills, confidence and opportunity to lead and become leaders in their own right. Leaders are self-empowered, but equally empower people to realise their full potential while being humble enough to realise that it is the members of ‘the team’ that ultimate chose whether to be led and also see you as ‘their’ leader.

Where does leadership start?
Leadership is integral and engendered within human personality and society. Leadership is a constant throughout life and everyone at some stage leads and indeed follows others.

Who can become a leader?
Anyone and indeed everyone does lead at some points in their lives. Great leaders mould other great leaders but also realise that not everyone wants to lead, all of the time. Some people are happy with leading occasionally or in certain areas of their lives, but not others. Great leaders give opportunities to lead, but realise when people would rather allow others to lead.

Do we need more leaders in the world?
We still live in a world where some leaders, who have attained great power through outstanding leadership, become corrupted and warped by the power they have been allowed to gain initially. Great leaders realise that true self-satisfaction in leadership comes from developing others to lead and not denying them the opportunity to do the same or restricting democratic freedoms. We need more ethical and democratic leaders who respect this fact and that totally respect that leadership is an honour and privilege, and not a right!

Who is your favourite leader?
Like most people, I admire many ‘famous’ past and present world leaders and leaders within industry and commerce. However, my ‘favourite’ leaders are people who I have allowed to lead me personally, and equally people who I have had the privilege to lead who I feel have realised their own leadership potential. The true satisfaction of leadership for me is giving others the opportunity, so anyone I have helped, even in small part, to do just this is my favourite leader.

What is it you like about this person?

That they have touched my life and hopefully, I have touched theirs!
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Julia Lea, Chartered Accountant working in corporate finance. JCI UK National President 2005.

What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organisation. Of course leadership means so many different things to different people.

Where does leadership start?
As soon as you have an idea.

Who can become a leader?
Anyone with a vision.

Do we need more leaders in the world?
Everyone should be a leader in their own world, so we need to find ways to inspire, motivate and empower people to be better leaders.

Who is your favourite leader?
Bob Geldorff

What is it you like about this person?
He did nothing and continues to do nothing by the book. But has changed/saved and continues to change/save peoples lives all over the world. I can’t imagine you could ever put him in one the leadership pigeon holes. He’s unconventional.

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This post was written by Sofie Sandell

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