My Biggest Leadership Lesson

Pierre Joubert


I guess a lot of the leadership lessons that I’ve learnt over my career have a lot to do with my particular weaknesses or blind spots as a leader; I’ve learnt to invest far more in team relationships and communicating for example. But I think in some ways the biggest leadership lesson I learnt was when I was still at school.  We were on an adventure training trip, a bit like the sort of thing Scouts do or Outward Bound and I was probably about 14 years old.  I was part of a team that was building a rope bridge between 2 trees, either side of a river. We had people on both sides and we had to get these ropes up into the trees and then run through some pulley systems to get them under tension. It wasn’t going well and I got really angry with how some of the team were acting and behaving. I lost my temper and was laying into people and needless to say the task didn’t go too well. At the end a teacher spoke to me about it and said, ‘remember, if you’re the leader, you have to learn to take people with you.’  It struck me then and it has stayed with me ever since. The world is not as we might want it, people are not all like us. So great leadership is about figuring out how to get the best out of people and you’ll never do that in anger or frustration. With every individual you have to figure out how can I get the best from this person and what do they need from me as a leader for them to be fully committed? I started asking those questions then and I’m still asking them today.

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