As programme coordinator and co-facilitator for the Women’s Leadership Development Programme at the University of Johannesburg, I had my first opportunity to join the women participants for a lunchtime session.  Lunchtime sessions are formalised gatherings hosted by the women on the programme with guest speakers.  Topics are of feminist agenda, aimed at the upliftment and skill development of women through the sharing of leadership journeys.

My privilege was to experience the life journey of a woman executive at UJ through her eloquent and organic story telling.  She had me (and many of the audience) captivated in the way she described her journey of leadership to this point of where she is on her map.  What struck me the most was her approach to work and her career and I would like to summarise below what I personally took home with me from this session:

  • Recognise your own capabilities. What this means to me is that I don’t have to wait for someone else to do this. It’s up to me.  This was quite profound, as I find on reflection that there are times in my life where I have waited for others to recognise my strengths and to give me opportunities because THEY think I was capable.  And I wondered what this was about; was it because I was white, that I thought I was pretty and a good person with special talents who deserved to be discovered?  Or was it my avoidance of responsibility when I failed?
  • Know where you draw your strength from, internally and externally. Externally for me this is God, healing and ceremonial practices, meditation and self-care. For others this may be different.  I know that having a handle on my anxiety, I have clear access to what I identify as my inner strength.
  • Know your objectives of why you are where you are. Why am I in this job? What do I want to achieve? This practical step of making a list of my objectives brings awareness to my own accountability and helps me track my progress. And my favourite anecdote of what Pindi shared is that when defeat hits, take a good look at that list of objectives and know that you have a purpose!
  • Know when it’s time for you to go. How profound, knowing when my time is up in a specific position or organisation and to hand over the reins. This creates opportunity and growth for other individuals but also the organisation.
  • Know your boundaries. To know what my personal best is, to know what is important to me, takes deep honesty and self-reflection. Being aware of what personal attributes I am willing to sacrifice in the support of growing other parts of me, means new levels of responsibility.  Knowing what I am not willing to lose myself for, what is non-negotiable and what this means for my health, relationships and my future.

I left that session feeling truly inspired by the practical wisdom but also challenged in my further reflections.  Most of all I thought how lucky I was to find myself amongst a group of powerful women, counting myself as one of them.

Cherise Nortje