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Lessons in leadership: what’s your reason for being?

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Lessons in leadership: what’s your reason for being?

At our first ‘Women in Leadership’ forum held in London on 21 May, keynote speaker Sacha Romanovitch (the trail-blazing former CEO of Grant Thornton) introduced the thought-provoking concept of ikigai - a Japanese philosophy for harnessing your purpose and passion - and how it could provide important learnings not just for effective leadership but also a successful, fulfilling life. Our Head of Communications, Kate Martin, explains.

Roughly translated as the “thing that you live for” the term ikigai encapsulates a beautifully simple concept; one that is designed to help us capture our ‘reason for being’ and regain focus on what makes our lives worthwhile.

After all, how many of us have slipped into following norms or stereotypes regardless of whether they were a happy or natural fit for us? Stayed in jobs or relationships that we knew weren’t quite right?

Romanovitch believes it is very often our own thought processes and entrenched behaviours that hold us back - limiting what we believe is possible. To cut through the noise of our day-to-day and pare back to the essence of who we are and what we really want takes focus and effort.

So, what can we do to effect this change? Many years ago, at the beginning of my career a very insightful colleague told me: “Happiness is a state of mind. If you’re not happy, change your mind!” They were so right! Positive change comes from active choices and ikigai delivers a framework within which that can be achieved.

IKIGAI: “Your reason for being”

               What are you great at? Where can you really add value?

               What can you be paid for? How could you make a living from these skills?

               What do you love? What are you passionate about?

               What does the world need? What positive impact could you make?

A good place to start, as Romanovitch explained, is to identify and embrace what you’re really good at and where you can add value. She invited us to ask friends and colleagues where they thought our natural talents lay and, equally, to consider what comes to us less easily.

Sacha presenting

The point was that, as leaders, we can’t be expected to have all the answers or be good at everything. Nor should we expect ourselves to be. Instead she encouraged us to think of leadership as a living, breathing eco-system of skills, talent and knowledge where our unique strengths are complemented and enhanced by the unique strengths and passions of those around us.

Like a conductor of an orchestra, an effective leader knows what part each team member plays and when they should be introduced - either collectively or solo.

So don’t lose sight of what you’re good at and what gets you up in the morning. Embrace and be proud of what makes you different and special and, in doing so, you will become the type of leader that others want to follow.

“Be yourself: everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

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