Leadership requires constant tweaking

Leadership Innovation

The business of developing people is the topic of the second episode of Drivers of Innovation podcast series. Leading coach and facilitator from South Africa Marike Groenewald sat down with the Head of FNF Global Innovation Hub Armin Reinartz for a 15-minute interview on leadership development.

“The biggest skill that you can develop in yourself in the time we live in is the ability to become a keen observer of yourself and of the world, and that requires a lot of listening and the ability to keep quiet. If you can cultivate that, you will notice a lot of things that others don’t, and you can suitably respond to people’s needs,” explained Groenewald.

Groenewald stressed that innovation is important in leadership because it requires constant tweaking. “The essence of leadership does not vary - the why of connecting with people, having influence, having values and a vision always remains same, but the how and what do vary,” she said. “A leader has to be able to determine what is appropriate in which context, and identify what others need from him/ her more or less of,” she added.

She also emphasized that leadership development is the politics of the long haul. It is a journey or a process, and not just as an event.  “There is a difference between finding and developing good leaders. Someone will not pop in as a leader in a one day workshop, if you’re willing to take to a journey, they might surprise you,” stressed Groenewald.

The discussion was an intimate exchange between Reinartz and Groenewald who are also co-facilitators at FNF’s International Academy for Leadership (IAF). “How did South Africa particularly its political environment prepared you for your role of developing people?,” asked Reinartz.

“South Africa is a place of contrast. It is an amazing country, but it can be an uncomfortable place. It’s a challenging environment that teaches you to stand in the fire, and to think about what contribution you want to make,” shared Groenewald. “I like the idea of helping individuals become their best selves, and this is where my work meets the value of liberalism,” she remarked.

From being the Executive Director of Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s main opposition party, Groenewald now has her own coaching company, Anew. “The feeling of isolation is common when one transitions from a big organization to running your own business. This is why it is important to always connect with a community, especially that which shares your personal cause, vision, and values,” she advised.

The trend in organizational development is also in the direction of less formality - job descriptions that enumerate skills are thinning, while leadership traits like creativity and flexibility are more demanded.

When asked about her view on technology, Groenewald paused, and admitted that she has mixed feelings about its role in people development. “My preference is for people to switch off from technology and return to themselves, cultivate their ability to have conversations with each other directly,” she admitted.

Groenewald’s visit to Hong Kong was her first time in Asia. She observed that the rituals in Asian communities are deeply seated in being together, being silent, almost meditative.

“Similarly, in development training – people are returning to rituals, which were not necessarily seen as traditional spaces for learning, but does actually teach you something about focus and appreciation,” she commented. “Asia has a lot to teach the world in that regard,” she concluded.

The podcast episode entitled Leadership Innovation is the second track in the monthly Drivers of Innovation podcast series. The new release, as well as the first episode, is available on iTunes and SoundCloud. The video podcast can be viewed here.

Driver of Innovation Marike Groenewald talks about leadership as the politics of the long haul.