It was a Friday last 13th July, and I had agreed to mentor some students who flew all the way in from Australia with Austern International. I had connected with the founder of Austern, Lily Wu, and we shared a great time in Sydney when we caught up for coffee and cakes sometime last April. She did mentioned, about this event in July and I was – as always – ready to participate and support her.
About Austern International
Austern International provides 3 week career bootcamps that aim to build millennials to become future leaders of the workforce. Participants experience entrepreneurial workshops, engage with industry mentors, tackle real company problems and pitch solutions to a panel of company representatives. By bringing millennials together with like minded people and challenging them in a global environment, Austern International equips them with the diverse set of skills that enables them to embark on and thrive in their desired career path. Read more on their official website here.
Lily, co-founder of Austern International, believed that internships should provide meaningful value to students in terms of experience, learning and opportunities. She realised this when she found her internship with a multinational accounting firm unfulfilling.
Follow Austern on Facebook and Instagram.
I’ve spent a lot of time, mentoring founders of start ups and small scale businesses over the years and am also involved with a lot of opportunities to do the same with students. I believed I have some knowledge and experience to share, that might provoke their thoughts, open their eyes to other aspects they’ve missed before, or enhance their creative minds to think further and beyond. In this case, I’ve told the students of my history of how, when, and why I started business and how that journey has been for me. I shared with them the values I learn, from the dealing of people over the years and the disappointments and success that I ponder, regret or joy about. I told them of the important attributes to have, the need of urgency to achieve a goal and the determination to stay above water how many how high the tide goes.
The young generation today is the next set of leaders tomorrow.
But most importantly, I wanted to tell them more about the role of leaders. Leaders are people who generally care for others, more than themselves. They strive to achieve business goals but not leaving behind, the team that helped them achieve it – hence learning how to cleverly align their team’s personal goals alongside with the business. As a leader, you must have the same deep interest and passion for people as you do over power, like how I summarised it in my article “Charismatic Leadership.” And if they would want to – one day – consume that responsibility, then they have to understand the role they truly need to play.
And it’s not a fancy one, as anyone would have imagined.
Where do real leaders sit?
Take a look again at your organizational chart, and think again where do real leaders sit. On the very top? Where it’s fancy, it’s paradise and pays a lot of money?
Think of a business or a company like a tree. A tree full of branches and green healthy leaves, a tree that grows healthily and getting bigger and taller by the years. A tree that looks fresh and green attracting the birds and bees, and that gracefully sways in the wind.
No, the leader does not sit on the top. The leader do not form the leaves, that gets the benefit of beautiful sunlight and entertained by the birds and bees. The leader do not form the branches, that extends wide to caress the cool wind. The leader do not form the trunk that supports the tree to stand high and tall. The leader do not form any other part of the tree that is visible to the naked eye.
The people in the organization like the managers, executives, and other subordinates form the trunk, branches and the leaves. Occasionally you have to grow new leaves to replace those that has dropped. Your client represents the birds and bees, who gets attracted to how comfortable and nice the tree looks like and form a transaction with your subordinate that form the branches and leaves. These people in your organization gets to enjoy the benefits of being part of a growing tree, they reap the luxury of its earning and work the best they can to sustain their presence on the tree. Because when a branch breaks or a leaf drops, they get replaced.
But ask again, where do leaders sit?
Right at the bottom, in the dirty soiled ground, desperately scavenging for water to sustain the whole tree plus its growth. While the leaves and branches sway freely, the roots work harder digging deeper in the soil to get water to ensure the growth of the tree and holding the tree firmly to the ground so it doesn’t fall. When people talk about how fancy is the title of the leader, this serves as a reminder, that without the leader (roots) the whole network (tree) will collapse.
The leader’s responsibility to ensure that the tree gets what it needs, is what makes the title reputable. The leader (the roots) is almost irreplaceable and when you remove the roots from a tree, what happened?
The tree dies instantly.
It will stop making food, absorbing water and grow or replace whatever that is broken. The root contributes to form every part of the tree, from its structure to the fruits it eventually bear.
Leaders swallow shit and dirt more than anyone in the company ever need to, not to sustain their position but all the positions ever created within the company. You may not know it, but they do.
They form part of the soil in the ground that people walked and stepped on, and can never leave their position no matter how tough and dark the place is.
They strive through the darkness and they take pride in their role.
So if you ask again where do leaders sit. Not in a fancy place, because its’ not a fancy title. Its a hell of a responsibility to lead people.
People buy people.
If you want to get the most out of people, is to genuinely care for people. Understand their problems enough to know what would fix them. Listen to them enough of their predicament, to know how to manage them better.
And if you take care of people, people will automatically take care of business.
Here are some of our awesome pictures together.
✎ Follow me on Youtube and my business blog. Over the many years, I’ve helped businesses grow and raised funding, invested and exited a few, and built my own tech start ups. Feel free to contact me.