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Workplace Leadership

Walking the talk – essential qualities of leadership!

The Dalai Lama once said: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Wise words from a true leader, wouldn’t you say? You may think you are small and insignificant, but the truth is that you can have a positive influence over people regardless of their age and position. If you want to be a leader, you can start flexing your leadership skills now already. But before we go into the ‘how’, let’s look at the ‘what’.

What does it really mean to be a leader?

Leadership is more about action, people and relationships than a title, the qualities of a good leader are usually found in someone who:

  • Motivates and inspires, guides and encourages their colleagues
  • Can see weak areas of a business and come up with smart ways to strengthen those weak spots
  • Identifies and nurtures a team’s talents and strengths so that they can support the company’s common goals
  • Isn’t in it just for the credit, they are invested in the project / business on all levels

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But, if you always see a silver lining, someone whose cup is always half full (not half empty) – you could be a great leader in the making and may well have the motivational influence to lead a team. If you are more sceptical, you may have the analytical skills to identify weak spots in a team and suggest solutions. Either way, the good news is that you can already start developing your leadership skills at school level – putting you a step ahead in preparing for your career and developing people skills which are the hallmark of a great leader.

How can you develop your leadership skills at school?

It’s always better to be ahead of the pack when you are preparing for a future leadership position. Here are some valuable tips for developing your leadership skills at school level and beyond:

  • Put your hand up for leadership positions: if there’s an event planned at your school and the teachers ask for volunteers, even if it is just a small activity – volunteer to do it. Each project you work on will give you experience and teach you how to handle people at different levels. This experience is priceless and what you learn from the mistakes you make can be applied to the next project ensuring you just get better and better at it.
  • Lead by example: if you don’t want people to litter, be ‘that’ person picking the trash up and making sure it goes into the bin. People watch leaders very closely. Always be the person you want others to be.
  • Learn to communicate your ideas clearly: you can’t lead a team if you don’t know how to express your ideas in a way that will get everyone excited. This is a skill you’ll perfect over time.
  • Be inclusive: if one friend is always left out, bring them into your circle, ask their opinion, get them interacting. Quiet people are good listeners (and observers) and often keep really good ideas to themselves because they are too scared to speak up – help give them a voice.
  • Don’t speak badly about anyone behind their backs: gossip is a killer. It can cause fights and arguments. It will divide any team. Teach yourself from a young age to avoid gossip no matter what the cost. Make sure it stops with you!
  • Make researched decisions: a boss will tell you what to do. A leader will inspire you to do it. You can only inspire if you have done the hard work behind the scenes yourself. Make sure you know what you are talking about before you speak up – fact checking is key!
  • Honesty is the best policy: good leaders are humble and honest. Those are two really good traits that you can start working on now already. You are never too young to be honest and humble!
  • If you mess up, ‘fess up: taking ownership of mistakes does not make you seem weak – people will respect you for being honest and having integrity if you admit the mistake, apologise and learn from it. The same applies to when others make mistakes – be gracious and don’t beat them down for making an error.

Three top tips to keep yourself on track as a leader

So, you’ve taken on a leadership role at your school or at a part-time job. It’s a great way to get comfortable with being a leader. If you want to keep yourself on the right track, keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Stay organised: always keep yourself organised – set the tone for the team. Use lists, calendars, a diary – whatever it takes to keep you on top of your own work and the tasks for team members.
  2. Don’t show favour: even though you will have your favourites, you can never let the rest of the team see this – it will eventually cause division and conflict.
  3. Stay positive: don’t let negativity creep into your team – a positive team is a motivated and successful team. They will follow your lead, so lead with a smile!

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You’re finished Matric, now what?

You’ve finished Matric… now what?

How often have you heard: “It’s time to decide what career you want to pursue because you have finished high school”?

Deciding on a career path after high school can be a daunting task, especially when you have no idea what you want to do for the rest of your life. The truth is that a lot of people undergo a few career changes in their lifetimes, in fact most people do. Dentists become singers and singers become chefs – there are even doctors who have become actors. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about your future if you are not completely sure about what really makes you tick, but there are some steps you can take to help you figure out what careers could be right for you.

Step 1: Make a list of your skills, strengths and interests

The first step is to ask yourself what you are passionate about taking into consideration what you’re good at not just what you enjoy doing. What are your interests and hobbies? Do you enjoy working with people or would you prefer to work alone? Do you like helping others? Is working with your hands something that interests you or do you prefer to work with technology? Once you have identified the types of activities that you enjoy, it will be easier to narrow down your career options.

Step 2: Research different career options

The second step is to do some research on the different career paths realistically available to you. Make a list of all the different career options that interest you and research what they entail. Talk to people in the industry or look for online resources to learn about the different opportunities available. It’s important to understand the job requirements and expectations of each career before you decide. Once you have a better understanding of what each career entails, you can start to narrow down your choices.

Step 3: Identify potential career paths

The third step is to create a list of pros and cons for each career option. After researching different career options, you can see which ones might be a good fit for you. Consider the salary, the job security, the hours you would work, the size of the company, the location of the job, the people you would work with, the benefits, and the potential for growth. This will help you to get a better picture of what each career entails so that you can make an informed decision based on the things which are important to you.

Step 4: Talk to people in the field

Next, talk to people who work in the industry you’re considering to get their advice and perspectives. Reach out to family, friends, or mentors who can provide you with advice and information about the career path you are interested in. Talking to people who have real-life experience in the industry can give you a better understanding of what it is like to work in that field and maybe even point out some things you didn’t know which could be dealbreakers. Remember that being a chef isn’t all about whipping up a three-ingredient dish on TV with Gordon Ramsay and being a lawyer isn’t just dramatic speeches in a courtroom!

Step 5: Make an informed decision

The fifth and final step is to take action. Once you have done your research, drawn up a list of pros and cons, and spoken to people in the industry, you should have a better understanding of what career you want to pursue. Draft a plan of action and start taking steps towards achieving your goal. This could include applying for scholarships to study, internships, job shadowing networking, and researching potential employers.

Deciding on a career path after high school is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. By taking the time to research your options, talk to people in the industry, and create a plan of action, you can make an informed decision that is right for you.


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