Vera: Congratulations on your latest book which focuses on extraordinary leadership. What is extraordinary leadership?
Jenni: I believe that extraordinary leadership is found in a leader who has searched to discover his or her authentic self and from that place influences others to accomplish great dreams through intentional relationships (heart), spiritual awareness (soul), wise counsel (mind), and relentless vision (strength).
Vera: Leadership is clearly not straightforward but you’ve got it down to 4 dimension. What are these and how/why do these lead to standout leadership?
Jenni: For years I have studied historical examples and biblical heroes looking for a framework or a formula for leadership. And after years of studying and observation I found these four dimensions in one of the most foundational elements of my faith.
In the gospel of Mark, chapter 12, Jesus was being challenged with controversial questions about taxes and the resurrection. The final question posed to him was, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus responded with a fundamental biblical truth known as the Shema or more commonly understood as the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Then he proceeded to give those questioning him the second-greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When Jesus asked us to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he was essentially saying that we should love God with all of ourselves – with everything in us. When he says love your neighbor as yourself, again the implication is to love with all of who we are. And so when I consider my life as a leader, it means leading with all of who I am for the benefit of God and others. Leadership requires all of me – my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength.
Vera: One chapter in your book is about imagining extraordinary; how does one do that?
Jenni: I think we imagine extraordinary by having a clear picture of what extraordinary leadership looks like. In my book (and on my website) I offer readers the opportunity to take an assessment to help them understand which of the four dimensions they are strong in and which ones they are weak in. As we begin to understand how we currently lead, we are better equipped to know how we want to grow and develop as a leader.
Vera: You also promote ‘’leading from within’’. What does that mean, how does one do this and how will one know if they are doing this?
Jenni: I deeply believe that we must first lead ourselves well in order to lead others better. Leading from within is all about working on your own growth and development. It involves understanding your strengths and weaknesses, knowing your fears, joys and aspirations, understanding your gifts and personality and recognizing how all of these things impact your leadership. Leading from within is an exercise in self-awareness. And the best way to know if you’re doing it is to ask trusted people in your life for feedback as well as look back over time to see your progress.
Vera: Vision is one thing leaders agree is important but arguably many leaders struggle with crystallizing this. You’re known for ‘’putting feet to vision’’. How does the ordinary leader out there bring traction to their vision?
Jenni: I can’t help but think of the Nike slogan, “Just do it!” But honestly, I think it’s about taking a step every day towards the goal or vision that you’re trying to accomplish. Rarely is a vision able to be accomplished in one giant leap; it’s a process. Be faithful to the step you can take today, no matter how big or how small.
Vera: What have you learnt in your work are some of the biggest obstacles leaders face (but not often talked about) and what advice do you give that clients find most useful?
Jenni: Some of the biggest obstacles I see leaders face are fear and isolation. Leaders have to make brave and sometimes unpopular decisions. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to see further than others see and lead the way towards the goal. By the sheer nature of being the one to go first, a leader can find him or herself isolated and therefore lonely. In addition, fear can cause them to stall or even shrink back from leading confidently.
I encourage leaders to be aware of these natural enemies to their leadership. Be on the lookout for when fear or isolation are creeping in and make sure you have someone to confide in and who can offer perspective. Leadership by its nature can leave you on an island so you must be purposeful to seek out community.
Vera: Leadership can be learnt but what would you say is the place of personal gifts and talents in leadership?
Jenni: Many people are born with natural gifts or strengths for leadership. If you are, I hope you’ll continue to develop these gifts. We need you to use your leadership gifts so that both you and others can thrive.
Vera: You have personal experience of being part of executive teams. There’s often a focus on the CEO leadership but how can executive teams be collectively effective and extraordinary?
Jenni: I believe there is significant power in a strong executive team working together. No individual can possibly have all the perspective and wisdom needed to lead a complex organization. When an executive team is working well together they understand and respect the different strengths each person brings and are relentless in bringing their thoughts and ideas to the table. The result is better decision-making and more unified leadership.
Vera: A leader bears the burden/responsibility of having to be strong and confident amidst their own inadequacies and uncertainties. How have you handled your own deficiencies in leadership?
Jenni: First, admit them to myself. Second, find a friend, counselor or pastor to help me process and grow. Third, be honest with those I lead when my inadequacies and uncertainties have held me back and in turn impacted them. It comes down to being honest with yourself and others.
Vera: What would say is the most important thing you do daily as a leader?
Jenni: Read. I start my morning with scripture and devotions and then later in the day I will read articles or books for my growth and development. A commitment to constant learning has always served me well.
Jenni Catron is a leadership coach, author and speaker. Her passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. Her most recent book, The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength is available now. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and border collie. Jenni can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @jennicatron and she blogs at www.jennicatron.com.
For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.