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Changing jobs

01 Aug 2008

Change your job every three years. That advice might not sound unusual for today’s Gen Ys, but from someone who has been in the same company 27 years, you might think it’s a strange thing to say.

Yet that’s exactly the advice I was given early in my career at Fuji Xerox, and 27 years later I believe it’s one of the fundamentals of great leadership.

I’ve recently had reason to think carefully about what leadership means. For me, it boils down to five philosophies, which are relevant regardless of your position, your tenure or your industry.

Be restless

A former colleague once told me during an internal job interview that I should change my job every three years. As a result I’ve worked in almost every department in the company: engineering, product management, service, sales, and general operations before becoming Managing Director.

But it’s not just about doing the rounds of different disciplines. It is about being restless and always thinking bigger than your current situation. You should always look for where you can go next; that’s what keeps things exciting and fresh.

Target two or three roles within your business and give yourself a timeframe for when you’re going to achieve them.  It’s a great way for moving quickly up the career ladder.

Take a long-term view

I believe that restlessness should extend to your business operations, but always with your long-term goal clearly on the horizon.

It can be very easy to get caught up in delivering now and enjoying quick wins.  Unfortunately, such a short term focus can mean you and your company have nowhere to go in one or two years time. You’re just running to stand still.  Smart companies (and smart people) restlessly reinvent themselves with a long-term strategy in mind.  Galvanise your team towards that goal and you’ll bypass the competition.

Find your sweet spot

Enlightened leadership is not just about relentlessly pursuing your own business objectives. It’s also about reaching across the spectrum of New Zealand society and being a catalyst for positive change.  Finding a way to achieve your business objectives at the same time as fulfilling your community responsibilities is your sweet spot.

How does it work in practice? The education sector is very important. Nestled up to that is my strong view that developing New Zealand’s future leaders is a responsibility for all businesses.

Look for partners who share your values

Often in business we enter into partnerships because they make commercial sense. Great leaders look beyond the hard facts and look for a partner who shares the same philosophies and values.  That’s the way to create enduring partnerships which deliver greater returns to both sides.

We found a partner that shared our values in the Sir Peter Blake Trust and together we’re extending environmental and leadership programs. The concern over environmental sustainability and the desire to develop future leaders was a great fit with the Trust.

Get some balance

I know I’m not the first to point this out, but for me, great leaders aren’t just tied to their work.  Making time for family and having an outlet to let off steam makes you a well-rounded and inspiring leader. It means you’re more likely to think outside the square when it comes to developing the four other philosophies listed above.

Leadership is not a destination. It’s about knowing where you want to go, setting a broad course and then enjoying the journey.

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