John Maxwell
John Maxwell

Where do you start?

It feels a bit awkward doing your first posting, but hopefully someone will find it useful or at least thought provoking.

I think on reflection that a key role for all parents, who by default play the major leadership role for their children, is to create an exploratory mindset in their children. I grew up in an era where you became a doctor, lawyer or accountant. Period. I had no idea what I wanted to do and so followed family tradition by choosing to be a doctor (father and older sister).

A C in matric did not cut it for entrance to medical school and I ended up doing first-year BSc with a view to repeating first-year medicine. I chose geology as an interesting subject and loved it! I thought I would become a geologist instead until a PhD student kindly outlined the options of field, mine or research. I switched allegiance to becoming an accountant; I did a month’s articles to get a flavour, hated it, but really did not want to become a lawyer, so I enrolled in first-year BCom.

I struggled with motivation throughout but really loved the car restoration, partying and freelance TV camera work. I thought briefly about a career as a cameraman. I passed my degree, went on to do an honours degree (thought about switching back to medicine), passed the board exam and then completed articles. I thought about emigrating to Australia, but decided my broader family was more important and so did my national service through the receiver of revenue.

I had no idea about what opportunities other than being a financial manager there were for CAs, and so when a former audit manager called me and offered me a job as head of internal audit at a bank, I took it and ended up spending my entire career working in financial services.

The point of all of this is that I often reflect on what career I would have followed if I had been exposed to things such as engineering, marketing, television production or even horticulture. All of these really interest me today but were not even on the radar. So next time you are thinking about your leadership role, think close to home and make sure you expose your children to all the opportunities there are, and help them to make a choice that they will find motivating and fulfilling as opposed to having to reflect on choices made when it is too late to change!