Compassion, sacrifice and vision: Ranran Ju on leadership

What characteristics do you think a good leader should have?

Leaders are noble. They have a vision which inspire and motivate people to follow. They are passionate and confident, but not egotistic. They should also have great interpersonal skills.

What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?

In my opinion, management is managing and controlling a group of people, often the aim is to make an organisation function as efficient as possible. Whereas leadership is to encourage everyone to become better of themselves, for everyone’s benefit, and leading the way to reach their vision.

Do you think that leadership is taught or learnt?

I think many people naturally have the qualities of being a leader. With some, coaching and practice will become great leaders.

I think everyone has leadership qualities in them.

Tell us about something different a leader did that has stuck with you.

Nelson Mandela. I was so shocked when I found out that he was served in prison for 27 years and it stuck with me just how much he sacrificed for his country’s freedom and future.

Have you worked/coached with or played for an unlikely leader? Someone who stepped up when they weren’t expected to?

Yes. I don’t have specific names in mind but I would say I have come across many times that in situations perhaps a bit difficult, someone had come forward and led a group to overcome the obstacles. I think everyone has leadership qualities in them.

Tell us about a time a leader showed empathy and compassion and improved a situation.

We had a young colleague who joined our team a year ago. At beginning many of us found a bit difficult to work with her. We thought she came across a bit rude and had an attitude. However, a director at work showed his compassion and tolerance. He said to me “She is just a bit different.” And gave her a chance to adjust into the team. A few months down the line, I discovered many great qualities of this colleague. She is hard-working and she is a fast learner. She also starts to interact with colleagues more and makes light-hearted jokes. If the director didn’t give her the benefit of doubt, she might not be working with us anymore.

What have you learnt from the leaders you’ve worked with and how has that affected your own behaviour in the workplace?

I think interpersonal skills are very important as well as compassion. Both would make people around you feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Have you ever had a mentor and if so, how was that experience?

I did have a wonderful mentor when I was in university. She is a spiritual and inspiring person who has vast knowledge on many subjects. She believed in me and helped me to build more confidence in myself.

Bad bosses can have a negative effect on workplace environments, productivity and even mental health. Have you ever been affected by a poor manager?

Yes. It is unfortunate but not uncommon to come across a bad manager at workplace for many people. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for me and quite a few other colleagues who worked with him.

Leaders don’t need to be right all the time or the best at everything.

Have you learned what not to do from the bad bosses and leaders?

I think it is important to try to understand why the managers behave in certain way. A controlling behaviour might be because the person finds it hard to trust other people. Then it would be worth exploring how best to build the trust between the staff and the manager. Being dismissive sometimes is because the manager has insecurity issues.

Many people doubt if they are good enough for what they do. It is natural and try to understand that and be empathetic about it, would benefit you when you are a manager. Leaders don’t need to be right all the time or the best at everything. But leaders will have the best ability to motivate and enable people to reach their potentials.

Ranran Ju is a senior landscape architect who works in London.

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