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Breath of fresh air
Posted Fri, 17 Feb 2006

Speaking to US motivational speaker SIMON T BAILEY seems to make the day lift. It sets your mind racing as to how you will discover your personal “universal assignment to brilliance”. BY CHARLENE SMITH

WHAT makes Simon Bailey fascinating is that he challenges our assumptions about ourselves, particularly those who consider themselves the elite or society’s role models.

Just because you’ve made it, doesn’t mean you have it made. As a leader, have you looked behind to see how many people are following you? Anyone?

Bailey, a motivational speaker and author, knows because he’s been there. He worked at Disney for a number of years and when he was promoted to a leadership position, he thought he was really hot.

And so he should have. It was, after all, an important post. And then came the assessment:“I had failed as a leader. I did not meet the right standards. For instance, I went through a 360 degree feedback, where all my peers and superiors assessed me - 5,0 was the highest people could get, 1,0 was the lowest. I came in at 3,0 in many areas,” he says.

“I’d failed because I thought my fi rst leadership role was all about me, about how I could get ahead, how I could advance my agenda and my cause, but real leadership is about releasing potential in people. For Bailey, most of us have a limited tenure of time to really make a difference. After failing the test. He had to go through another year of understanding what leadership is. The fi rst thing to know, he says, is that the fi rst person you lead into the future is yourself: “Until you face the man in the mirror you will continue to be disillusioned. You will think you know, even though you don’t know.”

Bailey believes one has to come to a place of what he eloquently calls “instinctive competence”. “I don’t have to be right, and if I don’t know I should ask for answers. I have to be smart enough to ask for what’s missing. Everything is within your space and scope. You have to reach for it, otherwise you will never guess at the brilliance of the souls put around you,” he says. Bailey, one of the hottest speakers on the US circuit, says, “One of the tools that I invite people to look at is to discover their universal assignment. Answer the question: why am I here, at this time, in this place, in this relationship? Why am I a leader, and who is my universal leader? If I look behind me who is following me? If no-one is following you, then you are not a leader, you are taking a walk in the park.” Bailey takes people through a personal appraisal and uses a diamond metaphor. “Diamonds,” he says, “are born from primeval carbon from the earth’s mantle which came from the stars and fell into the sea where they formed hard crystalline diamonds. Over hundreds of millions of years the earth shifted and tectonic plates collided. Diamonds were shot to the surface through massive volcanoes. A diamond is the oldest thing anyone can ever own: probably 3 billion years in age, or two-thirds the age of the Earth.” He talks about the fi ery, unglamorous beginnings of diamonds and notes too that they are processed at different times and go through different temperature,

“For the diamond’s brilliance to be released, and after all the cutting and shaping, diamonds go through a process with a brilliandeer to establish their brilliance. In life, who is your brillianteer? Who are the folks in your sphere of infl uence? Who challenges you to be a person of integrity, character and depth? Whoever has your ear has your life.”

Again, Bailey’s wisdom bristles in his estimation that “one comes to a place where one masters moments of truth”.

“Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winning scientist and top psychologist, said there are 20 000 moments in a day. How do we understand times of truth and moments to create monumental results?” Bailey asks. He says he encourages those who attend his talks to “analyse their high impact habits”. “We do not create the future, we decide our habits and our habits decide our future,” says. “You need to evaluate how you are maximising your time each day – are you maximising the right habits to get the results you want to achieve?”

Referring to a Harvard study of children operating at the age of four at genius level over a 20-year period, he says by the age of 20 only 10 percent of the children were operating at genius level. And beyond 20, a mere 2 percent.

“Where did the genius go? It was in them. We grow up with brilliance then spend time in environments and with people who beat us down. So it’s buried deep in our soul and we forget how to release our brilliance.” Back to the diamond metaphor, “We all understand the concept of diamonds in the rough, especially those of you in Africa where most diamonds come from. Consider this: how do we begin to fi nd the combination and unlock the vault where our potential resides?

Every leader is responsible for opening the vault within the soul of everyone following them. A leader cannot take a person to a place he or she has not been. It is not so much who you are that holds you back, it is who you think you are not and that holds you back.

You need to begin to understand that you have everything you need to succeed for your personal brilliance to be released. People must live, work and play in an environment where they are celebrated rather than tolerated.”

Another analogy, “If you decide to be a vitamin and not an aspirin, then you understand the real call of leadership is not to make an impression but to leave an imprint,” says Bailey, adding that, “Brilliance is a marathon, not a sprint. Releasing your brilliance is not quick, so many people think, if I do this then I will get that in 30 days or 90 days.”

It has taken Bailey 20 years to get to a space of authenticity and transparency, fi ve years of which he spent at Disney beginning to understand leadership. He says, “Many leaders, especially politicians, are in office for only four or fi ve years. They don’t have much time to get a lot done, but when they or any other leader, walk in the door it is not so much about being a boss, it is about asking people for their help and them helping you.”

His parting words linger, “A leader is a person who understands the worth and the potential of a human being and invites them to release their gift to the world.”