Henry Ford once said that you can’t build a reputation on what you plan to do. Leadership, I’ve learnt, is a careful blend of inspiration and perspiration, too little of the latter and you’re just a dreamer with your head in the clouds, not enough of the former and you’re like a headless chicken; a lot of running around but not getting much done.
This month, at Penny Appeal, we were honoured to fulfil an inspiration of ours and enlist as an ambassador the globally renown lawyer and veteran businesswoman, Lady Barbara Judge. She brings to our charity several lifetimes of experience from being the former Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority to holding several trusteeships of cultural and charitable institutions, including the Royal Academy of Arts and Dementia UK.
When I first set out on my leadership journey, ‘perspiring’ away, laying down roots from a tiny office on top of a pizza shop in Yorkshire, never did I imagine the fruits of our success would include having one of Britain’s ‘most connected women’ working alongside us in furthering our vision and reach.
What I love about Lady Barbara is her old-school, no-nonsense, roll-up-your-sleeves, can-do attitude. If only I could bottle that up and serve it to all my staff! She personifies the spirit of Penny Appeal; a trailblazer, consistently smashing expectations, boldly going against the grain and giving a hand up to those following suit. I hope in enlisting her as an ambassador for our charity, we can channel some her indomitable character, taking our reach and impact to soaring new heights.
Now, on reflection, in our social media-saturated world, it’s easy to confuse the roots and fruits of accomplishments. Picking up awards at black-tie events, expanding our impact across the globe and enlisting prominent business executives like Lady Barbara as ambassadors are all examples of fruits. They are the end result of diligent hard work, patience and planning. The roots that facilitated these successes can’t be found in an Instagram filter or squeezed into a tweet.
As I’ve matured into a more established position in my career, I see more and more zealous young entrepreneurs with big ideas but little in way of concrete plans and even less of a resolve to roll up their sleeves and do the hard graft. Remember, you will only ever reap what you sow. This is what Henry Ford was reminding us; you can talk all you want about how amazing your fruits will be, but unless you dig the ground, water the soil and nurture the shoots, you will not produce a thing.
There’s a story behind every success, every fruit that we reap. I only came to know of Lady Barbara through my connection with the Institute of Directors (IOD), where she served as the first ever female chairman. Last year they honoured me with the title of Young Director of the Year for the Yorkshire and North-East region and I was humbled to go to gain a national commendation for our work at Penny Appeal and SingleMuslim.com – These awards were the fruit of years of painstaking hard work, attentive governance and nurturing the best teams I could around me.
Success begets success like steps on a staircase. You have to take them one by one. If you’re lucky, you might be able to skip one or two, but you can’t start on the top! Don’t let my social media feed or anyone else’s fool you!
Finally, if you’re frustrated that you aren’t getting where you want to, in your personal or professional life, then I leave you with the wise words of Rumi and wish you the best on your journey:
“Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots”