LeaderSurf, One Of The Most Extraordinary Experiences I Have Ever Had

Suhana Gordhan, FCB Johannesburg's Creative Director and February 2017 LeaderSurf participant was recently asked to reflect on her LeaderSurf experience.

How did your experience at LeaderSurf impact you as a person and as a leader?

Suhana engaging with a Nicaraguan student during the LeaderSurf humanitarian aid day

Suhana engaging with a Nicaraguan student during the LeaderSurf humanitarian aid day

I count LeaderSurf as one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had –memorable, inspiring and provocative.

As a leader in advertising, the challenge is that you go from being a really good creative person to suddenly being asked to be a creative leader. There is no formal or rigorous education provided on how exactly to lead as a creative.

Suhana sharing her business challenge under the tiki hut

Suhana sharing her business challenge under the tiki hut

LeaderSurf formalized some of the leadership instinct I had. It allowed me to make sense of my weaknesses and adopt strategies to overcome them. I’ve always suffered a sense of Imposter Syndrome and since doing the course, the doubting voices in my head have lessened somewhat, and even when they’re there, I’ve learnt how to shut them up.

Coupling surfing with learning to lead is a brilliant strategy. Not only have I embraced a brand new love, but I can now see that there are a number of things about the ocean that remind me what it takes to lead – knowing what you are getting into, judging the strength of the waves, knowing when to get out of the way, and knowing which wave is yours.

I started my surfing experience by leaping off my surfboard. I realised that much like my leading experiences, I was ‘leaping off’ in fear. The journey of staying and riding the wave has been invaluable to me.  

There’s a new confidence in me, and a new forgiveness in understanding that leading is an ever-evolving journey. This has been a big year of growth for me – I have tackled some of my hairiest demons head on. I know that this was possible because of some of the experiences that settled in my heart and mind after LeaderSurf.

One of our big mottos during the course was “Paddle. Paddle. Paddle.”

Suhana SurfingJPG

It’s what our surf teachers kept saying to us, and it’s fast becoming one of my power principles in life. In order to gain momentum and catch the wave, you have to paddle with great vigour. When leading, you have to plunge into the hard work and get the timing right. The opportunities are coming up fast, right behind you and if you’re willing to engage those biceps, the right one is all yours. I’ve learnt that when all else fails and you don’t know what to do, just keep paddling.

I’m close to turning 40 and never thought I’d learn to surf. My biggest lesson in all this: We’re all capable of updating our own ways of thinking an being. We decide our own limitations. The best approach to the  impossible is with a surfer mentality – just shred it, dude.

Update:  Suhana Gordhan was recently featured in a two part article in BizCommunity about her leadership at Chair of the Loeries and her LeaderSurf experience.  Read more here