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7 Questions on Leadership with Jan J. Strauss

Name: Jan J. Strauss



Finished school at age 17, parents not able to send me to Tertiary studies, managed to secure my own studies through mining house as the first ever from my community. Started offshore with Drilling at age 24 and joined Offshore Production at almost thirty years of age as Trainee Production Operator. Five years late I became the first locally trained Production Supervisor (also the youngest at the time). Three years later I was the Acting Prod Superintendent and did that for two years before finally get the Promotion. Two years lates I left the country to start working abroad in Oil and Gas industry Projects - starting in Singapore, then Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Nigeria (West-Africa). Been made an OIM in January 2010 and has been serving in this position since then for various companies, Projects and locations.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Jan's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

When either other Senior Managers or your subordinates think that your good intentions or success have alternative motives. Or that your intentions are to expose someone, whilst you are actually "fighting a bad system" or to expose the organization for what it is. When persons are politicking all decisions and stereotyping everyone to be a player.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Started working at age 17, by 19 I was made the Sectional Supervisor in the Laboratory, since I was put to a challenge and passed. At the time, only a certain segment of the workforce (decided by ethnicity) was allowed to be sponsored and study (full time) through the company. I, together with my colleagues challenge this decision when the person having her chances, failed to complete her course. The company then created a Training path to follow and whoever complete same within a two-year period or less, will be able to come into contention for selection to study at the Technikon (now called University of Technology). Not only did I come out on top, but also mad such an impression within the Mining Group, that I was made the Sectional Supervisor and awarded full scholarship - with full salary to study Analytical Chemistry at the Tertiary Institution full time.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

1. make notes day / night prior of important events or task to attend or follow up respectively

2. Check mails and messages before Daily Planning Meeting

3. Make time after for breakfast

4. Quiet minutes with my partner at home (via Whatsapp)

5. Continue with Daily Progress / Daily Reports

6. At lunch time enjoy the quiet time in office for important calls

7. While still have time left of lunch break, take time out to have a power nap / quiet time in cabin (on FPSO)

8. After lunch follow up on important tasks with onshore support

9. Make time to liaise with client on events of the day

10. Go walk-about outside and observe people busy at work, ask questions, offer advice, encourage some efforts, make notes on good observations, highlight items for Daily Feedback Meeting

11. Lead Daily Feedback Meeting

12. Take any important points to my Boss (if need be).

13. Than to end off day, go for my Daily exercise - either a time noted walk or walk on thread mill in Gymnasium.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

That you get challenged by all and everyone and most times from the least unexpected. Furthermore, that the new young graduates to the industries are very strong minded and want you to show not only in words or writing, but actions as a true leader. "Actions speaks louder than words".

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

As I did my first course of (Basic) Business Skills and effectively first (official) Training to become a Leader (supervisor) came across this book and made so much sense at the time since it, taught me what are the most important principles of being a leader, help me to be disciplined, plan and be patient, know what are the priorities and how to keep improving one's (soft) skills.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If you are asked to do a task by someone much more senior than you, that are (as per your job description and / designation) outside of your roles and responsibilities, do not shrug or shy away from it. Do not think that it is beneath you or say that you cannot do it. This could be a test of character or to see how prepared you are to try on new challenges. Never say: " I cannot do it". If you get offered a higher position in your organisation - take it, sometimes senior personnel see in you the potential that you might think is not able to cope with / that you are not ready for. Also, do not be scare about your age, because "if you can do it, you are old enough".

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

That you will not always be valued by some. That your leadership style - whatever you know has worked in the past, might not always be acceptable and true for everyone. The secret is to "keep believing" and keep checking inward into your inner self - the praise and the appreciation for your worth and Leadership to others, are not always immediately visible. Once you have left the seat, it will show - that has been my most precious gift from especially younger persons I have been working with.

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