Rethinking leadership

Leadership comes in many forms, and styles of leadership will differ from individual to individual. Ask several people what leadership means to them and you’re bound to get as many sharply contrasting views as you are similar ones. Many of us are leading every day, in one way or another, without even knowing it.

For Indigenous business owner AJ Williams-Tchen, the concept of being a leader himself wasn’t something that had really crossed his mind until he became the recipient of the 2016 Victorian Emerging Indigenous Leader Award. Winning this award caused AJ to reflect on the meaning of leadership in a new way.

“Growing up I would never have called myself a leader,” reveals AJ, “I was a kid who was bullied at school, I didn’t have a lot of friends, so everything I’ve done in my work has been related to trying to help the community, trying to make sure people don’t experience the same racism and bullying that I did growing up.

“When I accepted the award, I realised that I am a leader, a leader in getting people to change their thoughts about things, I’m a leader in thought change.”

In 2008, AJ decided to take a leap of faith and start his own consultancy business, Girraway Ganyi Consultancy PTY LTD. Previously, AJ had been working part-time in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs where he identified a need in the area for Indigenous cultural awareness training.

Eight years on, AJ now works all over the country and has been involved in several important and successful community projects and initiatives, branching across the fields of community and social work, mental health, employment, nursing, education, and cultural awareness. The leadership award was partly in recognition of AJ’s work in delivering mental health literacy programs to Aboriginal youth across Victoria.

“My thoughts about leadership have developed through my business, and through the networks I’ve built, though the MURRA Indigenous Business Masterclass Program as well,” says AJ.

“As a leader my job isn’t to blame someone or to punish someone for getting something wrong, my job is to always be pushing people, leadership is working with people’s skills and knowledge and then pushing the boundaries, pushing them forward, and going on the journey with them.”

AJ says that the most rewarding aspect of running his own business is the relationships he is able to form with community and clients, and the fact that he has been able to grow his business successfully largely on the back of strong relationships and endorsements from his clients.

“People often ask me, ‘don’t you get bored presenting the same things over and over?’ and the answer is ‘no’, because the individuals in a group are always different, as much as I challenge people they also challenge me, and I wouldn’t be able to do cultural awareness training four times a week if I didn’t like that challenge.”

AJ’s advice for those looking to start their own consultancy business is to do your homework and make sure you are familiar with your potential client base.

“Know your strengths and limitations, know what works and doesn’t work in terms of the feedback you hear about other people’s projects, know your competition, know who the clients are, and actually spend time with the clients,” says AJ.

“Sometimes you need to listen to the client and sometimes you need to stop and go, ‘hey, wait a second, you’ve asked me to be the consultant, now I need to consult with you and tell you something’, you’ve got to be comfortable to take control.”

For more information on Girraway Ganyi PTY LTD visit www.girrawayganyi.com.au