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Focusing
on a positive impact

Leaders are Not Born – They are Created!

By Annet Eijkelkamp

With these words I welcomed our 2019 Johnson & Johnson delegation to the One Young World (OYW) Summit just two weeks ago in London. This year, we sent 78 committed and passionate young J&J leaders from across the globe to the yearly event to further build their leadership capacity in the health and caregiving arena. 

During the Summit, many inspiring and impactful global and local (thought) leaders and influencers took the stage to share their words of wisdom, failures and successes with the over 2,000 OYW delegates attending. 

From former country prime ministers of Norway and Ireland Gro Harlem Brundtland and Mary Robinson, to senior leaders and entrepreneurs like Virgin’s Richard Branson, Unilever’s Alan Jope, Novartis’ Vas Narasimhan to our own Hani Abouhalka, to social change advocates and influencers like Professor Mohammad Yunus and our own 2018 J&J OYW Alumni Bimo Agung… It was once more clearly stated that in order to create change, YOU MUST LEAD. And for change to happen, no matter how difficult and hard at times, you must take it in your own hands! 

During the Summit, I spoke to many aspiring leaders from other companies and institutions and asked them questions like ‘Do you feel you are ready to lead?’, ‘How resilient are you as leader?’ and ‘What skills do need to have to be a good leader?’

What I heard was that they are told to be courageous, agile, self-aware and think holistically. That they must collaborate with other like-minded people and be resilient themselves, whilst at the same time make sure to have a stable and resilient network around them to create a domino effect of change. The ability to adapt and adopt in an ever-changing macro-economic and social environment is where change happens!

When I asked them: ‘So you have all these tools, skills and resources in place?’. The answer was often ‘No!’.

Hearing this first-hand further reinforces my belief that, more than ever, we need to provide young leaders with the tools, skills, expertise and resources they need to create the change they want to see in the world. The traditional and often ‘easy’ way of further advancing an idea through funding is simply not enough anymore. Today, long-term mentorship, coaching and access to a robust support network are critical to their long-term success. 

I’m proud of J&J’s global partnership with OYW because it takes the commitment to long-term success seriously. As I wrote in September, our accelerated six-month program is part of our Company’s commitment to empowering young leaders on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for humanity. Over 240 delegates have joined us at OYW since 2013, and I’ve had the privilege to lead our partnership for the past three years. The feedback and input we’ve received from our delegates and scholars on what we are doing well, where we can do better and how we can stay relevant in this ever-changing world has shaped the leadership program into what it is today and ensured that we continuously demonstrate our value-add and impact.

While there are many ways to contribute to building leadership capacity, I am proud to work for a company like J&J who truly aspires and acts to set up young leaders for success. I have been given the opportunity to restrategize our program moving from our delegates attending a one-off event to a six-month accelerated learning and development program that hopefully lives on in the hearts and minds of our delegates for many years to come.

I encourage you to read some of the LinkedIn articles our leaders, scholars and delegates have already shared on their experience this year. I’ll continue to update this list as their pieces are published this month:

In my current role at J&J, leading several global and regional employee engagement programs, including OYW, I can truly say that I profoundly believe that leaders are not born, but they are created. We just need to encourage those who need that little push to step forward and come out of the shadows. We need to share our skills and knowledge with those who are eager to learn. And we need to believe in and empower those who have the potential to lead.

I love to hear from you. What do you think makes for a strong young leadership development program? What companies do you see leading the way?

Annet