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In today’s world of continued uncertainty, hit Netflix series, Itaewon Class, shows what it takes to be a progressive leader.

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My teenage daughter’s now well-established obsession with all things Korean has long included Korean drama and although at first not keen, I was grateful that she pushed me to watch a massively successful Netflix series called Itaewon Class.

This 2020 drama charts the progression of a forward-thinking, 21st century, protagonist from a low-point of dropping out of high school and doing ‘time’ behind bars, to fulfilling his hugely ambitious goal of transforming an independent, stand-alone street bar, to being the number one eatery chain across the whole of South Korea. The main character’s success is significantly influenced by what I consider to be highly progressive leadership strategies which he adopts and develops as he determines to fulfil his vision.

Here are five leadership qualities demonstrated by Park Saeroyi (played byPark Seo Joon) in the series that will serve any leader well in the 21st century:-

1.    Shape your vision and persevere

‘Victory belongs to the most persevering’

Napoleon Bonaparte

Be prepared for the long game and hang on in there. As Napoleon said, ‘Victory belongs to the most persevering’ and Park Saeroyi realises his vision after many years of sustained effort and resolve. Quick wins, short and medium-term goals, and regular revisions of all of these are of course essential to help keep you on track, but having a robust sense of what your long-term aspiration is at every step throughout the journey is also absolutely crucial. There will be multiple distractions and derailments along the way, so having a clear, strong vision of what the ultimate outcome is will really help to navigate through the challenges along the way. ‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’

2.    Do the right thing

‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’

C. S. Lewis

What does it mean to ‘do the right thing’? Well C.S. Lewis alluded to it when he said that, ‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’, but I would go further and say that to have integrity is to be doing the right thing all of the time, even when it might work to your disadvantage in some way. Operating with integrity means that you live in harmony with your principles, values and beliefs; it means that you are authentic to yourself and with everyone around you; it is about keeping to your word and doing what you’ve said you will do. By operating and behaving in this way, you gain trust from your team, your colleagues, your customers, and anyone else who might be investing in you. Having integrity and doing the right thing are key values for a progressive human being, they are also highly valued traits in today’s modern leader.

3.    Hold up the mirror

'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you
something else is the greatest accomplishment.' Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although it’s impossible to achieve complete objectivity about yourself, increasing the degree to which you are self-aware is an essential element of being an effective and successful leader. Holding up the mirror is about being honest with yourself. It involves identifying and reflecting upon who you are, what you are like and what preferences and habits you have. It also involves coming to terms with how you and your chosen behaviours impact on those who are often around you, as well as those that you come into contact with less regularly.

Crucially, in between these two realms, holding up the mirror also includes a recognition of your personal strengths, and an acknowledgement of the current gaps that you could close. What’s more, if closing them is not possible, it is an acceptance that someone else may very well be more suited to an activity. So it is also about getting comfortable with delegating such a task to someone who is better equipped for it, and who will very likely do a better job than yourself.

4.    People before profit

'Success isn't about how much money you make,
it's about the difference you make in people's lives.' Michelle Obama

Placing people before profit is not just an ideology, it is a growing expectation of the global population. For some leaders this is difficult to grasp because they are in the business to make money. The irony is that a business primarily focused on delivering benefit over the bottom line, inevitably ends up with a healthy profitability anyway, whereas those organisations that prioritise profitability over people, although still appearing to be fantastically successful at times, almost always achieve that success at a cost to their personnel.

The people within your team and across your organisation are your most valuable asset. Taking the time to get to know them will help you to uncover and understand their strengths. This will also assist you in identifying and exploring their growth potential. Park Saeroyi does this regularly with the Pub gang. He encourages his people to push themselves when he thinks that an initiative will play to their strengths, or when an opportunity will enable them to develop themselves even further. Having said that, Park Saeroyi constantly remains a supportive presence in the background and isn’t afraid to step in and assist his team again where necessary.

5.    Expect the unexpected

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”

Oscar Wilde

Whether you are conscious of it or not, everything around you is constantly changing. As Heraclitus famously said, ‘Change is the only constant.’ The more prepared you are to embrace this omnipresent adjustment, and pivot when necessary, the more straightforward it becomes to make the most out of what change has to offer.

Some see change as something to be fearful of rather than an opportunity to learn and grow. When things do not progress as planned, being adaptable is key to this. Having the capability to improvise when something sets you back enables you to keep the journey towards your vision on track, but it also enables you to build your resilience and develop your ability to flex. Whenever Park Saeroyi comes up against obstacles in the pursuit of his dream, he evaluates the situation, seeks feedback and advice, determines the best next steps, and then makes the most appropriate decision to move forward.

The route you take to achieve your overall outcome may, and in all likelihood, will end up being different to that which you perhaps envisaged, even though the ultimate goal will probably remain the same. Having an expectation that this will be the case when pursuing your goal will mean that you will be far better equipped to adjust when necessary and like Saeroyi, you will therefore be far more likely to achieve it.

Andy Capie

As well as directing and supporting the Avery Mind programme delivery teams right across their current client-base, and continually expanding his own knowledge and development, Andy Capie continues to thrive on facilitating people's desires to transform their lives. As a successful actor, broadcast presenter, coach and trainer, Andy is in a great position to draw upon well developed communication skills when conceiving, designing and delivering development workshops, training days, organisational programmes and events.

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