These were the closing words of Mohau Pheko, then South African Ambassador to Japan, as she spoke from her residence in Hiroo as part of the Flourish Women’s Leadership Programme in November 2014.
She is one of those people whose voice is soft yet crisp and powerful and I swear the whole audience leans in as she speaks hanging on her every word; from stories of her exile as a young woman and of other women (chronicled in the book “Prodigal Daughters”) to her diplomatic journey and education, she is one of those people you just can’t help being mesmerised and enthralled by.
I asked one of my partners at the time what is it, did he think, that makes her so powerful, engaging and compelling and after some thought he said, “Authority”. She has complete command of herself, her audience and her role. She is funny and laughs out loud, imposing and dresses in full colours rarely bowing to convention. She is both a little intimidating and entirely disarming. She is entertaining and professional. Committed and open. I learned so much from my personal and professional relationship with Ambassador Pheko. About authenticity, authority and personal power. How to show up and serve your audience and your cause.
Her closing gambit in her speech back in 2014 was this:
“Be cheeky, be irreverent.”
And I say, yes. Being a good girl only takes you so far.*
And I ask myself where, in my life, would it be a good idea to be more cheeky, more irreverent. Where am I being less authentic for FEAR of being irreverent, or rather the fear of being seen to be irreverent and then being judged as being irreverent. There are plenty of gold star hunters, gatherers and good girls out there. Where am I leaving my irreverence on the table in a way that IS NOT IN SERVICE of the collective? I have watched myself and other people get pay rises, better deals, discounts, extras, have more fun, be more genuine and help other people more by being cheeky and irreverent (Of course, it goes without saying but is worth mentioning that being competent, ethical and well-mannered is absolutely the foundation upon which cheekiness and irreverence dances). Where should I be pushing the bell curve to model a life well lived, that is also cheeky and irreverent. And I come to the conclusion.
I’d rather be disliked for being real cheeky, irreverent me, than being liked for being fake nice, good me.
And so I ask. What would cheekiness do? What would irreverence do? Play it out and make my decisions from there.
*Re. Good girls. Anna Kunnecke puts it best in this missive about why she decided to keep swearing in her lexicon. http://declaredominion.com/2016/12/09/im-keeping-my-f-bombs/
“I help people create a better, more truthful experience of life and work.”
Sarah Furuya Coaching