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By Sunita Sehmi, Walk The Talk

YIELD is the Youth Institute for Excellence in Leadership Development that focuses on young people in the age-range of 18 to 24 years young. It was founded in 2015 in loving memory of Lauren Anne Roe (1979-1997) as a not-for-profit association aspiring to make the world a better place by accelerating the leadership development of young people. Our vision is to contribute to a significant increase in the number of leaders who are driven by purpose, meaning and vision. In 2016 YIELD aims to run a one month-long youth leadership development program each in Geneva, Switzerland and Cape Town, South Africa.

I sat down with Willem Jan to find out more about this exciting project. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

Sunita Sehmi: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Willem Jan Hofmans: First and foremost I’m a husband, father and grandfather. Having grown up in the Netherlands I met my wife, Hilary, in South Africa. Funnily enough, her mother and I had started with HP on exactly the same day in 1982 except that she began in South Africa and I in California. As a family we moved around a lot as a result of my international corporate career. We first arrived in Geneva at the end of 1986 and came back for the third time in 2002. Our son, Paul, and his family as well as our youngest daughter, Emma, live in Cape Town, whereas our daughter, Jessica, and her husband live in Geneva. After 25 years in the corporate world I have successfully run my own business for the past 9 years. In my work I focus on leadership either through coaching or running development programs.   

Sunita Sehmi: What got you into youth leadership?
Willem Jan Hofmans: Since a number of years I have come across people, who often mentioned that they would have done many things differently if they had been exposed to leadership coaching and development at a much earlier age. In addition, 80% of leaders are driven by a mind-set focused on problems, fears and threats. Only 20% are approaching leadership from a sense of purpose, meaning and vision. It is my assessment that the world needs a significant increase in this 20%. The way to do this is by focusing on younger people and approaching leadership development differently.

Sunita Sehmi: What is your role at YIELD? Tell us more about the program.
Willem Jan Hofmans: I am the Founder of YIELD, the Youth Institute for Excellence in Leadership Development and will also direct and coach in our program. This summer we will run a four-week Accelerated Leadership Development Program for Young Leaders in the age group of 18-24. The first week will focus on Individual Leadership, i.e. lead yourself. This is a prerequisite before you can even think about leading others. The week after the focus will be on Leading in Teams, followed by a week experiencing Leadership in Organizations and the Community. The fourth, and final, week will bring everything together. During the weeks, there will be a combination of interactive classroom learning, group and individual exercises and coaching. Each participant will receive one hour of leadership coaching per month during the year following the end of the last week.

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Sunita Sehmi: In your opinion what is true leadership?
Willem Jan Hofmans: For me true leadership is about direction/vision, inspiration/motivation of others and making the direction/vision happen. Great leaders should also be great followers, learn to get out of their own way and yield to others. There are some technical, or hard, skills that are required for leadership, but the biggest impact comes from the interpersonal, or softer, skills; most leaders find these the hardest.

Sunita Sehmi: How do you see youth leadership developing in the future?
Willem Jan Hofmans: It is my hope that the approach we are choosing with YIELD will be taken up more pervasively. Most educational systems and institutions focus on the building of hard skills. With YIELD we propose a structured approach to the development of soft skills at a much earlier age. By combining forces we believe that we will create real impact and grow the number of leaders who lead from a mind-set of purpose, vision and meaning.

Sunita Sehmi: What's the next challenge for young leaders?
Willem Jan Hofmans: The challenge for most leaders is to accept that they have to take responsibility and work on themselves before they can expect others to change. For young leaders the challenge may be even more so, because it is so much easier to put blame on past generations. I’d like to propose that young leaders turn this challenge into an opportunity and develop their purpose, meaning and vision as early on as they can. At YIELD we will be able to provide them the skills to enable them to realize these. Young leaders, live your dreams!

Sunita Sehmi: What's next for you?
Willem Jan Hofmans: Success requires focus. Therefore, our focus is to get the Accelerated Leadership Development Program for Young Leaders up and running this summer in Geneva. Not only the participants will learn a lot, so will we. This will provide the basis for our second program in Cape Town, South Africa. Thereafter? YIELD in every country in the world. Dream big!

Reference: To find out more about YIELD go to: http://www.yield-association.org/

Sunita's Bio

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Sunita is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is of Indian origin and was born in London before moving to Geneva in 1992. She has a Psychology background (specialising in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults. She also completed a Masters in Ressources Humaines, Coaching et Gestion des Carrières at the University of Geneva.

During her 25 years experience Sunita's drive has always been to help people to do their best and hence led her to create Walk The Talk.

In her free time Sunita is a Mentor for the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship and a proud member of the School in The Cloud Team.