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Past President Interview: George Jerjian (2000-01) on leadership by example

November 13, 2012
George Jerjian, President 2000-01

George Jerjian: Lead by example, service and inspiration

 Q: During your time as President did anything memorable take place during meetings or otherwise?

The two most memorable meetings were my first and my last. My first evening as President was an exhilarating experience (think of power as an aphrodisiac). Fellow club members and former Presidents were looking at me differently. Power does strange things to those who exercise it and to those that come near it. With my adrenaline gauge on high alert, I did not get much sleep that night. My last evening as President was equally memorable in that although power is surrendered – in my case to comedian Jeremy Mitchell – there was a sense that a weight of responsibility has been taken off my shoulders. A sense of lightness mixed with relief came over me. I had completed my full year as President and would now join the pantheon of illustrious Corinthian Presidents, the likes of Bill Russell, Mike Silverman, Celia Jones, and Adrian Barrett.

Q: Will you describe the best speech you heard during your Presidency? What made it so good?

My presidency was over a decade ago and during that year I would have heard over a hundred speeches, so selecting the best speech is a futile if not impossible exercise. However, what I can say is that listening to speeches is an education at a number of levels and often pure entertainment. Second, by going on this journey, I have made some lasting friendships that I shall treasure to the end of my days. Last but most importantly, the most memorable speeches are invariably those that ‘touch’ us, the listeners; speeches that have raw emotional power, speeches that show how the human spirit can overcome obstacles in life and from which we all can learn.

Specifically, I remember delivering a speech at Corinthians which I wanted to deliver for my father’s up-coming 80th birthday dinner. After hearing it, Bill Russell came over to me and said: “George that was crap!” I was gobsmacked. Bill went onto to tell me that his father died before he was able to give him a speech and he advised me to pick three personal stories where my father had “touched” me and make that the core of my speech. I took his advice and wrote out a new speech and delivered it on the night of the dinner; it brought tears to my father’s eyes and mine. A year or so later, my father passed away, but that speech is engraved in my memory. I cannot thank Bill enough.

Q: What made you decide to become President? How did it come about?

I could take all the credit, but truth is stranger than fiction. The man who planted the idea in my head of becoming President of London Corinthians was my old friend, Adrian Barrett, Corinthian pedant and patriarch. He not only persuaded me that I was Presidential material, but also that London Corinthians needed to be saved from mediocrity (meaning the other nominees). He then allowed my imagination to rise, like dough, and twenty minutes later in the bar, my decision was made; I was toast. In my turn, I too have persuaded and motivated members to consider the challenge of becoming club President.

Q: What have you taken away with you from your time as President? Did you achieve your goals?

What I learned as President was that we all need to be challenged and when we are challenged, we must not fail to rise to the occasion. Once we grab the challenge and face our fears, they evaporate like ghosts in the mist. Ultimately when we look back, we wonder why we gave so much power to our fears. On a recent visit to an art gallery, I saw a bronze sculpture of a man, whose upper half was free but lower half was inside a mass of bronze, from which he was chiselling himself out of with a hammer and chisel. That picture is me; that picture is you. We are all chiselling ourselves out of our slavery to imagined fears to freedom; freedom to express our free wills and to become who we are meant to be.

My goal as President was to become a better leader and a better speaker and to make London Corinthians a better club than the one I inherited. I achieved my goals and more; not only by increasing membership from 40 to over 60, but also by achieving President’s Distinguished Club Award.

Q: Is there any advice you would give to future Presidents with the benefit of hindsight?

Apart from reading the advice of all past presidents, I would also give three pieces of advice to future Presidents. Lead by example, lead by service, lead by inspiration.

Lead by example. As President, I tried to do too much instead of leveraging on my fellow committee members. The leadership model I now subscribe to, from the experience I learned as President, is that of “servant” leadership, where the President serves the committee by ensuring that all the team members perform their part.

Lead by service. When a problem occurs, you, as President, step in to resolve it. Being President is about persuading, cajoling, imploring and even begging when necessary. Humility, not pride, must be your coat of armour.

Lead by inspiration. Harness the skills you have learned as a public speaker, as a competent communicator, as a true Toastmaster, to inspire others to contribute to the club, to the area, to the district, and above all to each other. That’s what makes a great club and a great President.


Working or living in the LondonVictoria area? Want to know more about becoming a better public speaker? Visit London Corinthians on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays @ 7.30pm.Find out more about us on our website: . Like us on Facebook:  Follow us on Twitter:

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