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Truth and Dare
17 December 2013
Deeply disillusioned with the state of leadership globally and locally, Geraldine Coy, a leadership and management expert, took a long hard look at what she knew and had experienced in her life and sat down to write a book, Brave Truth.
From that book an eponymously named board game was also spawned. The game has been embraced by Leadership Victoria for use in its leadership development programs; Melbourne Business School, through its Centre for Ethical Studies, also has it in its sights.
“Brave Truth”, Geraldine believes, may have much wider applications than top level leadership forums, and so she has embarked on a journey to discover what that might look like.
Before seeing where else it might find favour – it’s important to understand why the book and game came about. Sitting down to such an exercise must have had a tipping point – a point at which “things” coalesce to create the perfect storm. For Geraldine (below) that coalescence took 14 years to reach its crux.
Born and raised in South Africa, Geraldine’s career in leadership and management development has involved her in roles in the corporate world, private business, on government commissions of enquiry and in her own successful business, leading change and organisational renewal. Along with owning her own business Geraldine was a conflict resolution mediator in South Africa and took part in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Enquiry following the end of Apartheid.
“I’d worked in community conflict, on enquiries into the causes and perpetrators of violence in South Africa. We’d uncovered and named a great many people working in the criminal justice system, in politics, in the underworld, all involved in corrupt practices. It’s hardly surprising given the nature of the work to find my name was on a number of death lists. In 1998, four years after the end of Apartheid, the threats shifted to include my children. That was the impetus for leaving South Africa,” explains Geraldine about her move to Australia.
Arriving here with no contacts and no networks, she went back into corporate life, working at Telstra, then Baker’s Delight, Worksafe and finally, into her own business again.
“I’d always wanted to write a book about what I’d witnessed and heard as part of those commissions of enquiry. Formal reports can only do so much. Those people who had had the courage to get up and speak the truth, no matter what danger they faced, deserved a voice. I’d been sitting on it all for long enough,” says Geraldine.
In that 14 years the risks to her and her family had also diminished (many of the people she’d once feared were dead, “usually in violent circumstances”) and she’d also reached a point in her career where she had the time to devote to the telling.
“2013’s been a pivotal year for me,” Geraldine continues. “Look at politics, religion, sport, business and the board room - there’s so little truth to be found in practice anywhere. ‘Brave Truth’ as a game promotes a safe secure environment in which to uncover and speak the truth and to build relationships. It always surprises me that people will prefer spin than honesty. If you tell the truth most people will forgive and from there work to rebuild the relationship. We haven’t seen courageous leadership in a long time. Our leaders lack resilience. They play too much to their audiences or rely on spin rather than engaging in principal driven, value-led leadership.
“My children are in their 20s. They wanted to play the game but I wasn’t sure it had any application outside the board room – so I said let’s give it an hour. Well, that was at 8.30 one night and at 3.30am they were still playing.”