The service manual to becoming the best version of yourself


Like building a motorcycle, you need to follow a service manual to be a great leader, says CFO Brad Wentzel.

We must always keep moving forward, keep investing in ourselves, and keep adding new tools to our ever-expanding toolbox. In order to do this, a leader should understand what has come before, while continuously thinking about what comes next.

Building a bike
The Cambridge dictionary describes a service manual as “a book with instructions on how to keep a vehicle, machine, etc, working properly at different points in its life.”

When building or restoring a motorcycle, the first, and often most important, task is to obtain the specific service manual for the make and model of the motorcycle. The components are not always in working condition, and sometimes not even provided at all. So, without a clear, concise picture of what you have, what you should have, and what to do with it, you won’t get very far – let alone out of your garage.

The first time I endeavoured to build a bike, I attempted to do so with only my bravado and some short films as my guide. The thought of obtaining a service manual seemed like it should have been resigned to the annals of history. I could not have been more wrong.

The short films, albeit assisting, were always too low on detail and too poor at explaining. They simply skimmed the surface of the vast depth of technical knowledge required to build a bike. Instead, I needed step-by-step instructions detailing the pitfalls and solutions from those who have embarked on this task before me, so that I could not only understand the process, but also impart my own knowledge to it.

Determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, I started my most recent build by searching long and hard for the elusive manual of the 1998 Honda CR250. This bike, which is now regarded as having cult status amongst the two-stroke motorcycle fraternity, was the first excursion by Honda into the world of aluminium-framed motocross machines. It was only produced for a three-year period, which means that spare parts, information and any expertise on the machine are in short supply.

I eventually found a copy of the manual through some fellow enthusiasts on social media, as they are no longer available in print.

A service manual to leadership
Leadership is a lot like building a bike. You can’t become a true leader by simply following a short film training video or podcast that you find on the internet. While they are valuable as ancillary methods of improving your leadership tools, I have always found that your toolbox needs to be filled with multiple tools.

As a leader, you have to invest in understanding how to use those tools, even if it means leveraging the knowledge of those who were experts before you.

As with my now second iteration of my motorcycle build, I have been investing in expanding my leadership knowledge base, asking questions and identifying the gaps in my abilities. As a result, I have come up with my own leadership manual, which contains the following guidelines:

  • Spend time understanding yourself: your strengths and weaknesses and the gaps in your knowledge. This is the most important part of your leadership journey.
  • Use the problems you are trying to solve as methods of identifying training you need to undertake. “On the job training” is the best form of knowledge retention.
  • Read, read, read: literature that incorporates facets of the upskilling you need, and with opposing views to get a broader understanding.
  • Invest in those around you who have skills and expertise that complement yours.
  • Be prepared to make mistakes, but be resilient enough to understand that it’s part of the journey.

Your leadership service manual is the key to the improved you. Take time to find one that best suits you, but remember that this document is never static. Make sure the service manual you are using is right for the year and model you are in.

Similar to when you are building a motorcycle, it will guide you through the process and help you to shape the outcome you desire – to go beyond the garage you know and onto the open road.

Read more: Before you can rebuild, you have to deconstruct

Related articles

CFO Day: truth is vital to any company’s story

Transparency and truth are vital ingredients for any company’s success, both internally and externally – and needs to extend all the way to board level, delegates at CFO Day heard.

Why social impact is a critical issue for CFOs

With South Africa among the bottom 20 percent of countries when it comes to social impact effectiveness, Kearney experts unpack how CFOs can align purpose with profit to improve the “S” in their ESG impact.