Ilze de Leeuw

“Culture has strategy for breakfast"

Who I am 

I am addicted to complex challenges, problem-solving, and finding the pieces that complete the puzzle in the best scenarios. No matter where I am—working in an organization, attending a dinner party, or watching a movie—my brain is always inquiring, analyzing, and processing the hidden dialogue, the unsaid. Life is about listening, watching, and making chess moves.

I am a behavioral specialist. Through leadership and team coaching, I lead organizations to be agile, intelligent, and continually develop creative, inclusive strategies to deal with an ever-changing and challenging world.  

I have been part of and led many large-scale change management interventions in medium to large listed organizations. My role involves investigation, analysis, and developing a holistic, tailor-made change management process. This process includes culture, strategy, and operations. Catalyzing potential and developing leadership is my specialty. I assume the role of Culture Strategy Director for a year to eighteen months, leading the implementation project.

I can be described as:

Casper the Friendly Ghost

As Casper the ghost, I am entrusted and afforded the authority by the EXCOs to move between the various levels and metrics in organizations, with the privilege of getting to know employees. These are relationships that cannot be formed within the organization due to various issues of trust, competitiveness, and politics. Because I am an objective “Outside Insider,” I do not have to take sides and can represent everyone, no matter their level in the organization, with equality for all.

I serve as a confidential ally and have the power to be a voice for individuals and teams; in other words, I function as a neutral moderator.

The relationships are built upon getting to know all facets of board dynamics, EXCO, management, and employees. These facets encompass personal information, professional, and organizational strategies.

This role also delivers the opportunity to identify internal talent, bringing it to management's attention to be earmarked for future management positions. One of my personal work satisfactions and pride lies in coaching, mentoring, and grooming identified young talent, ready to step into leadership positions, supporting and watching them flourish in their respective careers.

Further to developing young leaders in their individual capacities, I also design and facilitate an appropriate adult learning program in a team format. The focus is on exposing them to higher learning, business acumen, and self-development, and providing exposure to peers to create team cohesion into a support and thinking network for the future.

 The Glue

As I hold strong relationships and trust throughout the levels of an organization, I find myself in the role of the central information holder. Not everybody speaks to each other, yet most share and confide in me.

This places me in the position of:

· Creating holistic connections among individuals and within the organizational levels. My role also functions as a bridge between management and employees in change management processes.

· The employee relationship trust that is held in me as a neutral external entity allows me to communicate the benefits and reasoning of the new strategy in a non-threatening manner. My role is crucial to being the EXCOs conduit into the rest of the organization to communicate in order to hold the employees contained in safety to facilitate buy-in and commitment.

• The Priest

As most of us know, leadership can be a very lonely place. Leadership demands a confidant strong face at all times, managing stress and challenges within the professional sphere as well as at home. Confidential confiding is often not an option, as this may compromise leadership status with peers; within the family environment, it may threaten stability and safety. My professional role offers a confidential space where leaders are safe to share challenges without judgment, blow off steam, and are supported to explore solutions.

I believe this is one of my most valued contributions, in that leaders may find in one person a confidante, someone who truly cares and listens, exhibits compassion, and creates safety without any complications that may arise from being so open and honest. We are all just human, and in my years of work, I have been utterly humbled by my clients’ confessions of personal issues and at times releasing the unbearable burden of long-held secrets. My vow of silence and confidentiality is not just by professional contract but much more in respect and responsibility to each individual.

I enjoy working in various cultures, which comes as a requisite of my profession and the diverse organizations, especially in the South African context. South Africa is a microcosm of the macrocosm of the world, with a large mix of cultures, races, religions, and education.

I believe that we all have a purpose on earth and understand that mine is raising consciousness. It has been my personal journey of continual learning and studying since childhood. Unlike other children, I was consumed from an early age by seeking answers. What is the purpose of existence? This led to studies in religion, philosophy, theater, psychology, and later business. At 28, I was accepted to do my MBA (which, near the end, I didn't complete, as my first child was born and I didn't have much choice as to which to choose). But what it does come down to is that life is not linear, nor segmented, but holistic. Each aspect is just a piece in the bigger puzzle to make up the complete picture.

My life and work are one. I do and bring who I am. All the learning I have done is the foundation of knowledge and experience I bring to the world and clients, so that they may benefit from it and in that shorten and speed up their journey to self-actualization.

My book "Hello - Who Are You?" was published in the US in 2016, and you are welcome to download it for free. It is a short and fun self-manual to support you on your journey to raising your and also the consciousness of others. I believe it is the duty of mankind to care for all—people, nature, and our beautiful planet. You do your part, I do mine, taking up the challenge of conscious leadership in all facets of life and environment, with an outward rippling effect; together we make this world a better place.

learn more

Conscious Custodians is a global PBO that contributes to and supports leaders and innovators in addressing global challenges, particularly those related to serving our planet. I founded Conscious Custodians in 2016 as my contribution to collective collaboration, offering my skills and expertise in caring for our planet in our roles as Conscious Custodians.