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How a remarkable story of resilience led to success

Lifestyle
The English teacher born on the Cape Flats who went to Harvard is a compelling enough protagonist; however, Professor Shirley Zinn went on to become one of the most inspiring women in South African business. Hers is also one of the most compelling stories of motherhood, love, loss and resilience.

The group head of human resources at Woolworths Holdings Limited has served as head of human resources at Standard Bank South Africa and deputy global head of human resources for the Standard Bank Group.

She was the group executive HR at Nedbank and general manager for human resources at the South African Revenue Service.

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In her book she shares challenges, both public and private, and the challenges women face in the corporate sector and within the South African context.

She is an extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Human Resource Management and was recently appointed adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town.

She is past president of the Institute for People Management South Africa and registered as a master HR professional with the South Africa Board for People Practice.

In her book she shares challenges, both public and private, and the challenges women face in the corporate sector and within the South African context.

A recurring theme in her narrative is resilience, the ability to adapt to stress and adversity and rise above them with ease.

Zinn says: “Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found within us and it can be learnt and developed by virtually anyone. Think of it as a process rather than a trait to be had.”

She says it’s a common misconception that people who are resilient experience no negative emotions or thoughts and display optimism in all situations.

“The reality remains that resilience is demonstrated by those who must navigate their way around crises and utilise effective methods of coping in trying situations.

"We have to own our journey in life. We often can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to it. People who demonstrate resilience are people with have positive emotionality; they are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones, and to see the silver lining.”

We have to learn from the lessons that life teaches us and continue to move forward. She says you can learn to develop what you might call a thick skin.

* Zinn is the president of the Harvard Alumni Association South Africa and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors SA. She previously served as the chair of the Institute of Bankers. She was recently appointed as the patron for the SA Council of Business Women.

* Her ebook is available at :http://www.kr.co.za/Leadership/swimming-upstream-a-story-of-grit-and-determination-to-succeed-1

* Also at Exclusive Books.

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