Interview with Olga Khaustova, JCI Russia Deputy President and Member of JCI Partnerships Committee
I, Jutta Ruusunen, am meeting Olga Khaustova, DP of JCI Russia, over an online cup of coffee, which has become a bit of a trademark of hers after launching the “Cup of Coffee with an Outstanding JCI Member / JCI Senator interview series. Only this time, it is Olga being interviewed.
Olga’s JCI career has now come a full circle also in another, rather unexpected way – it was an article in a Finnish JCI magazine, which got her interested in JCI in the first place. In the end, the article planned for JCI Helsinki’s publication never saw the light of day, but in the process Olga had already become an enthusiastic jaycee.
I got the chance to pick Olga’s brain about leadership and how her thinking has developed over the past 7 years in JCI, and in the light of her upcoming national presidency.
Let’s start with a classic question – Olga, how would you describe a good leader?
Olga: “Having met many great people and great leaders, I have come to the conclusion, that a true leader is a kind person with a big heart, someone who is willing to support others, who sees the best in everyone and can give others room to shine. And JCI is excellent in providing a platform for this. It helps such individuals step up who maybe never imagined themselves assuming a leadership role before.”
“A good leader is also an expert in motivation. Everyone should believe that their role matters. You also need to give them the possibility to fulfill the role. Micromanaging brings you nowhere. A leader should treat people with respect and trust and show that they believe you can get the job done. That gives people the confidence that they can achieve anything.”
Speaking of motivation, JCI is a volunteer organization. Do you feel that creates extra challenges for a leader?
Olga: “It is one thing to manage a business and manage volunteers. As a business leader, you recruit the people you feel are a great match and who you trust. In JCI, you might work with people you have never met before, and may never meet face to face. In short, you work with the ones who you have. This requires great understanding and adapting to changes, also to uncertainty.
Also, JCI requires a lot of self-initiative. You cannot take the passenger seat and just wait for opportunities and invitations being handed to you. Leadership is when you wait for nobody. You need to be the initiator and inspire people around you.”
That certainly goes for life in general! And you are quite the initiator yourself – you started the “Cup of Coffee” concept where you regularly interviewed outstanding JCI senators and members. The sessions are broadcasted on Facebook on the official page of JCI Russia for everyone to watch. How did you come up with the idea?
Olga: “At the Tallinn World Congress 2019 I met many interesting people and presidents, past and present, and just thought, wow, such cool people, I wish their stories could be heard to inspire other members in their JCI path. Also, I wanted to let the JCI world know about JCI Russia.
I was especially interested in people who lead by example, being active in their own way. I have had the change to talk to some outstanding people which has also impacted my thinking of true leadership and I hope to continue with the project.”
The interview series became a phenomenon in the JCI community quite fast. Were you aiming to expand your own network already from the onset?
Olga: “Expanding my network actually never crossed my mind! My first guest was the VP assigned to Russia, Paolo Bellotti, and from there I continued with people whom I already knew well. Suddenly the show became so popular that people started to suggest outstanding people from their national organizations to be interviewed. From there it just grew quite naturally into a series showcasing really famous people in JCI.”
2022 will be your own year as national president. What are your expectations from this new leadership role?
Olga: “When I joined JCI I was lucky to enter the strongest chapter of that period, JCI St. Petersburg, which also has twinning chapters in Finland – Havis Amanda and JCI Turku (as part of Ports and Bridges). But, in Russia JCI is not that well known and we are not a big JCI country globally. Now, during the pandemic, I have been able to attend many events online, maybe more that I could have visited live, and I have promoted our area as much as possible. As NP my main goals are to popularize Russia in the world, to inspire and attract new members and my ultimate goal is to host a European Conference in Russia one day.”
I am sure that you if anyone can get the job done!
Thank you for the interview and we wish you all the best for 2022 as NP.
Olga’s top 5 tips to make the most of your JCI network:
1. Try to help whenever you can.
2. Be yourself, be sincere – people sense that.
3. Be interested in the people, not in what they can do for you.
4. Be positive – you won’t get friends with a negative attitude.
5. Remember, you never know who is watching you! JCI can grow your network in unexpected ways if you have an open and friendly mindset.
Interview and text: Jutta Ruusunen, JCI Aurajoki, R-INT for region A 2021
Photo: Olga’s own archive