INTRODUCING DUSTINE ZERFF, A THOUGHTFUL AND PATIENT LEADER

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

In celebration of Women’s Month, I reached out to women leaders who I have come to know through my teaching, asking them to share their leadership secrets and styles with me. These women are powerful, compassionate and self-aware, making them both hardcore and heartfelt leaders.


Introducing Dustine Zerff, Procurement Administration Manager at andBeyond.com. Dustine is a Ennea-type Five.


First things first, I asked Dustine how her Ennea-type guides her leadership style. Her answer is wonderful…


As a type Five, I have felt (and still often do) that I am not really seen. I don’t have a big mouth, I don’t make my points loudly. I think about things a lot and I need to have time to process, so I am usually the quiet one in important meetings. I don’t talk to fill the silence. I see myself as the pivot between three different teams (the glue). I let everyone say and do their thing, give their input. Then I become the voice of reason, the objective perspective, the organiser and coordinator, the motivator without dominating. With my direct charges, I lead intuitively. Acknowledgement, praise and gratitude is spoken every day.


When asking Dustine about her leadership Superpower, she answered with the grace of a Five.


Objectivity, insight and patience. The ability and willingness to teach. Sharing knowledge and teaching skills empower me and others.


Dustine’s one wish for future women leaders is based on an interesting meme she had recently come across.


It said: “Tradition is like peer pressure from the dead”. I think tradition is good for some things in life, but it needs review and updating every now and then. The reason I lead with that is because over the last 20 years, I have seen and worked with so many women whose only drive in life is to catch a good husband, have a nice house and have the perfect little family. And when other women don’t have the same aspirations they are judged or considered to be flawed. Much of this is the continuation of tradition; my granny did it, my mom did it, and in order to be considered a complete woman, I need to do the same.


When I started working in the early 90’s, one of the first things I noticed was how the women in senior positions were trying to behave like men. I think the ghastly triple decker shoulder pads of the power suits that were so fashionable then, was part of that attempt to appear broad shouldered like men. To me, the thinking behind it was that they could only lead like men if they acted like men. I never understood why these women could not just be female leaders. I learnt early on what kind of manager and leader I didn’t want to become and I always remembered that along my journey. The efforts of women from that era were not in vain. It was necessary and instrumental in showing future generations of women that it can be done.


But why should a woman make a choice, why is she judged (even by other women) as unworthy or faulty, if she does not stay within the mould? Women are innately predisposed to kindness and empathy and they are also tough and hardy. Women have all the gifts to be world and business leaders, without having to compromise or suppress their femininity and drive. Women are finding their voice, but more need to, and women need to support women in their choices, even if it is career, rather than tradition.


If money was no object, Dustine would love to own a farm in Tuscany (or anywhere similarly quiet, idyllic and beautiful) where grapes for wine and olives are raised side by side. She says:


Not only would I be able to support the community by providing employment and produce, but I would have the solitude my soul often craves, the inspiring beauty to fuel my creativity, the open space to have as many rescued pups as I can manage, the opportunity to engage with the wisdom that a simpler lifestyle can bring, and, of course, the wine. I would not need a specific job, because I would be involved with all the aspects of such a venture. I would never be bored. There is just too much to learn out in the world.


Dustine reasons with the question I ask her about choosing one item to take with her on a desert island.


Getting me to that island would be a challenge to begin with. I have an inordinate fear of small boats and open water. I’m a practical person, so if I had to go and only take one item, I think it would be a machete. I could use it to chop wood to try and make fire, I could use it to clear underbrush an clear a path, I could chop branches to make a shelter, I could chop open fruit like coconuts to eat or to drink from and I could use it for protection, if that was necessary. That’s right! You guessed it! No voluntary participation in Survivor or The Amazing Race for me.


Dustine has a deep passion for learning and teaching. That’s why, if she was given money to start her own business, she would start something that involves some form of education and training.


In my experience, one of the best ways to learn a subject is to teach it to others. Suddenly it becomes very clear how different people have different needs when it comes to being taught and how very differently each person perceives and interprets the exact same subject. The other option would be landscape design. It has structure and creativity all rolled into one.


When asked what song she would choose to play every time she walked into a room for the rest of her life, she said “Just one song? Nooooo!” but then added that actually, the answer was an easy one.


My first memory of music is from my childhood. I recall Neil Diamond, belting it out on an old 8-track tape player in my dad’s VW Beetle. While I just love anything Neil Diamond, the particular song that always speaks to my type Five soul is “I am, I said..!”. When I hear the song, the story in my head is that of loneliness, being torn between who I am and who the world wants me to be, feeling invisible and not belonging anywhere.


“I am, I said…I am, I cried…I am, said I” is a declaration that I am here, I am relevant, I count and just because I’m quiet doesn’t mean that I don’t know, don’t care or haven’t thought about it.


Dustine went on to present me with the lyrics, which I thought was beautiful and so applicable to her type Five soul.


L.A.'s fine, the sun shines most the time

And the feeling is "lay back"

Palm trees grow and rents are low

But you know I keep thinkin' about

Making my way back

Well I'm New York City born and raised

But nowadays

I'm lost between two shores

L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home

New York's home

But it ain't mine no more

"I am"... I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

"I am"... I cried

"I am"... said I

And I am lost and I can't

Even say why

Leavin' me lonely still

Did you ever read about a frog

Who dreamed of bein' a king

And then became one

Well except for the names

And a few other changes

If you talk about me

The story is the same one

But I got an emptiness deep inside

And I've tried

But it won't let me go

And I'm not a man who likes to swear

But I never cared

For the sound of being alone

"I am"... I said

To no one there

And no one heard at all

Not even the chair

"I am"... I cried

"I am"... said I

And I am lost and I can't

Even say why

"I am"... I said

"I am"... I cried

"I am"


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