Learning about leadership through personal experience

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My name is Sholpan Zhaksybaeva. I have come from Kazakhstan. I graduated from the journalism school at Kazakh National University. I worked as reporter and correspondent for several newspapers and TV stations. I worked as Editor-in-Chief of the National newspaper “Stolitsa”, and I lectured on journalism and mass media in Kazakh-American University. In 2005 I became the executive director of the Kazakhstani National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
Our association is a union of more than 60 independent TV and radio stations. In a country like Kazakhstan, where the media landscape is dominated by state-controlled mass media, it is very important to develop alternative sources of information so people can have access to different sources of information and viewpoints.

When I joined this association it was just a branch association similar to hundreds other ones in Kazakhstan. It was more focused on creating a positive image with authorities rather than keep the government accountable. When I became the executive director, my journalism background helped me to make deep changes in the association. First I redirected the mission of the association by putting special emphasis on plurality of information, freedom of speech, demonopolization and mass media standards. After one year under my supervision 60 % of the association’s members wanted me to resign, but a few people on the Board of Association valued my efforts in changing the strategy of NAB and wanted to keep me in my position.

A few years later, NAB was included into the main influential governmental commission in broadcasting. I was the first representative of civil society in it. Even though I was a member of the commission, I never stopped critiquing the activity of the government in the realm of broadcasting. I made a lot of addresses to the General Prosecutor, President of Kazakhstan, OSCE reporting on the facts violations of the law and mass media standards that may threaten the democratic development of mass media in our country. The association became, in some degree, an opponent of the government, but over time they began to understand our mission and considered our critiques constructive. At the moment the association is a member of two governmental commissions and several governmental workshops. The association is considered to be one of the influential NGOs in Kazakhstan, and I am very proud that my contributions lead to a great result.

I shared this example from my personal background to illustrate that leaders may sometimes face obstacles. If leaders believe in their ideas then they should not give up and should follow their personal convictions because eventually the ice will be broken and great positive changes will happen.

4 Comments on “Learning about leadership through personal experience”

  1. Dear Sholpan,

    This is a great blog post! I admire very much your bravery and conviction in all of the work that you have done – and will continue to do. You are very brave for the work you did as a NAB executive director, and it is wonderful that you continued to work hard even when other people wanted you to resign.

    It says a lot about you being such a hard worker that the Board of Association wanted to keep you around as a leader. I really like what you have said about leaders facing obstacles. Certainly it is true that all powerful leaders will face some struggles – but the best ones prevail and make great changes and improvements. It seems to me you are an example of a leader, and your hard work creates positive results!

    -Emily Nichols

    1. Hi, Emily! Thank you for appreciation. I think that my previous journalistic experience helped me a lot, i developed as a person namely through journalism, that gave me understanding of some fundamental things about life and society. Yes, there were a lot of challenges and obstacles, but after minutes, hours, days of desperation and reflection, I always overcame them. My family, my friends, my colleagues helped me. There were moments 3-4 years ago when being tired of such a tension job I wanted to leave NAB. And guess who asked me not to go? People who few years ago wanted me to resign. Certainly now we are friends and sometimes we laugh remembering that dramatic events. Life is unpredictable 🙂

  2. Sholpan,

    Very cool story here. I rest easy knowing that their are professionals like you in the world who will not be put off by oppressive opposition. You demonstrate excellent character and tenacity in the face significant pressure. I hope the people that work for and with you appreciate your efforts. Overall, I am impressed with the progress you have made in Kazakhstan and am certain you will continue to be a catalyst for positive change that will in turn inspire future leaders.



  3. Hi, David ! Thank you for your comment! I came to this association to have a rest from active journalism career. Instead of rest i had gotten the more challenging job. But i don’t sorry about these years. Our association did job that nobody might do better. In some degree I made contribution into the development of civil society in our country and it makes me happy.

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