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Role Models

Interview with Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg

By 30 January 2020February 3rd, 2020No Comments
Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg talks about leadership for SWinG
Together We Build Dreams

There is not one moment that makes you a leader, it happens during the journey.

Role Model ID Card
  • Name:Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg
  • Country: The Netherlands
  • Organisation: NOC * NSF
  • Elected position: President
  • How long have you been in your current position? 6 months (as of December 2019)

To begin with, please tell us a little about yourself.

Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg: “I am from a warm family, with 3 brothers. I’m the youngest, but not spoiled. My parents had a shoe store and had to work hard to raise 4 kids. So we had to help out at home from a very young age. The family motto was: “Do it today, so you don’t have to do it tomorrow”… just get things done, don’t leave it tíll tomorrow what you can do today. It gives you more time in your head and in your agenda.
Me and my brothers all played handball at national elite level. I think at one point we all trained 4 times a week in the evening. You can imagine how big the laundry has been.
I then became an auditor, worked for the government and the private sector. First as assistant accountant with PwC and latest as CEO of Baker Tilly Netherlands.
I’m happily married to Ron. We have 4 kids, they all play handball…and we are also a warm family.”


Can you tell us about your “Why”  and how you came to leadership position?

AvZ-N: I get up everyday because I’ve a beautiful family to live for and therefore I try to make every day the best day of my life. As for the reason I have been chosen to lead… You should ask this to the people surrounding me. I don’t believe that things cannot be done, I don’t like to complain. I just try to make things better and the best way to do that is to take initiative and get things done. Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill, be realistic and take action. So I think people rely on me getting things done, no loose promises.”


What is it you want to achieve and what made you decide on your professional and personal pathway?

AvZ-N: “I want to make things better for everyone, especially through sport. I took my changes and did the things I believed in. And I did those things with all my passion, with focus and by staying close to myself.”


How do you overcome barriers and achieve your goals? How do you keep up with the fast-changing society?

AvZ-N: “I overcome barriers by just being sincere and motivated, and always with respect to other people. I do cope with thee stress of the environment by just keeping my head cool. The only thing you must do…is going to the toilet, for all the other things you’ve a choice: do it today, do it tomorrow or don’t do it…

Having 4 kids around keep you intuned with the fast changing society. Listen carefully, don’t judge too fast, and sometimes give other thoughts or ideas space to develop into something new and exciting.”


Who inspires you? And why?

Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg: I don’t know how this works. I get inspired by people who are dedicated and believe in the things they do. Last but not least, I also get inspired by people who overcome things in their lives and make the best out of it, no matter what happens to them.

As for who supported and challeged me, I think my family, but also people like Marijke Fleuren and Els van Breda-Vriesman. They challenge me every time I see them, but they also give me the faith that I can rely on my own compass.

I have o say I make allies with men and women by listening, respecting andgiving them space to operate. I also provide positive coaching, not judging other opinions upfront and most of all give people attention..that pays back 100 times.”


What kind of resources has proven to be the best help throughout your journey ? And where did you find them?

AvZ-N: For me it is always about believing in your goals and share the journey with the people around you. Keeping myself in good condition (physical workouts) helps me, makes me feel at ease.”


Where do you act as a leader and where do your priorities lie as a leader?

AvZ-N: At all times. You cannot take a leave…people always look at you as the leader, so be as normal as possible, then you don’t play a role, ut you are the role.

My priority is to make people around me better than they were before…If I can work with strong people, then I become a stronger leader.”


When did your leadership story begin and where is it now?

AvZ-N: My journey never stops…I will try to do it better every day.

I think you grow in your role, so there is not one moment that makes you a leader, it happens during the journey. I have no ultimate goals, over the years you get more balanced and you develop yourself to a higher level, I guess. It’s not something that I precisely plan, but it is just what happens.”


What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome in your election journey? How did you overcome it?

AvZ-N: Raising my finger… saying I want to do this. I overcame it by having a good conversation with my family and some dear friends.”


Finally, what words of advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Anneke van Zanen-Nieberg: “Challenge yourself, don’t be afraid to learn things step by step (and don’t be afraid to make failures – it’s not about a failure, but it’s about learning where you can do better), starting at the bottom of the ladder… hold your balance between family/friends, work and sports. And then for yourself: follow your passion – stay focused – be yourself and enjoy the journey.”


Are you curious to read more about why women in elected decison making position is a hot topic of sport governance? Have a look here.

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