Legend has it that, in the Middle Ages, when participating in a joust, knights would often dedicate their performance to a lady of the court and wear something of hers, such as a scarf or ribbon, around their sleeve of armour – thus indicating to the tournament’s spectators which lady the knight favoured. This chivalrous and affectionate gesture may be the source of the saying, “wear your heart on your sleeve.”

In his play Othello, William Shakespeare used the phrase to express emotional honesty and openness. So, in its truest sense, to give the phrase real existence is to be willing to be empathetic and vulnerable while being truthful and unswerving in intention. For CEO’s Bloemfontein-based Dispute Resolution Official, Arlene Jacobs, this trait is her superpower. “In this everchanging and challenging economy of South Africa, our members face a lot of uncertainty,” she says. “They need our help to get them through the challenges – in an unfussy way – so that they can just focus on growing their company and our country.”

If she’s honest, Arlene didn’t really intend on pursuing a career in labour law. “Working in this sphere wasn’t part of my plan, but I’m grateful that this is where I ended up. I love that no two days are the same and that there are always new challenges that lie ahead. It suits my personality, and now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

Perhaps the desire for simplicity and certainty can be attributed, in part, to her youth. Arlene’s family moved around a lot when she was young, since her mother was in the banking industry. “I got accustomed to making new friends wherever we moved and having old friends everywhere,” she reports. “My mother is the most hardworking person I have ever known. She would always go above and beyond for her family. Nothing was ever too much to ask of her.” Arlene attended two primary schools and two high schools. She then went to North-West University, where she completed her LLB law degree.

Arlene’s colleagues describe her as a fun-loving, straight-talking, honest friend. “Jy maak nie ‘n moordkuil van jou hart nie,” is a phrase that comes up a lot when describing her personality. She laughs. “I can’t keep my feelings to myself!”

One thing’s for sure – apart from her Othello’esque superpower, if Arlene were a knight, she’d be wearing the ribbons of her son and husband on her sleeve. “I love being a mom and wife and spending time with my family. They are my everything!”

Heart. Meet Sleeve.