[PARTNER CONTENT] According to the Harvard Business Review, although most people at the top of organisations are men, studies show it is women who have what it takes to lead effectively. So, rather than advising female executives to act more like men to get ahead, I think society would be better served by leaders who emulate women, writes BONI MCHUNU.
I have learned that, generally, women still face many challenges in most leadership positions. Unfortunately, in South Africa today, race and gender equality are still not equitable. As a result, I need to constantly be deliberate about believing in who I am and what I am about, and do so unapologetically.
I believe I bring value to many business conversations; this is evident from the non-executive director positions I hold at some blue-chip companies in South Africa. As women, we need to take up the space and do so unashamedly once we get into leadership positions because if we don’t, nobody will. I strongly believe that I am because we are – this is the spirit of Ubuntu. Fortunately, at Kagiso Media, the business believes in women empowerment and equal opportunities for all, so I feel supported.
RELATIONSHIPS, INFLUENCE AND TRUST
Being a female leader is fulfilling because I know I can positively impact others. I know my limitations; I know when to lean on other leaders because the ‘power of the pack’ is more powerful than being alone. My philosophy is about prioritising relationships with like-minded women who have my back. In business, I have learned that people do not do business with business; they do business with the people they like and trust. This is my daily mission: to make meaningful and sustainable friendships.
In business, I have learned that people do not do business with business; they do business with the people they like and trust
My experience of leadership is that it is about an ability to influence yourself and others. As a leader, you need to have a vision and be able to communicate it efficiently. During this unprecedented time, you need to show up, especially for your team. If my team wins, I shine a spotlight on them. If they lose, I take on the responsibility and accountability as the leader.
Also, I think women need to work well together because when they do, and when they support each other, incredible things happen and so much can be achieved. We must find our voice and build a circle of trust with one another (sisterhood/power of pack). I have learned that our challenges are not unique (even though sometimes they feel alienating), so we need to constantly reach out because our hurdles are similar and we can learn so much from others.
RESILIENCE AND BEING YOURSELF
If I could share a trait that I think encapsulates women leadership, it would be resilience. Resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword these days, but it’s a noun that is no stranger to the female being.
Resilience is my second name, and for me, it simply means the ability to bounce back from any difficult life incident. The truth is, I didn’t get to this point in my professional career without stumbling blocks. I got here because I fell, many times, but dusted myself off, stood up and emerged even stronger. That is what resilience means to me, and it’s a common thread I see in the women I meet today. Covid-19 has shown us flames; I have lost friends, relatives, and colleagues. When the pandemic started, it was about numbers, but as time progressed, Covid-19 became about the people we know and the business losses we have suffered.
I strengthen my resilience through these five things: self-care, mindfulness, being present in the moment, positive relationships – especially with my family, and living my purpose
As a working mother, I have had to juggle being a parent, a home-based school teacher and an executive of a leading media brand in KwaZulu-Natal, and I’ve had to do so successfully. I strengthen my resilience through these five things: self-care, mindfulness, being present in the moment, positive relationships – especially with my family, and living my purpose.
Building a resilient team is one of the best defences any leader can have against adversity. Resilient organisations are those that successfully bounce back from all the adversity we have experienced as South Africans or global citizens at large.
So, my advice to young women is to be yourself. Then, you need to understand the corporate game. For me, that means understanding that there is no secret to success; it is the result of preparation, hard work and picking yourself up every time you fall. It is not about the moments when you feel that you’ve failed, but rather about the moments that shape you, the moments when you lift your head and smile in the face of adversity because you know who you are and that there is no one like you – and that is your distinctiveness. Remember, if you try to be somebody else, the universe will not be able to locate you.
As women leaders, we need to know our limitations and elevate those around us, but most importantly, remain humble and true to who we are.
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