Talking authentic leadership in business with Nonkululeko Gobodo

"Leadership is all about providing a vision and a direction for the organisation and the ability to inspire people to go there with you," and other lessons from an experienced leader


South Africa's political leadership may be in question, an issue that Kay Vittee, the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions - one of the country's leading staffing solutions provider - highlights in a recent article titled Why business ethics and principled leadership matter now more than ever - reminding entrepreneurs of the importance of good leadership in organisational performance. 

As the head of a business, business owners are required to not only inspire others, but to also show accountability. This is according to Nonkululeko Gobodo who is CEO and head of leadership consulting of Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, an organisation that focuses on leadership development. She was also one of the key founders of South Africa's largest black owned accounting firm, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, which she left in 2014. 

Mthatha-born Gobodo became South Africa's first black women to qualify as a chartered accountant in 1987. She later went on to establish Gobodo Incorporated, an audit and advisory firm which later merged with Sizwe Ntsaluba VSP to become SizweNtsalubaGobodo.

In a revealing interview which forms part of Moneyweb and FNB's Business leadership series, Gobodo shares her leadership insights.  

"Leadership is all about providing a vision and a direction for the organisation and the ability to inspire people to go there with you," says Gobodo

"People are looking up to you and at every juncture in the organisation, or the growth of the organisation, you have to provide that leadership," she adds.  

"Step forward and provide the kind of leadership that will avert disaster"

The leadership calling 

Gobodo's first leadership experience was at the age of 13 when she would take over responsibility for her parent’s tuck shop during school holidays. That early exposure would spark a lasting passion for leadership development and organisational growth.

Professionally, she got her start at KPMG, which is one of the global big four professional services networks where she started out as an article clerk (now referred to as a trainee accountant), she rose up the ladder and would eventually become manager, before her departure. In the interview she details how she declined an the opportunity to become partner at the firm in favour of pursuing other personal and professional development goals.

Gobodo went on to join the Transkei Development Corporation - where she honed her leadership skills as a senior manager and where she was responsible for restructuring the company and mentoring some of the staff. This experience Gobodo says, helped her realise that her passion was in leadership rather than accounting. And that she found joy in witnessing growth in her staff that she had helped to develop.

"Leadership has always been a passion of mine and I must say that I never really quite enjoyed being an accountant. What I really enjoyed were the developmental issues in terms of growing a business and the leadership," says Gobodo.

There is however a difference between leadership and management, she says. Leadership requires resilence, and compared to management which entails overseeing the completion of tasks, leadership, she says, requires the development of vision.

Watch: Gobodo on the importance of keeping people at the centre of any leadership strategy, and the fundamentals that every effective leader should have in their arsenal. 

1. Develop your own people
Gobodo says failure to develop your team of capable individuals will leave a leader not only overloaded with work, but also overwhelmed. The ability to delegate is one of the cornerstones of effective leadership, she says. Speaking of her own personal experience, Gobodo says she avoids micro managing people, choosing instead to allocate responsibility to her team.

2. Make room for your team to express themselves
No one wants to work with a stifling leader, say Gobodo. Her suggestion is for leaders to remain open to diverse opinions in order to seize opportunities. The loss of talent in most organisations can be as a result of an autocratic leader.

"Leadership is all about providing a vision and a direction for the organisation and the ability to inspire people to go there with you"

3. Different companies need different leadership styles
There is no one way to lead, says Gobodo, in order to be effective, a leader must respond to their circumstances.

"You need to have the right leadership and the right rules depending on the maturity of the organisation at the time," says Gobodo.

4. Align organisational strategy and culture to your leadership strategy
Clearly defining the culture of an organisation is vital to achieving a common goal, says Gobodo. Failure to set the rules of operation can cause costly miscommunication, an example of this is leaders at different levels of an organisation steering the ship in different (and sometimes even opposite) directions. 

"Our passion at Nkululeko Leadership Consulting really is all about aligning leadership strategy to the organisational strategy [and] culture because if you don’t align those that’s where things go wrong" says Gobodo.

5. In a catastrophe be the hero
Gobodo is clear that leaders have nowhere to hide, particularly during difficult times. This is not the time to suddenly flee or throw in the towel. "Step forward and provide the kind of leadership that will avert disaster," she says.

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