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Updated 20 Oct 2020

Nonkululeko Gobodo on leadership that brings change

Whether you want to build an organisation that changes an industry, or make a difference in your community, there are five core leadership traits that will help you change the world. 

Nadine Todd, 04 September 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Leadership and success start with your attitude, and how you approach your dreams, goals and the needs of your teams. Entrepreneurial powerhouse Nonkululeko Gobodo, co-founder of SizweNtsalubaGobodo and current CEO at Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, shares her insights into embracing an attitude that can change the world.

You have the choice to make a difference in your community, organisation and even the world. The power is in your hands – you just need to embrace it.

1. Dream the next dream

“Even though I was brought up in a middle class family of business people, there were always constraints in South Africa; walls reminding us of things we couldn’t do as black South Africans. I chose not to let that stand in my way. I looked for the things that I could do; ways that would give me the opportunity to prove everyone wrong. I told myself I could launch a business, and I did. Then I told myself I could grow that business, and we did.

“First to 20 partners, with 200 employees, and then to 55 partners with over 1 000 employees. I had to push my partners to think about how we could push the boundaries as black accountants.  We were comfortable and successful, and my dream to be bigger and bigger meant risking everything to push this idea. But I believe that this is the essence of leadership. You need to face your fears, and help those around you to face their fears too. Together, we achieved greatness.”

Related: Developing leadership ability

2. Conquer your fears

“The first step to conquering fear is to believe that your dreams have value. It takes courage to pursue a dream, which is why it’s so important to believe in not only the dream, but the right to have that dream. In my experience, things work out; they fall into place. The power of fulfilment is in the dream already – you just need to let it out and allow it to do its work. 

“I always think about babies. They’re conquering challenges every day – without fear. They’ve got an inborn determination to naturally take on challenges; they don’t let fear stop them. We grow up and take things so seriously. We stop trusting our instincts, body and mind, and we let fear influence how we approach things. Instead, we need to embrace life with all its ups and downs, and face challenges head on.”

3. Make a difference

“We always have a choice. As individuals, citizens and business owners, we can choose how we want to approach a situation and make a difference in our companies and communities. 

“We all care about the future, which is why as South Africans, instead of focusing on diversity, we should focus on healing. We can’t rely on Government to fix everything for us. We need to heal this country from a place of forgiveness. We can all be leaders, and we need to face our past and move forward. A healthy country that works is in all our best interests. 

“I believe that everyone has value. If you truly want to be a leader, respect the poor for the contribution they are making, because everyone has the ability to not only contribute, but make a difference in society. Recognize and respect it. Don’t ignore it. These are people who are doing the things that we are not prepared to do. They deserve our respect. They are also valuable members of a market with buying power.” 

Related: What leadership style are you and will it get results?

4. A company is one living, breathing organism

“Team effectiveness, leadership effectiveness, and the operational model all work equally towards ensuring success. You can’t succeed without an integrated approach. You can’t look at leadership, culture and strategy separately. They are all one thing. They all affect and influence each other. 

5. Your personality influences your leadership style

“Personality traits guide you when you choose your career. As a society, we tend to reward those who excel at their chosen careers with leadership roles. Can we expect that being good at what your do automatically makes you a good leader? We need to spend more time evaluating leadership, and what makes a good leader.

“Perhaps you are very empathetic, but you can’t have hard conversations. The result is a leader with a team who has no accountability. Or you might be good at coming up with new ideas, but bad at getting them off the ground and making decisions. 

“Others are decisive and strive for results, but poor with people. Leaders need to remember that you want to reach a destination with your people, not without them. This was a lesson I had learn myself. I was always so busy pushing us to reach my vision, that I forgot I needed to get my whole team there with me, or I wasn’t making the difference I wanted to make. 

“Leadership is a learnt skill. Some are better than others, but if we can take a step back, critically evaluate ourselves and then focus on what the leadership role needs, rather than our own default positions in getting things done, we can have a far more positive impact on those around us. Always remember that your people are trying to cope with your leadership style. You need to meet them half way. The cost of poor leadership is too high.”

Related: The evolution of leadership


Is leadership something you’re born with, or can it be learnt? With enough self-awareness, anything can be learnt. Focus, dedication and harnessing your fears can mean the difference between an ordinary life, and a life of greatness.

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Nadine Todd

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