Thuli’s internal leadership compass

2016-09-25 06:07
Thuli Madonsela

Thuli Madonsela

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The idea of female leadership is increasingly staking its claim on the list of things working and ambitious businesswomen have to feel guilty about.

There are books to read and research papers from business institutions to peruse on your road to being a formidable boss lady.

Type in “female leadership” and Google coughs up 255 million results.

There’s everything from investigative articles and bite-sized quotes from great business minds to numbered listicles to use to cross-check your skills.

The internet is abound with insta-advice to help answer the latest burning question in an ambitious woman’s life (next to relationships and child-rearing): Am I doing leadership right?

It’s an anxiety that bubbles and fevers up in conversations I have with some of my colleagues and friends, many of them smart entrepreneurs and businesspeople.

It’s constantly swirling around me so much that I feel we all need cue cards of reminders to get things right.

“Get a seat at the table”, “lean in”, “speak up more”, “own your idea”, “don’t pick up the drudge work”.

That is excluding the arsenal of clever and funny Cookie Lyon burns you need to have at the ready for any condescending male threatening to undercut your greatness in the boardroom. Phew!

It’s a warzone, as the latest business book for working women to catch my attention attests.

Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (for a sexist workplace) says one online review is an “irreverent and academically grounded” guide that will equip you well for fighting your enemy in the workplace.

This is the male colleague who treats you like the secretary or promotes other men over you, among many transgressions.

But on the eve of the end of the tenure of the Public Protector, the ultimate workplace warrior, I’m compelled to look to Thuli Madonsela for leadership examples.

There’s something in that steadfast resolve that is grounding.

For example, Madonsela’s reactions to the long sideshow of male bravado displayed by ANC heavyweights after her release of the Nkandla report is a business case in focus.

And when it comes to the country’s biggest corruption story, she is staying on course. Sunday papers report that a look into the relationship of President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas will be one of Madonsela’s last acts as Public Protector.

Madonsela seeks to find out if the president allowed the Guptas to influence Cabinet appointments, which would be in violation of the executive code of conduct. A preliminary report could be ready by October 15, when she leaves.

In a hostile workspace where women tend to second-guess themselves – their decisions and their emotions, and their reactions and emotions to decisions – she’s a working example for trusting your internal compass.

I’m encouraged also that she is not ashamed to display the characteristics that women often feel undermine them in the workplace – softness and vulnerability.

She’s spoken about her compassion towards those who are at the receiving end of her damning findings and reports on corruption, which I sense in her press conferences.

In the vortex of books, seminars and TED Talks of what leadership is and isn’t, who has it and who doesn’t, I find calm in the definition her work as Public Protector and her character seem to suggest.

Leadership is a collection of the considered and deliberate decisions one makes every day and they have at their core the genuine interests of those you serve.

It’s an intended choice to advance the course of another woman or give a leg-up to a deserving younger colleague in as much it’s a wilful act to ignore the advancement of others or be corrupt or corruptible.

And each of us, men and women, from every industry, carry that power of influence within us.

Follow me on Twitter @joonji

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Read more on:    thuli ­madonsela  |  jacob zuma  |  nkandla  |  feminism

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