By: Thusang Mahlangu, CEO, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty Africa
What is your favourite leadership style?
I don’t think I have a favourite. I think people have a default style, based on who they are as a person. I probably use a democratic style, valuing team member input. It really depends on the people or person you are dealing with. If there is a crisis for example, with an inexperienced team, you have to shift to a more autocratic, directive style. If they are experienced, then you can use the democratic style. So, it is the audience and yourself.
What shaped you as a leader?
I have to go back to my formative years in high school and university. Team sport and being a captain is some teams, showed me what leadership is all about. My coach in the first team rugby inspired us with his way of showing us a vision and so did my Ministry leader. In the business world, I have always been curious of leadership styles. I observed all the leaders. I can name all the CEO’s I worked under. I studied their styles, behaviours, body language, what they do well, and what I could learn from them.
When it comes to mentorship, do you think we ever reach a point where we do not need a mentor?
At this level it is probably more about coaching rather than mentoring. Middle management mentorship is a no-brainer to grow as a leader. Once you are the leader of a large business, you need coaching. I am a member of YPO. When you join, you become part of a small group and meet in a confidential environment, providing each other with guidance and support. Coaching is something that I can continuously benefit from to challenge and support my personal style of leadership.
When it comes to adversity, what do you think is the most difficult for individuals to deal with?
Going with my heart, I would say losing a loved one is probably the biggest one we can face. However, time heals all.
South Africa and the African continent are very diverse places, which will be reflected in the make-up of teams. How do you manage the diverse needs that different team members will have?
Relating back to my background and leadership position, my school had very diverse learners from many countries. I had an opportunity to connect with all of them. Through this I started appreciating diversity. I have travelled to many countries met different people and made a point of learning how to greet them in their own language. People really appreciate the effort and it creates instant connection. It was Mandela who said, “talk to a man in his language and you talk
to his heart”.
It’s all about making the effort to relate to the person and identify who they are.
What do you love most in your leadership position?
The challenges of leadership are not for everyone. You must enjoy taking on challenges and to endure pressure. You must be able to see opportunities by going outside of your comfort zone. I love the complexity that comes with this.
Lastly it’s about learning about myself. As a leader I am exposed, which challenges me growing me to be a better person. That is the constant personal challenge.