My sister was a dynamic leader

Throughout my career I’ve come across all sorts of managers. Few have made a huge and profound difference in my life, but others are unforgettable…

For centuries, philosophers have been pondering the concept of leadership, and capturing our imaginations with their thoughts on the ideals of leadership. It’s the process of influencing others to understand and agree what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives.

Of the four female managers I’ve worked with, two have won the “Leadership” crown. One of these was the embodiment of leadership: the late Maureen Jangulo Dlamini, a dynamic woman originally from Zambia. Everyone who knew her will tell you what an impact this woman made in many people’s lives.

At the time of her death, Maureen was the CEO of the Chamber of Mines in Zambia. She oversaw the policy and lobbying activities of the mining sector during a period of energy deficit, a tax refund crisis and an upward adjustment in mineral royalty tax. She was, reported the Lusaka Times, “a highly experienced operations executive who had demonstrated the ability to lead diverse teams of professionals successfully in competitive, fast-paced markets.”

Under her leadership at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, she entrusted me with the role of managing the launch of the Africa Board project – a platform for leading African companies to dual-list at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The launch was attended by over 800 guests from the African continent as well as locally. It was a huge success. This woman saw me as an individual and recognised my talent before she saw my disability, and allowed me to freely explore my abilities in my workplace. She was the most unselfish person I’ve ever known. She held very demanding positions but every day, without fail, went home to fulfil her wifely duties, such as cooking for her husband. I’m proud to have called her “my sister”.

Leadership is not the same as control or management; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50 percent of your time in leading yourself – cultivating your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation and conduct. Invest the rest of your time developing yourself as a mentor for colleagues and peers.

Emilie Olifant is a disability activist, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. She is the director of the Emilie Olifant Foundation, an organisation that strives to address socio-economic issues experienced by people with disabilities. email:

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