The leadership journey of Thembalihle (Themba) Baloyi, the young 34 year old top executive at Discovery Insure, is a story of entrepreneurship and drive that tends to make the world a better place. In his personal capacity he is already the proud achiever of ten Comrades marathon medals and this is indicative of his personal tenacity and courage.
Personal leadership interviews conducted by Leadership Platform involve comparing the personal leadership journey of the leader being interviewed with the context provided from our exposure to many hundreds of other performing leaders over the years. Every interview is different because every individual is unique in their own right. But the leadership attributes we come across in the personal interviews are very often recognizable in other great performers. We found this to be the case in our interview with Baloyi. The universal nature of leadership principles is an important factor for leaders to consider in developing their own leadership style and confidence. We are all unique in our own way, yet we are all subject to universal laws and principles that determine the measure of our performance and ultimately our success.
Baloyi, in common with many other great leaders in South Africa and abroad, started off life in an impoverished area (as judged by modern standards). He grew up mostly in the Newcastle area of Kwazulu Natal under the supervision of his grand mother. She instilled in him values of independence and taking responsibility that have been basic drivers of his career.
Readiness and preparation
Baloyi received an abiding lesson from his grandmother about readiness and preparation. He embraced her council of facing all crisis situations in the same manner that some of us are prepared to face death. You can’t do anything about your death therefore it follows that if you are prepared you will face death far more readily. The same principle applies in facing the many pressure situations that any leader worth his salt has to face on a daily basis. She felt that everything except birth and death is negotiable by our actions. Interesting concept, not so? This is what we like to call a ‘seamless’ attitude! Baloyi feels passionate about preparing for readiness by proactively pondering challenging situations before they occur. This is a great principle that this young leader has learned at a very young age. When we are prepared we shall not fear, the saying goes, and this applies significantly in optimizing our leadership effectiveness.
Baloyi feels that challenges become enjoyable to face when we are prepared. Positive leaders, such as Baloyi, are usually better prepared than most others.
A major reason why Baloyi joined Discovery is that he found that the two leaders he made contact with at the time actually lived the values of the Discovery organization under Adrian Gore’s leadership. He was impressed with the manner in which these two managers ‘walked the talk’. As a qualified cost and management accountant he had other career choices at the time and was not really interested in joining Discovery. It is quite amazing what impact people can have when they live the values they profess they believe in! Our values, both negative and positive, shine from our actions, often far more than the words we speak.
Giving people a voice
Baloyi was a shy youngster and this probably contributed towards his passion to help others overcome their shyness. He speaks of having a leadership style of giving others a voice. This is a respecting and engaging kind of approach that he feels makes a significant difference in the responses and growth of others. They feel valued and this tends to bring out the best in others, not necessarily just those who report to him but others he comes in contact with as well.
Baloyi believes that if you want to dominate as a leader, then do not expect to grow personally or expect others serving with you to grow.
Recently I was told of a valuable lesson learned by a leader I am involved with. He told me of working a double shift in the mine because of a crisis situation deep underground. He wanted to show his support for his tired workers. During the long shift he got talking with his reports in a frank discussion. He was amazed at the depth and value of the ideas that his workers came out with. He says it changed his leadership attitude towards his reports. He was experiencing the advantages of what Baloyi calls ‘giving people a voice’.
Attitude towards superiors
One of the tests of great leaders is their attitude towards those who preside above them. I asked Baloyi about his feelings towards those leaders he reported to in the past and present. The old saying that a leader needs to be a follower first makes a lot of sense. It is not just the ability to follow other people, but the more important ability to follow ideas and positive values that we see in others around us. It is also about respecting the office of those who are placed above you, and differentiating between person and office. A leader that has played a major role in Baloyi’s own growth is Adrian Gore, a renowned leader who was profiled and quoted several times in this column.
Baloyi shared his feelings about a blending style of leadership. I found this concept to be relevant and inspiring.
Blend and not just mix
Baloyi used the example of a hot chocolate drink that consists of several ingredients. Considered separately, the ingredients don’t mean much. Not only should they be mixed but need to be blended in a certain way in order to result in an enjoyable hot chocolate drink. Baloyi believes our leadership attitude towards our leaders, people and situations in general require the ability to blend all the elements together. From experience we know this to be a sound principle. A blending leader tends to be a sharing and unselfish leader. A blending leader tends to reject contention in favour of positive confrontation and processes that integrate and move barriers to potential.
As part of his blending leadership style, Baloyi has a passion to seek council when he needs it. He uses resources within the organization as well as outsiders to seek counsel in tricky situations. He believes that leaders should respect their gut feelings but that such feelings may at times be dangerous. He values the input of others who may have the necessary wisdom and experience to learn from.
Themba Baloyi reflects the sharing, respecting and performing (Sharp) kind of leader that is being generated in our country. He is only 34 years of age and is already making a positive difference.
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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.