Finance experts elaborate on the importance of having authenticity

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CFOs emphasise that leaders in the finance world should lead with authenticity at this year's Finance Indaba.

On 20 October, the National head of Audit of South Africa (AGSA) Bongi Ngoma urged financial leaders at the Finance Indaba to lead with authenticity to get high performing teams.

She added that leaders should always choose ethics over any pressure from government, politics or executives. "When you are a leader, you need to be able to push back when you are asked to do anything that doesn't resonate with your ethics and values,” she said. “Push back. Let ethics be your licence to trade.”

She mentioned that a leader must be an individual that services their people. She added that because finance leaders are governed by laws and ethics it was important to be able to create a connection between those they led.

Averen Deonanan of Flight Centre Travel Group SA added that leaders must be self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses. He urged financial leaders to lead with empathy and show vulnerability to their team members.

“Leaders need to show compassion, and lead with both the heart and the mind, because your team is going through whatever you are also going through,” he said.

Averen added that leaders must be accessible, and build connections: if you want people to connect with you, you must invite them to talk about themselves.

Bongi asserted that a great leader must ensure that they build the esteem of their team members. She added that leaders must normalise praising their team members and providing constructive feedback.

“Before you criticise your team members, you must care, so you must be deliberate about praising people. Don’t wait for the key performance index to praise people,” she said.

Brad Wentzel of Douglasdale Dairy, said his leadership style was shaped through making mistakes. He mentioned that his journey went through pruning and learning to discover himself.

For Brad, leadership should not be one-dimensional, but multi-dimensional, to allow room to expand the leader. “I made a lot of mistakes which made me believe in investing in myself, and learn through reading and listening to podcasts,” he said.

“I learnt to take criticism from my team, which empowers them to know that they have a voice, and that keeps me grounded, because it reminds me that I am not perfect. Authenticity in South Africa is very important, and we must be able to take criticism.

Steps to achieve authenticity
For Brad, improving yourself through attaining knowledge puts a leader in a positive position. “You need to read and improve yourself in your field, get as much information and learn more about yourself, because if you don’t invest in yourself, you will have no direction,” he said.

Averen said the steps needed to achieve authenticity are that leaders need to take time to know themselves and where they are coming from and where they are going. “Interact with people, learn from them and improve yourself,” he said.

For Bongi, achieving authenticity comes through sharing knowledge of what your leadership style is and how to navigate that style so you can produce productive team members. “If you are an inspirational leader, then you know that your team can be highly performing, and you can transfer the skills of authenticity, because authenticity can be taught,” she added.

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