Mentor vs Mentee: Bongi Ngoma and Tintswalo Masia

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A Q&A with mentor Bongi Ngoma and mentee Tintswalo Masia about what they’ve learned from each other.

For CFO South Africa’s annual Women’s Dinner, which is hosted in partnership with CHRO and CIO South Africa, executive women from each community are encouraged to bring along their mentees to share in the learning and networking experience.

Read more: Over 300 executive women gather to share personal stories of summiting, success and self-worth 

CFO South Africa caught up with the powerful duo of 2021 CFO of the Year and national head of audit at the Auditor-General of South Africa Bongi Ngoma (mentor) and acting deputy business unit lead at the AGSA Tintswalo Masia (mentee) to find out what they have learned from each other.

Bongi, what have been the most important things you have tried to impart to your mentee, and why?

The art of authentic leadership, essentially demonstrating how not to lose the essence of who you are especially during challenging times.

Of late, we are also looking at how to be vulnerable and courageous as you build trust as a leader. Killing the myth that vulnerability is a product of weakness but an expression of strength and authenticity.

Admittedly, showing vulnerability can pose an emotional risk but I also imparted a handbag of leadership tricks on how to use this powerful tool to build stronger, engaged teams.

Tintswalo, what have been some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt from your mentor, and how have they been useful in your development and career?

I had a session with Bongi where we looked at three principles of a good leader:

One, a leadership role is assumed and not assigned. Consequently, leadership is the art of influence embedded in the paradigm of service. She highlighted the power of being a servant leader instead of being focused on position, fancy title, fame and recognition.

Two, diligence is a compass for leadership approach. That is, you should know which quality of leadership to use for which situation. Not all conflicts will require you to be assertive: sometimes calmness is a more powerful tool to resolve the conflict. When Bongi is faced with conflict, she chooses to understand and allows people to express themselves, which can quickly shift people’s attitudes to being more collaborative. I have started using the same technique to help me solve problems.

Three, leadership is an art of influence. Leadership is not about congeniality because the reality is that not everyone will accept, or like, you as a leader and that is okay – once you understand this, you will not be offended when others resist your leadership. She emphasised that the key element to focus on, is excellence - that is, to exceed the standards consistently, and to relentlessly be of service to others. Because excellence is impactful and unforgettable, one day when there is a crisis they cannot deal with, they will remember your excellence and approach you. And so, when that happens you should be ready to serve them. That’s how you build trust.

Bongi, what have you learned from your mentee in the process? And how has it helped you as a leader?

Tintswalo has gracefully and successfully used all of these tools as she leads her team. She grabbed the bull by the horns, courageous and unafraid of crisis. Because of this, I have watched people connect with her and feel seen, valued and validated.

Tintswalo, what do you think the current generation of business leaders could learn from those who are coming up?

I think the upcoming generation of business leaders can teach the current generation about agility. Mentoring an upcoming leader presents opportunities for the current leaders to be exposed to the hurdles and stumbling blocks that didn’t exist when they were climbing up the ladder. This can help them lead with mindfulness, awareness and relevance in their own spaces.

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