Dr Tebogo Mashifana is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She holds a Doctoral degree in Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree. Tebogo is an advocate for education and she is the founder of Dr Tebogo Mashifana & Partners Foundation, a Non-Profit organisation focusing on community upliftment projects and empowering young people, especially women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. She has been featured in the list for Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans 2019 and a list for the 2019 Top 100 Young Independent in SADC. Tebogo is a Golden Key International Honour Society Honorary member. She serves as Institutional Advisory Board Convenor at Africa Cooperatives Institute of South Africa. She is a Lead for Publication Portfolio at Young Water Professionals (Gauteng Region). She also serves in the South African Global Change Science Committee and in a number of committees within her institution. Tebogo is passionate about research that investigates and develop solutions to address environmental pollution challenges.
Have you always had leadership qualities and are leaders born or made?
I believe one is born a leader and leaders can also be made. I am therefore a product of both, born a leader and have developed leadership skills along my journey. Growing up in a community where my parents play a significant role as community leaders, from a young age I observed and learned leadership skills. Which is a skill that developed as I matured.
Define a great leader—what are some traits you think great leaders possess?
Great leaders lead with compassion and they see beyond themselves. In their leadership, it ceases to be about them but the people they lead. They can identify hidden strengths, talents from their subordinates and willingly nature and enhance these talents. Great leaders are fulfilled when they see the skills and the seed of knowledge, they have transferred geminates to produce fruits. A great leader is one who knows his/her strengths and is aware of the areas that require improvement and is not afraid to raise his/her to say I do not know, educate me. Great leaders are willing to learn and are always hungry for knowledge.
What are some of the strategies that can help women achieve more prominent roles in their organizations?
Self-awareness of one’s strengths and areas that need improvements and the willingness to develop ourselves to acquire skills that are required for the prominent roles in our organizations. As women, it should not always be about our gender but what are we bringing on the table. We need to be willing to develop ourselves and prepare ourselves for these prominent roles in our organizations. Whatever skill needs to be enhanced, let us find ways to enhance it. If we must go back to the classroom to acquire some of these critical skills that will make us shine in these prominent roles, that is exactly what we need to do. We should be the generation that advocated for merit over gender. If you are in a leadership role, never doubt that you are best for that role, bring and give all your best to it.
Share one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career that can help others as they climb the corporate ladder?
What a waste of a life would it be, if I have learned all I have learned and acquired all the skills and knowledge just for myself. I have learned that as I rise, there are many more others who are looking up to me, raising their hands, for me to lift them up.
What are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?
We are still fighting so many battles that the women in the past have fought, but in different forms. Women are still fighting for their voices to be heard as leaders. The gender inequality, gender discrimination and patriarchy are still our reality today. In the society and system that is unjust to women, we still have it in us to strive, rise and become the best that we can be and prove the system wrong. As women we need to develop ourselves so well that where the system is unjust, our excellent work, coupled with ethics and principles can speak volumes on our behalf.
What are the 3 Pearls Of Wisdom from your journey and life in general that you’d like to share with our members to encourage them in their careers.
The ability to be and achieve anything in life is in you.
There is no system designed or “door keepers” that can successfully prevent you from being the greatness you have been destined to be.
Whenever you climb a step higher, remember there is a multitude behind you waiting for you to turn, give your hand to raise them up with you.