A Legacy Of Leadership

Bonang Mohale’s legacy is one that leaders in South Africa should learn from. By Puseletso Mompei.

Bonang Mohale started working on 17 April 1984, entering the corporate space at a time when the country doubted black people’s management abilities and capabilities.

Despite this, he managed to realise an enviable career, occupying various executive roles including Executive Vice President at South African Airways, Chief Executive: Shared Services and Associated Companies of Sanlam, CEO of Drake & Scull Facilities Management SA, and most recently Vice President Upstream and Chairman of Shell Downstream South Africa. He has also contributed through various other positions, including as president of the Black Management Forum (BMF).

One of the things that makes Mohale stand out as a leader is how incredibly personable yet impactful he is, a quality to which Thabile Molokomme Head of Legal and Company Secretary at Shell attests. She has known Mohale since he joined Shell in 2009, and says he is an amazing leader. “I have heard him talk a number of times during his time here at Shell, at BMF functions and externally,” says Molokomme. “Each time I am left with so much inspiration. He is a very humble human being and a great motivator. I count myself blessed to have crossed paths with him during my career. He believes in me and has always pushed me beyond my limits.” Mohale’s desire to see others succeed is underpinned by his belief that leadership is about both influence and movement. “Every meeting is an opportunity to learn together, learn from one another and jointly deliver extraordinary results,” he explains. “At each meeting, we discuss, decide and do, where the mantra is ‘less paper, more insight’.”

Simon Phage, who has known Mohale since the late 1980s, says he has influenced him in various ways, one of which has been by modelling a leadership style that is characterised not only by skill and diligence, but also by immeasurable humility and humanity. Phage says, “His greatest contribution to corporate South Africa so far is continually advancing or adding value in corporate leadership. This has earned him recognition and accolades, among others being the first RSA Nation Building Champion in 2015 and receiving the Presidential Award for ‘Servanthood in South African Industry and the Economic Empowerment of Previously Disadvantaged Individuals’ in 2001”. He also points to Mohale’s current role as CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.

Mohale is pursuing transformation in all he does because he believes South Africa’s problem is not so much about lack of adequate resources as it is about a simple lack of ability to plan, lead, coordinate and organise. “Great wars are won not just by great planning but also good execution,” he says. He points out that South Africa has some of the world’s great plans; what is missing is the ability just to pick one, knuckle down, do the hard work, follow up and course correct. Mohale says his purpose in life is being a change agent – “I always have been and always will be.” A strong advocate for transformation, he says no economy can grow by excluding any part of its people and an economy that is not growing cannot integrate all of its citizens in a meaningful way. “Transformation is about fundamentally breaking with the past to create something new that bears absolutely no resemblance to the past.

Image: Bonang Mohale

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