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7 Questions on Leadership with Iris Motau

Name: Iris Motau

Title: People Development Professional

Organisation: The Wisdom Hub

I am a mother, wife, sister and aunt to many. My purpose in life is to make a difference where ever I find myself. I love human beings and am intrigued by the potential of human minds. Me being a Human Capital Professional and a Psychometrist is a true testament of where my calling is in life. I absolutely enjoy working with various organisations assisting them to enable individuals to be the best version of themselves and re-humanize work places. I have over 20 years of contributing to various organisations. I am a life long learner and humbled by the vast knowledge that is out there. As much as I am able to I share my knowledge and experiences and also learn from those with whom I interact with. I truly believe that life is full of possibilities, we only need to why and how do we navigate this wonderful world of our.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Iris's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Individuals in teams have specific roles through which they contribute to an organization’s success. The challenge I have encountered involves ensuring that every member of the organization understands, believes and aligns with the overarching strategic goals, regardless of what their job titles or roles are. Not all individuals believe that their contribution matters and that mindset is self-limiting and impacts the organization’s performance immensely.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My first leadership role was at High School. I was the Head Girl of Iona Convent in Pretoria, South Africa. This helped me get out of my shell somewhat as I was a shy girl. As a consultant I managed and lead Facilitators subcontracted for various roles. Which was not too bad since they were all self- managed and driven individuals. Fast forward to a time where I was working on a Skills Audit project for a client. A role opened up and I was hired as the Senior Leaning and Development Manager. This was my first corporate leadership role. I had six individuals in the team. This role humbled me and made me realize that a leader is more than the head of a department; a leader occupies so many other roles and should enable the team to perform while ensuring their growth.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I wake up 4:45 but get out of bed at 5:00, make the boys breakfast and youngest son’s lunch box. I have a cup of coffee and sit down for my quiet and prayer time. At 6:00 I go for a 20-30 minutes run or do floor exercises. At 7:40 I do the school run. At 7:00 I shower, have breakfast with hubby at 8:00. Around 8:30 I start with my work day- either online or I drive to client’s, depending what my day looks like. After my appointments I I like to read before my kids and my husband are back home. I can never read before bedtime, books and exercising stimulate me, would never be able to fall asleep if I read before bed time. I have a 21 year old daughter, a 17 year old son and an 8 year old…..there is never a dull moment in the house and lots to catch up on. I cook two to three times a week. My eldest daughter is a third year culinary student so she helps a lot. After dinner, its homework time, some family connect time then bed time. I try to journal every day but it's not possible but at least three times a week I ll journal.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I was reminded of the importance of resilient leadership and power of clear and consistent communication within teams, including all other relevant external stakeholders. Leaders must appreciate the need to develop these valuable traits in order to go through challenges, assist others to do the same. The traits come in handy when leaders are required to make tough decisions. Courageous decision making confirms a leader’s conviction in what the organisation is driving towards. Leaders not only manage tasks and deliverables, they have to inspire and guide teams towards the desired objectives

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

So many books have influenced me and made me reflect on my leadership style. But two books are on top of the list; Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead, and Ian Fuhr’ s Cultureneering. Dare to lead resonated with me because it connected the dots for me. I often wondered why some leaders were not celebrating individuals in their teams as much as they reminded them of their mistakes. I once operated in a fear based environment and I was curious where that fear originated. Brene’s book broke it down so well when it elaborated what shame artifacts are and how to courageously lead in such an organisation. Ian Fuhr’s Cultureneering book tells a story of the South African socio political history, diversity, leadership and Customer Service. What I like about the book is that the principles mentioned therein were applied by Ian himself in his businesses. It humbled me as it forced me to relook how I view individuals within teams and appreciate other nuances that are not so obvious in the work environment. The book also talks about a leader earning the ‘Moral Authority to Lead’. The Culture driven leadership mentioned therein makes a strong point of the strong link between service and organizational culture. It made me reflect on how I showed up in my role, how I impacted on individuals who serve the customers and ultimately the organization’s priorities.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Understand the business you operate in and be clear on how you and your team contribute to the organisation’s success. Self-Mastery is the beginning of being a great leader. Learn the important leadership skills of empathy, communication, resilience and adaptability. Be intentional about developing your team members while recognizing them as valuable and unique individuals.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I learnt as a Human Capital Professional to understand the business I was working in and contributed in commercial discussions. I tapped into the organization’s priorities, past failures and successes and used these as data points for continuous improvement. The more I demonstrated to business how leadership impacted on the success or failure of a specific client's project, the more open the business leaders were on leading and managing people better. As a leader, I influence collaborations within organizations and the achievement of individuals and organization’s goals. Intentional communication, resilience, empathy, courage and service driven leadership are crucial components of a dynamic leader.

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