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7 Questions on Leadership with Yolanda Mabuto

Name: Yolanda Mabuto

Title: Managing Director

Organisation: Divaine Growth Solutions

Yolanda Mabuto is a global renewable energy executive, an ex Managing Director Project Development at Genesis Energy UK. Mabuto is also the founder of Divaine Growth Solutions, a female-led organization with projects focusing on manufacturing solar panels, building and developing solar farms and deploying electric buses and charging station infrastructure in South Africa. Mabuto also serves as a judge for Milken-Motsepe Green Prize, the Executive Director of Africa Institute of Small Scale Mining; Chairperson of South African Institute of Electrical Engineers: Entrepreneurship & Innovation; an Accredited Angel Investor through The World Business Angel Investment Forum; a BRICS Energy and Green Economy Group member; founding member of World Women Empowerment; and Association of Municipal Electricity Utility – Women in Electricity. She has previously held senior leadership roles at Eskom and the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities. She is a multiple award winner and recently named the top 50 power list of Pan African female leaders in the energy sector.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Leadership comes with various challenges that require effective navigation and problem-solving skills, for me, one of the challenges has been balancing autonomy and control, striking the right balance between giving team members autonomy and maintaining control over key aspects of a project can be challenging. I don’t believe in micromanaging as it can stifle creativity, while also, too much autonomy may lead to inconsistent outcomes. However, as a leader this is what a had to juggle with and master for teams’ excellent performance.

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

Leadership is about continuous, intentional, and ambitious growth and the ability to inspire and guide others toward shared goals. My leadership journey started at Eskom Holdings in South Africa where I had an opportunity to lead teams and certain projects. This gave me insights into leadership and ability to grow into more leadership roles within and outside the organization. I realized that leadership is an ongoing journey of learning and adapting therefore I enrolled for management courses at UCT Graduate School of Business to obtain academic leadership skills and expansion of my network, this helped me to stay curious and evolving with industry changes, and continuously honing my leadership skills.

My leadership evolved as I volunteered in several industry organizations like Association of Municipal Electricity, South African Institute of Electrical Engineers Innovation and Entrepreneurship and BRICS Energy and Green Economy. Through this combination of experiences, I gained more confidence and personal development and expanded networks. My early career experience in Eskom helped me develop a strong foundation in the energy field. I volunteered and nominated for challenging projects with additional responsibilities, and this helped me to demonstrate a proactive attitude toward my problem-solving and leadership skills. In my journey of leadership, I became an expert in a particular domains in the energy and renewable sector. I gained this expertise through years of experience, specialization, and a commitment to staying updated on industry trends. In my leadership journey I also learned that leadership is not only and just about tasks; it's also about people. Building strong relationships with colleagues, superiors, and subordinates has been a crucial and intentional move for effective leadership. I also devoted myself to seeking mentors from experienced leaders within the sector who could provide valuable guidance and direction.

Learning from my mentors who has offered insights and shortcuts to leadership traits. I also realized that accepting and excelling in my roles was a crucial steppingstone to higher global leadership positions. I have faced challenges but through support I managed to navigate through obstacles and inspire others to overcome difficulties. Leadership is an ongoing journey of learning and adapting, as a successful leader I understand the importance of staying curious, evolving with industry changes, and continuously honing my skills to stay relevant.

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

I believe as a leader it is important to create and maintain a structured day that can contribute to productive and healthy work-life balance. I consistently wake up at 5am and meditate in prayer for an hour and do home exercise. This sets me up to a positive tone and help me prioritize my daily tasks. The first thing I do is to tackle high-priority tasks during your most productive hours, which are early mornings. I tackle less intensive tasks in the afternoon, like administrative work, responding to less urgent emails. Spending quality time with family and maintaining healthy diet helps me to recharge. I always reflect on the day's achievements and challenges; I celebrate any small wins and reflect on all challenges and set them as lessons learned.

I believe in prioritizing my tasks based on importance and deadlines, this helps me to ensure that I get to attend to every task. I also communicate my work schedule and availability with my assistant and other colleagues so that should there be a need to be reminded they do so. I stay hydrated, eat balanced meals, and incorporate regular breaks to maintain healthy energy levels.

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

As a leader I have learnt the importance of adaptability and flexibility, as leaders we are faced with fast-paced and dynamic environment that requires a high degree of adaptability. A recent lesson that emphasized the importance of being flexible and open to change was covid19. Also, as a leader I have learnt to embrace change as it normally leads to opportunities for growth and helps in developing resilience to navigate through uncertainties and setbacks. Lastly, empathy and humble leadership during challenging times has been a great lesson in my leadership journey.

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?

As a Christian and a highly spiritual person I read the bible alot and I draw lessons from the book. I believe it has several leaders who faced great challenges and overcame them with faith and endurance. As a 21st century leader I draw wisdom from the book, and it helps me with transformation. I have leant about leaders who knew how to do what’s right, leaders who knew how to embrace change and navigate the unknown territories. They endured challenges despite circumstances they faced. I believe even today we need leaders that can rise to the occasion and take initiatives for the benefit of their followers and the next generation. Lastly, I still believe in servant leadership because it helps me to focus on the purpose and empathy for my followers.

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

Stay true to your dreams, never allow anyone to tell you that your dreams are not possible.

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

I have been privileged enough to be nominated as a judge for a number of start up competition across the globe and particularly for African Start Ups. This has opened my eyes into the realities of the global sectors, challenges and opportunities. The recent story is the Milken Motsepe Green Tech Competition which provides a platform to add value into Africa's energy landscape through innovative and life changing opportunities for both women and youth.

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