Profile – Siphesihle Koikoi
‘What I do counts towards the vision’
Koikoi is the Investor Relations Executive at Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), where she is responsible for integrating core capabilities within L2D to enable the most effective two-way communication between L2D and its stakeholders.
As a leader, Koikoi is determined to help L2D reach new heights. One of the ways she does this is through offering inspired leadership and allowing her colleagues to be the best they can be, so that creative thinking – a prerequisite for a young and dynamic company such as L2D– can continue to throb throughout the organisation. “The most important decision I make every day at L2D is to offer everyone an opportunity to do more than what they have been contracted to do. To help them imagine the infinite possibilities that exist in life when you take a chance and try something new,” Koikoi says.
Consequently, she believes in helping create a “safe environment where people feel safe to share” and, contrary to what one many think of a corporate leader, making life at work “pleasant for everyone I interact with”.
For this inspired leadership stance, Koikoi draws on her past work experience at Standard Bank. “During my career at Standard Bank I was privileged enough to be mentored by people who had a strong belief in what we can do when we work together,” she says. “They taught me the importance of treating others fairly and with kindness whether they had power to influence your career or not. One of the key things my line manager, Antoine Gerin, used to say was that people spend a lot of time at the office and it was his duty not to make their lives miserable.”
Koikoi keenly understands that how she treats others is a reflection of the company’s core values, which, in turn, “drive how we execute our mandate and vision”. “Core values drive how we treat one another and our external stakeholders. These values are communicated through our actions,” she says.
But how does she, as a leader, encourage others within the organisation to communicate these core values? “People communicate what they believe in. When the core values are developed together, you won’t even need to encourage people to communicate them, they will just live the values they believe in.” Which is why Koikoi doesn’t believe “you can help a person understand the culture; insight is only gained through observation and interaction”.
Regardless, as a leader, Koikoi makes sure that everyone, herself included, understands how they slot in within the big picture of fulfilling the company’s vision. “The biggest reason that keeps me motivated at work is knowing that what I do counts towards the vision,” she says. “So, as a leader, I task myself with ensuring that my people constantly understand the link of their day to day deliverables to long-term vision [of Liberty Two Degrees]”.
While she may be passionate about driving this awareness of individual actions and the fulfilment of larger organisational goals, Koikoi also adopts a laissez-faire approach in her management style. For example, she doesn’t believe in “wanting to be involved in everything and signing off everything”, overloading her plate. To her this is a bad trait in a manager – the fear of missing out. She doesn’t believe that a leader will necessarily have all the answers for every scenario that comes up. She inspires. She leads. She lets people be. This frees her to “read, research and try new things” to help her grow as a leader. “Recently, I’ve adopted a new technique of making a ‘not to do’ list and it frees up my time to read even more.”
Profile – Gareth Rees
‘You must be genuine and lead by example’
Gareth Rees is a Finance Executive at Liberty Two Degrees. He has a strong finance and advisory background. Rees joined STANLIB in 2016 from Merchant West and has an impressive 20 years of experience in the financial field.
He was a core member of the team that listed Liberty Two Degrees on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in December 2016 and officially joined the team as Finance Executive following the listing. He is an EXCO member and is responsible for overseeing financial reporting.
His track record makes him superbly qualified for this demanding role. To succeed, Rees knows that he must inspire his charges by living, in every way, the values that inform the culture of the organisation. He believes that “core values drive the culture of the business”. And they need to be communicated easily, he says. “We use a simple acronym ACE (Accountability, Care and Excellence) and make sure that we apply them on a daily basis,” he says.
To ensure that these values are remembered at all times, “we do set aside specific times as part of a half-yearly review process, but we also encourage this to happen more frequently and on a less formal basis”.
Overall, Rees believes that corporate leaders are the conduit to helping their charges deliver best work and fulfilling the mission of the company. For this reason, he always endeavours to connect with those he leads, always seeking to understand them. It’s a particularly useful managerial stance, given the diversity of cultural backgrounds in South Africa, which influences behaviour and worldviews. “Humility as well as an understanding and appreciation of where they have come from and the journey they have travelled,” he says.
He also appreciates corporate leadership that’s inclusive and believes that leaders lose the plot when they “become autocratic and disconnected from their teams”.
For this reason he counsels every manager to be “genuine and lead by example”. In his own space, he tries to read as much as possible about leadership in order to be a better leader and “understand my own shortcomings”. He says: “I particularly enjoy autobiographies of leaders such as Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. There is also no substitute for being led by a great leader and for practical lessons one can learn.”
Rees admits that one of the challenges of being a leader is “keeping up with the rapid pace of change”.