‘’People need to read you, to read how you walk, how you talk, how you relate to others, how you lead in the community and most importantly in your own family. Model!’’
Leaving the financial sector after 13 years to set up on your own must have been a big step especially as you were dealing with some personal grief as well. What gave you the courage and strength to make this move?
Wow, how did you know this? You take me back 8 years ago when I lost the only baby girl I was meant to have. She was a still born baby. Her name was going to be Jael Debora Mkunu. We were left heart broken. As I grieved, I came to the realization that there was still life ahead of me and I was still blessed by God. I was the mother of 2 little boys and a wife to a man that needed me to be strong. The realisation of that blessing gave me the courage to get up and continue the journey.
Influential leadership is a key focus of your organization, the Leading Women of Africa. Why influential leadership?
I believe that leaving a legacy is the key purpose of our journey on earth as humans. This is not a religious talk, it is a reality, 50 years from now, the majority of those reading this interview will no longer be around. The question that I ask every single person is “ what would you want to be remembered for after you are gone? If one can clearly answer that question, they would realize that God sent us on earth for a purpose and we need to fulfil our purpose before returning to him. That purpose is to influence others and leave a memorable impact.
You define your own purpose as ‘’to leave a lasting legacy on the African continent, to see the rise of more visionary leaders’’. What’s your model for achieving this?
You are indeed challenging my leadership here! (smile!). I believe there is no other way of influencing others than to live as if you were a book. People need to read you, they need to read how you walk, how you talk, how you relate to others, how you lead in the community and most importantly in your own family. Model! Be GENUINE to yourself and people will automatically be influenced by you, sometimes without you even knowing it. That is the key to fulfilling your own purpose and destiny while leaving a lasting legacy.
Helping African women come into their own is prominent in your vision. What specifically are you doing in this area and what example would you like to set through yourself in this quest?
I believe in the potential of women of Africa, potential to play a significant role in the regeneration of this continent; potential to positively impact their respective families. They have been doing it for ages, naturally. In this age all women need awareness of their potential and use that potential. Through every programme that I design and implement, I want to showcase the potential of African women especially in the area of their own economic empowerment. I believe that when a woman is economically empowered, she has a voice and choice. My mission through the programme that I run is to create environments where women can empower themselves economically.
What’s been most challenging for you to date in this vision, how have you overcome them and what would you say have been the notable milestones in your personal leadership journey?
I think for me the challenging part of my journey is the fact that I was called to create my own leadership path out of nothing. I did not come from a prominent family, I had led no one before… all of a sudden I was called “President” of Leading Women of Africa. I had no mentor, no coach, I had to learn everything on my own. But believe me, I will never trade this experience, as painful and as difficult as it is.
Many women aspire to launch their dream as you are doing but are scared or just can’t seem to make it happen. What would your advice be to them?
I have learnt a couple of lessons in my journey. One important one is “be prepared” for a brand new change in your life. A dream is like a baby that needs to be nurtured, to be provided for… even if that feels like sacrifice. Like any baby will need to grow before becoming independent and self-reliant so is a dream or a vision. If you are not ready to adjust your life style during the beginning of the implementation of your dream, you will easily give up. So, before launching your dream, visualize how this will affect your personal life, your family life including the financial implications. If you are convinced that you are ready to face all the challenges that will come then go ahead. If not, hang on! mature a bit, then try again! All I can tell you is that if you can reach the place where you are able to nurture that ‘baby’ to maturity the rewards will come.
How do you assess the impact of all your efforts and what feedback are you getting about the difference you are making in leadership and women’s empowerment?
Full impact is hard to assess at the moment, but I believe soon I will be able to know the impact of my works through research that I will be conducting in my work. I am receiving enormous amount of feedback from people that have experienced my leadership through various activities including through leadership training.
What would you say are the traits and habits that have enabled you make so much progress since you established LWA in 2008?
I have come to realise that what I am doing now is part of my life purpose. If there is one thing I strive for it is to ensure I have fulfilled my purpose before I leave earth. This for me is my biggest motivator no matter how difficult the journey is, and I mean difficult (because leadership is a very lonely journey). Whenever I remember that I am doing this not because someone is paying me to do it, but because I am fulfilling my own destiny, I wake up daily with a new reason to face the day. Secondly, my personal relationship with the Lord plays a very important role on my journey.
On hindsight, if you were to give yourself advice for the time when you started, what would that advice be and why?
I would urge myself to be financially prepared first before jumping into a new idea with no financial back up. I have had to make a lot of sacrifices and adjustments. But all is in the past now, I press for what is ahead in the future.
What’s the next level for Madelein?
Wealth creation for women. I want women of Africa to be economically empowered and not to continue to depend on aid and charity! Join me at the LWA Champions Awards & Women’s Economic Summit in Durban, on 3rd December 2015 to hear more about a new revolutionary project I will be embarking on.
For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.