Top three CHRO interviews reveal the importance of showing vulnerability and meaningful dialogues

Leaders believe being vulnerable is a credible and authentic demonstration of humanity.

The community of HR leaders at CHRO SA often share their journeys and challenges in HR, and how they cope in their respective roles and companies. We look at the top three interviews of 2021.

Visionary Women Leader: Barloworld’s Tantaswa Fubu reflects on a tumultuous year for her and her family
Whoever said, “In every dark cloud there is a silver lining” was spot on. I doubt, though, that they foresaw the current state of the world and this terrible pandemic. Nevertheless, these words are more true for me now than when I first read them.

To say that this year has challenged me as a person and as a leader would be a massive understatement. The month of January has always been a joyous one to me because it is the month of my birth, but this year, it brought me much pain and misery, and yet ushered in the greatest gift.

On 14 January 2021, we had a cremation service for my mother’s youngest sister, u’Makazi, who really was a second mother to me. U’Makazi has always been an amazing person in my life, always there for me. She was there even when my parents disowned me because I dared to have a boyfriend when I was a second-year university student. But that’s a tale for another day.

Before we could even dry our eyes, my father took his last breath at 11.42pm – the same night. It rocked my world, because I had barely begun my journey of mourning u’Makazi. Thanks to the healing power of time, I now realise why she and my dad had to go together. They were the best of buds. Their love for each other was as palpable as their passionate disagreements.

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2. EOH’s Malisha Awunor shares why showing vulnerability as a leader matters

At a recent CHRO Community Conversation on mental health, EOH HR director Malisha Awunor raised the importance of vulnerability in leadership. CHRO SA set up time with her to explore this subject further.

Malisha believes that being vulnerable is a credible and authentic demonstration of your humanity and that it is critically important for CEOs and senior leaders to share this part of themselves frequently. She says leaders that are prepared to show their vulnerability more easily gain the trust of others, and are, in fact, more effective leaders. “Admitting our mistakes, seeking help, apologising, and acknowledging we don’t have the answers are all expressions of vulnerability.”

Malisha further explains that leaders who hold back on displaying vulnerability are often clinging to that old stereotype that a leader has to know everything and show strength – a viewpoint that makes them less connected. She believes that this misconception stems from the belief that it was necessary for women to be more like men to lead, and that showing emotion was seen as weak.

“Today from a gender perspective, women in senior management roles are tending to challenge that a bit more. But vulnerability isn’t just for women. It is not effeminate for men to show emotion and vulnerability either. It is powerful, it is honest and it is certainly welcomed by people in the business.”

Quite simply, Malisha always wants her team to be aware of her own emotions not because it is a burden and she wants them to help her shoulder them, but for them to know that expressing feelings is part of being human.

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3. Samsung’s Dr Zain Reddiar: dialogue and meaningful conversations are vital

Zain Reddiar, HR director for Africa at Samsung Electronics, believes his life skills were seasoned during his upbringing, and equipped him with the finesse to lead people from all walks of life. Having spent a considerable period outside of South Africa, Zain has brought his talent and experience back home.

“I learnt that people are at the centre of everything,” says Zain of his upbringing. “And if, as an HR head, you genuinely see your role as nothing more than being the servant of the people, that sets the tone for everything else.”

When it comes to employee engagement, he explains it’s crucial to remember that employees are multi-faceted and have unique needs. Understanding and addressing these needs in this spirit is what builds an emotional connection to the company and brand.

Communication is key, he says, as are creating dialogue and engaging in meaningful conversations.

He also emphasises the importance of doing regular pulse checks, “We are only as good as our last change. Human psychology is fascinating. Knowing what makes people tick and being able to respond adequately to that is powerful. Regular pulse checks, therefore, not only highlight areas for improvement, but also test alignment of strategies.”

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