As a young chartered accountant at the age of 33, I have had my fair share of challenges, setbacks and obstacles to navigate through. But through resilience, determination and an unwavering commitment to excellence, I have been able to rise above my circumstances and become a leader in my field, as well as an advocate for women empowerment and transformation.
My journey as the chairperson of Young Leaders Connect (YLC) and of the Transformation Committee at Netcare has taught me that it’s more than a numbers game. It’s about empowering women, driving transformation, and leaving a lasting impact on those around us. In this article, I will share my personal experiences and the lessons learned from my mentors, highlighting the transformative power of mentorship and the importance of being a selfless leader and fearless thinker who empowers others.
Embracing the role of a mentor and lessons learned
Throughout my journey, I have been nurtured by the wisdom and guidance of incredible mentors who played instrumental roles in shaping my personal and professional growth. They have taught me the value of resilience, the importance of embracing my unique voice, and the power of perseverance. These lessons have not only shaped my own path but have also become key messages that I share with young women looking to make their mark in the world.
As a mentor to several young women, I emphasise the power of self-belief and encourage young women to rise above the circumstances they may face. I share my journey of hope, having overcome the challenges of being an expecting mother at the tender age of 17. Through my relentless pursuit of my dreams, I have shattered stereotypes and emerged as a fearless leader in the world of finance, becoming a chartered accountant and now holding space in places where decisions are made. My hope is that by sharing my personal story, I can inspire others to overcome adversity and forge their own paths to success.
The transformational power of mentorship
Mentorship has been a catalyst for change in my life, and even in empowering a generation of women leaders. I firmly believe that when women mentor women, incredible transformations can occur. The work of mentorship assist in bridging the gender gap and providing young women with the support, guidance, and opportunities they need to thrive. Through mentorship programmes – like the ones I am a part of at SAICA, Young Leaders Connect (YLC) and International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA) − we unleash the potential of these emerging leaders and equip them with the skills and confidence necessary to excel in their chosen fields. I have witnessed firsthand how mentorship has the power to transform lives, with one particular story standing out.
I vividly recall my own personal mentorship relationship with someone was in a completely different field to my own (not a CA): actually my mentor was an ex army general. But me being open to learning and being the forever student of life, I opened up myself to the idea of learning from someone who was in a completely exposed to different things than I usually would have, I thought I am sure there is a lot I can learn here that I don’t know. Lo and behold, I really did learn a lot!The mentorship relationship came at a time when was I was at crossroads in my career and just dealing with a very challenging situation. However, through the guidance and encouragement of my mentor, I might to navigate this situation with tact and agility, my mentor would give me practical advice and tools that helped me not only overcome the challenge but to come out on top and stand out.
I have taken the tools and techniques that my mentor taught me, and I apply these to my own mentorship relationship with my mentees.
‘Beyond you leadership’ and intentional empowerment
As leaders, it is vital that we embrace the concept of ‘beyond you leadership’. This means being selfless and fearless, sharing our knowledge, experiences, and vulnerabilities with others. By doing so, we enable those around us to learn, grow, and flourish. Leveraging my influence as a young leader, I am intentional in my efforts to empower the next generation. I believe that the value of life is measured by how much we give, and it is through empowering others that we create a legacy that extends far beyond our own accomplishments.
My lifetime mentor, Tryphosa Ramano, who has consistently pushed me from behind and led me from the front, has instilled in me the notions of being a ‘beyond you leader’ – which is really about being a selfless and fearless in sharing yourself with others and living a legacy that will outlive you.
Advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion
As the chairperson of the Transformation Committee at Netcare, I am a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I recognise the immense value that a diverse workforce brings to an organisation and the broader community. Through my role, I strive to create an environment where everyone feels valued, included, and empowered to reach their full potential. By fostering a culture that celebrates differences and embraces the strengths that come from a diverse workforce, we drive impactful change and pave the way for a more equitable future.
My journey as a young chartered accountant has taught me that success is not solely defined by the numbers on a balance sheet. It is about rising above adversity, embracing mentorship, and being intentional in empowering others. By sharing parts of ourselves, leveraging our influence, and advocating for diversity and inclusion, we can positively impact the lives of those we encounter. I encourage every young leader to heed the call to be a beyond you leader, to embrace mentorship, and to seize every opportunity to make a difference. Together, we can help others soar to new heights and create a brighter future for all.
Lerato Phelane CA(SA) is the co-chairperson of Young Leaders Connect and chairperson of Workplace Transformation Committee at Netcare, South Africa