By Roxanne Daniels
Discipline and hard work are the secrets to success for First Rand CEO Sizwe Nxasana. He shared a bit of his story and views to Rhodes University students at the invitation of the student chapter of the Black Management Forum a few weeks ago.
One of the first ten black chartered accountants in the country, Nxasana started Sizwe & Co in 1989, which became the first black-owned audit practice in KwaZulu-Natal. The company is now known as Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo and is the fifth-largest audit firm in South Africa. He is a former CEO of Telkom and is currently the CEO of First Rand Limited, although he’s set to step down in September to start a new business.
Nxasana holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Fort Hare and was booked to present a seminar on leadership to Rhodes BMF members. Organiser Onke Lizipho, said they had to wait nearly a year for the busy executive to come, but it was well worth the wait.
Someone special gives the secrets to good leadership
In introducing Nxasana, Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela said he was someone very special. “Mr Sizwe Nxasana is a role model. There is no better person to have invited here today. He is the kind of person you must emulate,” he said firmly.
In his talk to the eager students, he highlighted the importance of hard work, with the reminder that it “hasn’t killed anyone”. Nxasana spoke about his own hard work, declaring that he is not smart and he was never in leadership positions at school. Because of this, he says that he is disciplined in his work in order to catch up with those around him.
Commenting on his status as a leader in South Africa, he said not everyone in authority or positions of high status positions is a good leader. Likewise, good leaders could easily come from humble backgrounds. “The lady that makes tea as her job may be a strong leader in her community outside of working hours. The man who cleans toilets could be a strong leader in his church at home,” Nxasana said.
He said anyone of sound mind could be a leader. “It is a choice to lead and it is a choice to be led,” he said. Nxasana believes it is the young people who choose to lead with their ideas for the country who will be good leaders.
The importance of young people
To the delight of the audience, he said young people need to be part of making solutions to unemployment, poverty and inequality. “We need you to question the existing status quo and then come up with new and interesting solutions,” Nxasana said. “People like me, 57-years-old, can’t come up with the same solutions you can.” Nxasana praised Rhodes University for its role in positively shaping students’ minds to realise that no matter where they came from, their future can be better.