On April 1st 2014 Mbewu Movement hosted its second event of the year at the Protea Hotel Fire and Ice in Melrose Arch. The event style was quite unique in that we had three guest mentors (instead of the usual one) and still managed to have an intimate networking session with the mentors, Mbewu founding members and our growing Mbewu community.
The theme and feel of the event could be closely ‘matched’ to a speed dating service; in that attendees were allocated to groups and rotated after each 30 minute segment to a new guest mentor so that by the end of the night, each attendee had a chance to engage with all the guest mentors (and each other).
The diversity of the speakers, their backgrounds and thoughts on the topic of “Becoming and thought leader” added a dynamic to the networking session that left one feeling that the topic, in itself, was open to interpretation and was designed for one to make it their own. Below is a run-through all our guest mentors through the eyes of one attendee:
Lee-Roy’s eloquence and self-awareness is quite evident in the way he portrays himself. His extensive time spent overseas working at the UN and studying in Massachusetts must have clearly added to this. His angle on the topic proved to be a bit of a surprise considering he was an M&G Thought Leader contributor himself. Lee-Roy has trouble with the concept of thought leadership as it stands today. He posed the question “Who are Thought Leaders?” and, “Who are they to be thought leaders?” In his opinion his mother and domestic worker are equally (and perhaps more) thought leaders than the so called experts of this world who gather and study information and profess their outcomes. He challenged us to understand the difference between having information and having knowledge/intelligence. That’s ultimately what differentiates a between a thought leader and a clever person.
Ntombenhle’s energy was felt as soon as she walked in. It’s quite easy to see why she was selected to be a CNBC Africa Financial Markets correspondent. Open about her experiences in the past and in the present day, the main message that she was here to drive across was that of having and owning an opinion. “Especially as women, it takes a lot for us to be heard,” she said. “First of all you need to have an opinion and be sure of it (back it up). Then be succinct and strong about that opinion”. She was adamant that woven into the delivery of your opinion, one takes the necessary steps to protect their brand. She emphasised that guarding your personal brand is a very important part of being a thought leader, especially if your thoughts are particularly controversial or anomalous in nature. But her last thought on seizing every opportunity that comes ones way to deliver that opinion, resonated particularly well with everyone – CARPE DIEM!
Kwanele a poised, deep-thinking and interesting lady, is a corporate lawyer who enjoys writing (legal columnist for Destiny magazine) and teaching. The first thing she did was ask us what we think thought leadership is – how we define it. What was striking was all the different definitions that came up from this particular group. It’s clear that although we were here to engage on the idea of becoming a thought leader, we needed to take a step back and define it first. Kwanele welcomed the variance in perspectives. As far as she’s concerned, thought leadership lies within one’s self. Thought leadership to her is about impacting others and yourself in a meaningful way. Being the first person in a family to get a university degree, for instance, is being a thought leader. In the same way that travelling to a new country where you know not a single person is being one too. The ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ pretty much summed up the reaction. We sat and nodded, self-auditing ourselves and the areas in which – we had now realised – we were thought leaders.
There’s a respect that is garnered when one is described as a thought leader. A view that there’s something that person knows that others may not. Traditionally, thought leaders have been very much been academic in nature. Our networking session proved that we are nowhere near traditional.
Thanks again to our guest mentors and attendees. Stay tuned for details of our next event!