Leadership lessons from the life of Richard Maponya

14 January 2020 - 07:17
By Sandile Zungu

Without doubt, Dr Richard Maponya, the father of township retail, had a very illustrious history. What lessons can young entrepreneurs draw from his life if they want to emulate and do better than him? Using the letters of his name and surname, 14 leadership traits come to mind, namely:

1. Responsibility

You are the master of your destiny. Ultimately, you are responsible for your fortunes. No authority, whether individual or institutional, should hang on the proverbial cross for your failures.

2. Invincibility

Successful entrepreneurs appreciate that business is a long-term game without guarantees. The only safeguards being your aura of invincibility, sheer single-mindedness and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit.

3. Conscience

Money is the means to an end, it is not an end in itself. Conscientious entrepreneurs have a strong sense of community and they know there is a much bigger societal purpose to be served with the money made. As such, they tend to outperform those that care less about the people and communities within which they do business. They outlive their less caring peers in the hearts of the people.

4. Hard work

There is no short-cut to the top. There is no such thing as easy money to riches. It's sheer hard work that yields sustainable good results. During the best of times, if you have integrity, the fruits of your industriousness will protect and shield you from the feeble and wicked efforts of those that seek to destroy you.

5. Authenticity

Be yourself no matter what the people say. Don't be fake and pretentious. Play to your inherent advantage and success and recognition will follow.

6. Resilience

In their lifetime, individuals and businesses will experience some failure. Causes of failure are varied. Only the never-say-die attitude and innovation of individuals will underpin their resilience and make them winners. Fatal failure is not an option.

7. David-like

It is important to box very smart in life. Every terrain in business has its established Nebuchadnezzars. Every sector and industry has its dominant players that won't readily make way and create space for a new entrant or competitor. Just like the biblical David, an entrepreneur must stand ready and willing to use a sling to tame an obnoxious Goliath who stands in their way.

8. Mission-centered

Most successful entrepreneurs are not accidental successes. They tend to know what solutions they want to provide. They know where they are headed long before they embark on their arduous journeys. As the saying goes, if you do not know where you are going, then you will land anywhere.

9. Ant-like

The lives of entrepreneurs are subject to changes and externalities. It is incumbent upon individual entrepreneurs and their organisations to understand and make plans for the cycles that may affect their fortunes. Proverbs 6:6-8 refers to an ant from which an entrepreneur must draw inspiration: "Go to the ant, thou slaggard; consider her ways, and be wise."

10. Principled

In environments such as ours, where greed is the most notable feature that underpins wealth accumulation, it is very easy for weak individuals to also join in the feeding frenzy. Accountable, ethical, principled and proud entrepreneurs will not fall for it because they know that our landscape is littered with corpses of people who had potential and chose to sacrifice principle at the altar of expediency.

11. Opportunism

Successful entrepreneurs have a very good understanding of the challenges that surround the markets they serve. They provide a solution to the challenges and get a financial reward for it. Some begrudgingly call that opportunism. More positive people call it resourcefulness.

12. Networking

You cannot succeed on your own. Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili. A good network of mentors, sponsors, patrons and coaches will lighten your load. You should consider a strong support system that may comprise your family, confidantes, business partners and professionals, who will help you to navigate through difficult conditions.

13. Youthfulness

Never, ever allow yourself to become complacent. Even when others say you have reached the pinnacle of your success, don't suffer fools. Always ooze the youthful energy and mimic the hunger that made you to get up and go in the first place.

14. Agility

Opportunities are all around us and are there for everyone to see, yet they will always go to those that respond the fastest. They become pioneers and first movers. It is no wonder that the most admired in the wild are the agile hunters.

-Zungu is the founder and executive chairperson of Zungu Investments Company and president of the Black Business Council