Having attained a BSc honors degree in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes university and an MBA degree, Lunga Siyo started his career in the Finance & Accounting department of BP, looking after Group Consolidation International Accounts. Eventually, he found himself in the Retail and Marketing BU, which he says is where he found a passion for working closely with clients to deliver success. “I ended up working for MTN, a large Telco company in South Africa, specialising mostly in mobile,” he says. “After a stint in the financial services industry with Santam, Barclays Bank and Standard Bank, now I find myself back in the telco industry again, running the Small and Medium Business BU (known as Yep!) at Telkom.”
His approach to leadership has remained unchanged despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. “I just try to be myself for the most part,” he says, “because trying to keep two personalities going will mentally wear you down. I’d rather be myself. I mean what I say and credibility is very important to the people that you lead and also the people that you work with. That's the kind of leadership style that I have - very consultative, authentic and empathetic but very firm when taking decisions that work for the business.
That concept of authentic leadership leads Siyo to trust his Executive Team member’s expertise. “You don't come in and say: ‘This is what we're going to do. This is how we're going to do it.’ Because at the end of the day, you hire people that are really brilliant at what they do, and they've got to bring in the value - That's exactly why you hired them. You don't hire people that are really brilliant and start telling them how to do their jobs.” While that approach has the benefit of more equitably spreading out the workload, Siyo also emphasises the fact that it encourages employees to become stakeholders. “They can wake up in the morning and feel great about coming to work because they add value. That's why you need to create a performance culture, where everyone wants to make sure that they get things done and add value for our customers.”
That performance culture, Siyo believes, allows employees to reach their optimal levels, and is combined with another emphasis on diversity. “I want to bridge the gap between what society looks like versus what our organisation is like,” he says. “Diversity is very important, bringing in different types of people - because in South Africa we have different races, different languages and different experiences. When you start combining all of those in the right environment and culture, you get a lot of success. Our customers are diverse and different, so we have to be too to better service them”.