I have always been fascinated with leadership. Over the years I have found that people are naturally more inclined to follow one leader over another. It is a decision often premised on preferences made due to differences in leadership styles. This begs the question, what makes a leader effective? Below, Monde Twala, Senior Executive of Global media and entertainment company, ViacomCBS unpacks effective leadership.
Monde Twala has earned his stripes as a respected leader and an executive at a global company. He is currently the Vice President of ViacomCBS Networks Africa’s BET, Youth & Music brands and is responsible for driving the development and growth of iconic music, youth, and entertainment brands BET, MTV, MTV Base, and MTV Music24, across Africa.
Istyleblaq had an opportunity to talk to Monde Twala about his leadership journey.
MUZI: Your track record is impressive, having occupied senior leadership roles in several large-scale companies. You are currently leading one of the biggest organizations In Africa. Have you always wanted to be in leadership?
MONDE: My background and upbringing molded me into who I am today. Ngingu’mntwana ka gogo – I was raised by my grandmother. As the eldest at home, there was a lot of expectation and responsibility put on me from a young age. This is where my creativity, understanding of people, and inclusivity grew.
MUZI: What do you like most about leadership?
MONDE: In all my years of leadership experience, I have occupied different roles with the sole aim of leading with purpose and leading from the front. I pride myself on my ability to listen attentively and understand people from different walks of life. I think leaders in today’s world need to not only listen to hear but to listen to understand, particularly, when dealing with young people.
Over the years I have worked with various brands including MTV, BET, MTV Base, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and this experience taught me the importance of having a diverse understanding of markets and trends that shape this industry. There is an old adage that says that Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu which can be loosely translated to “I am because you are”. This is an adage that continues to inspire my leadership style. When you look at it, modern-day leadership requires a level of flexibility, adaptability, and agility. It also requires a broader understanding of your team and their skillset. I do not believe in being the jack of all trades and a master at none.
Our recruitment systems enable us to bring skilled people that are experts in their fields and have truly mastered the industry, and I often lean on them to produce meaningful work. Modern-day leaders should not only lead but also allow themselves to be led. Through coming to the party with an open mind and a collaborative spirit, leaders can achieve great strides and meet growth targets in any organization.
MUZI: Different leaders have different leadership styles – What do you think is Effective Leadership, and how would you describe your leadership style?
MONDE: A good leader is one who is able to carefully assess their challenges, consult broadly and collaborate with his team to produce exceptional work and bring solutions to the table. It is also about appreciating my team, their skills, talent, and their ability to pull it all together and deliver meaningful work. Passion is also central to everything we do because if you do not have the passion, you will struggle to lead people.
MUZI: The ability to effectively lead, motivate and direct a group of people – whether it is in business, community, or politics – requires a very complex set of skills. Is leadership born or built?
MONDE: I believe everyone is a leader in their own right. In whatever situation you find yourself in, whether personal or in your professional career, leadership is something you grow into. We are all called to lead at some point in our lives. Whether you are a sportsman, musician, or across any space, people can grow into becoming leaders.
As a soccer fanatic, my leadership style is inspired by sport. I played soccer in my youth and through this experience, I learned some principles of leadership that I still apply today as a leader. For example, in soccer, as the captain of a team, you are required to lead by example. Similarly, in my experience as a leader, I have found that when I lead by example, my team is more inclined to follow. It also helps that I have a strong foundation of values of respect, objectivity, and authenticity.
MUZI: You pride yourself in the projects you have successfully led such as the BET Awards, Africa Music Awards and you currently lead the BET international team. How is that going?
MONDE: Leading BET international is an opportunity that allows us to learn from our international colleagues while also providing an African perspective.
I think this role is important because it allows me to shine the light on African perspectives which is re-imagining Africa and ourselves, and elevating culture and business, and making sure that we can grow the South African and African economy. I am particularly excited for this new role because it provides opportunities for many other young Africans and young leaders who aspire for international success. It’s a proud moment for not only me but also for Africans globally.
MUZI: What are your thoughts on empowering black people and ensuring that there is a balance in leadership roles in the workplace?
MONDE: It’s a responsibility we have as leaders to bring others along. If you look at the population, you find that the African population is a young one. If you look at the projects that we choose to do, for instance: Boity, Own Your Throne on BET, showcasing a young, strong, independent, and talented African female – and how we used Boity’s profile and journey to highlight the importance of empowering young girls. That is an important factor because it inspires not only me but the business as well to consistently look at how we can elevate and groom new and fresh talent into the industry. It is something I have been passionate about throughout my career; I have always collaborated with amazing talent across the continent. Leaders who share knowledge are the most powerful.
MUZI. According to the African Report, Africa has deep leadership issues- Leaders stay in power way past their time, endless corruption, shortage of skills, and the youth floundering in many ways. What is your take on this?
MONDE: Leadership is a challenging position to fill. With that said, if you are the type of leader who empowers your team, takes the time to understand different perspectives, and use your ability to pull everything together into a strategy or solution, then you will progress and achieve your goals. I believe that we need to become more attentive to African problems and use international exposure to build case studies that can give us solutions.
MUZI: What advice can you give to aspiring leaders, any programs available to help develop future leaders?
MONDE: There are many programmes that are driving a positive impact while grooming future leaders by equipping them to identify their roles and responsibilities and think beyond self-interest. I think that more of us can lead while firmly rooted in making a difference and an impact.
As a continent, we have great leaders, and we have to pay attention to how we groom young people and foster their energy towards the right things. Wanting to be a leader that has a positive impact on the world is a noble dream that has to be nurtured in young people. This should be at the heart of every leader’s agenda.
MUZI: Istyleblaq celebrates and promotes black excellence – What does black excellence mean to you?
MONDE: Black excellence speaks to showing up every day in excellence and consistently reinventing ourselves when needed. It is a concept that speaks to being focused on your dreams, your purpose, and being engaged in projects that are beyond self-interest. Black excellence is a culture that can create, commit, and execute with great focus. It is about innovating and bettering your standards and those around you.
Black excellence is rooted in African culture. We strive to achieve black excellence in entertainment, storytelling, elevating and discovering new talent, and ensuring that this talent is successful beyond our borders. I mean, look at Trevor Noah who started on Comedy Central, and how he is shining the African flag on The Daily Show. It is about constantly challenging ourselves to be better than yesterday.