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Q&A with Madelein Mkunu

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Madelein Mkunu, Founder & President @ Leading Women of Africa

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

It is always said “Life is an adventure”! in deed it is! And so is my career. My professional life has been an adventurous one! I started my career in accounting in the mid-nineties in Cape Town. After around 10 years I embarked in what I describe as an unknown career journey which led me to completing my postgrad degree at the University of Western Cape in Cape Town, Courses on Gender Development at Michigan State University and a Masters and MBA at IEDC School of Management in Slovenia. While doing all this, I was pursuing my passion of making lasting impact in Africa and women of Africa. I established Leading Women of Africa (LWA), one of the powerful African continent’s women’s empowerment company. Through this adventure, I specialised myself in International gender strategy with a focus on African women affairs, policy design, public speaking, entrepreneurship and in recent years I find myself as a lecturer in the Middle East. I am definitely not the engineer behind this career journey. All I am doing was to follow the path for every slightest idea I have without knowing where it would lead to. And the Journey continues.

What was your most challenging experience and how did it change your mindset?

Having lived in Africa all my life, I have faced so many challenges that could influence me to give up in life or even stop me from pursing my dream. However, as the saying goes “what does not kill you, makes you strong”. One of the challenges that made me shift my mindset is lack of inclusivity. I grew up in a very individualistic environment where it is ” each one for himself” kind of attitude. “If you do not look like me, speak like me or think like me…you do not belong to me and I am not obligated to associate with you or help you regardless of your skills and knowledge”. Living in this kind of environment can be demotivating at times, and I was very much affected by this so many times until I discovered that the journey to life is a lonely journey. Every single person is on a mission to achieve his or her own purpose in this world. The achievement of my personal goals and purpose cannot be not relied on other people acceptance and approval. This attitude has strengthened my belief system and pursue my goals no matter what.

Based on your experience, what are the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

Throughout my leadership journey, I have entertained a few factors for success in my thoughts including:

- Innovation: I am one of those people that believe that “Sky is not the limit”. I believe that whatever our physical eyes can see in this physical world, is only a fraction of the unseen. The ideas, the dreams, the skills, the capabilities…that a human being have are not yet fully expressed in the physical realm. I believe that I have an unlimited potential to achieve so much before I leave earth. And I dedicate myself to reaching my full potential while I still can. So, whatever idea that crosses my mind I try to explore the possibilities around it and if possible to try to implement it. As a female leader, I want to go beyond what exists already. I want to innovate other leadership and management styles, I want to have a different view point on how “success” is defined for example, I want to explore how far my mind can travel to create new ideas.

- Collaboration: I have come to realise that success does not happen in isolation. Meaning for me to succeed in my innovative ideas, for example, I need people with different other skills than what I have. I have learned to surround myself with other innovative minds in order to achieve a collective success. That is why in my business model, I always promote a “win-win partnership” model. If this model can be applied at all levels of society, the world can become a better place to live in where every single world citizen will be self-sufficient through the talents and skills each one is investing.

- Legacy: The question I constantly ask myself and other leaders is” when you pass on one day, what would you like to be remembered for?”. The answer to this question will determine what type of leaders we want to be. And I am not talking only about being a public leader, leadership actually starts at home, as a mother, father…. The world and more specifically Africa, needs more visionary leaders that would leave a lasting legacy to the next generation. And this could be ME and YOU.

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