Sechaba Letaba

CEO of Kudumane Manganese Resources

Nobody’s perfect. What quality or ability do you wish you had?

Patience, I am impatient. I also wish I was more in touch with my emotional side which would help me express feelings such as sympathy, etc.

What is the best business book you have ever read, and why?

Effective Leadership through Effective Relationships (John Maxwell). This book resonates with my own approach when it comes to leadership. I have a strong belief that there must be chemistry between people who work together. You have to like each other in order to be effective in what brings you together.

Someone you would most like to have met, living or dead, and why?

Nelson Mandela. He has charisma and possesses the rare qualities such as intelligence, and he expresses and articulates his thinking so well that he reaches his audience. He develops courtesy in all situations, disarming even the guards who had been placed to trouble him.

As my motto goes, Mandela believes in people too. He is quoted as he reflected on his life later saying, “all men have a core of decency and if their heart is touched, they are capable of changing.” This is what I believe in. He has mastered patience and compromise.

What do you consider to be your major achievement (in life or business)?

Believing in people and giving them second chances. As a result, I witnessed people evolve to levels they themselves never thought were possible.

Having walked every step of the way in my mining career starting as a miner to the CEO position. “Been there, done that, got a T-shirt for it,” as the cliché goes.

Having successfully managed to lead in a diverse environment that did not support my background. 

Creating the best work teams in my career and being instrumental in bringing about change in South Africa’s mining industry.

Who or what do you think is overrated?

The attitude and the mind-set of the labour unions. Labour unions should never lose sight of the fact that they are the major contributors in either making or breaking the mining industry; hence their approach should be aligned as such. The success and failure of the industry will affect them just as much as it will the employers.

People miss the fact that human rights go hand in hand with both accountability and responsibility.

What mistakes have you made (professional or otherwise), and what did you learn from them?

I have often only believed in the good in people and buried my head in the sand like an ostrich. I have learnt that I must influence decisions that involve my life and career and not leave it in the hands and mercy of others.

Which one piece of wisdom would you pass on to your successor?

Understand the environment and the people you have to work with. A happy workforce equals a good safety record and high productivity.

Keep your emotions and temper under control.

Who has been your inspiration professionally?

Philbert Rweyemamu. He was my manager as a young mining engineer in my career. He believed in people. He was charismatic and yet that did not translate into poor job performance and compromised outputs. He could be both the boss and the friend.

How would you like to be remembered after your retirement?

As someone who sees and acknowledges all human beings. Someone who encouraged uniqueness and individuality in people. Someone who took a chance on people. Supportive and consistent.

Do you have a quote or motto you live (or work) by?

Let those I lead spend time on what they know best, (which I don’t know), so that I can spend time doing what I do best. ‘I let them run with it’. Never question a man’s integrity unless they have given you a reason to do so.