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This book is about the journey of an over-achiever, a corporate leader who had to overcome being the only black person in places that his achievements have taken him.

Being the only Darkie [black person] in senior positions in apartheid South Africa was hard. You had to prove yourself twice, being as good as anyone else in the room and dispelling the myth that black people as not as good.

In this biography, Rre Nyathi, takes you through the journey of his corporate career and personal life.

He comes from a middle-class family background. His mother ran a store [Embekweni Store] in Tabase in Eastern Cape and father a teacher and principal. His mother was a qualified teacher as well but cashed her pension, bought a cream Toyota Hilux single cad, which had a bench seat and loaded it with stock in Mthatha.

He briefly takes us through his upbringing, his schooling life and university days.

Mteto is a hardworker there is no doubt about that, but couple with a good family background that instilled discipline and mentored him at a early age, he was able to use that to propel himself forward in life.

The bulk of the book focuses his working life, the first company he worked for and how he navigated his career, from South Africa, to working in Europe and USA, and coming back home and being appointed CEO in major companies.

He has had to transform companies who when he joined as CEO were  mainly 100% untransformed, and had to transform the executive teams and at the same time very important follow that with good financial results.

He is the old-school kinda leader, sober, not excitable, pretty much a safe pair of hands. As a typical engineer, his approach to issues is that of rational, problem-solving step by step manner.

He is not philosophical about issues, he sees an issue, a problem, and then he looks for ways to solve the problem. Pretty much the Bill Gates approach to problem solving, less emotion and more calculations and systems.

When he joined MTN [South Africa’s major network provider], it was in the middle of a protracted labour strike of over two months. His first task was to end the strike and he was able to do that within a week of being appointed.

In most of his appointments, he managed to deliver the results at MicroSoft South Africa, MTN South Africa, and now he is delivering good results at Altron, the company he is current CEO.

What I loved about this book the value Rre Nyathi attaches to mentorship.

Someone who has achieved what he has so far, he still values having a mentor. He seeks and listens to advice from his mentors.

Rating:

7/10

This is a book about leadership. If you are looking for a role model and mentor in corporate leadership I recommend this book.

Favourite Quotes:

  • “Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country.”
  • “Revering big talkers and fast-living populists is dangerous because they seldom propose concrete solutions. Instead, they say one thing and deliver another, and like to promote the belief that ‘clever’ is bad.”
  • “If you want to take the system down, provide a better alternative at least. At heart I’m an engineer. I want to encourage people to fix things, not to raise false hopes.”
  • “To my mother, nothing was impossible. She was the only woman in the area with a Code 10 [heavy duty] driver’s license and her actions sent a message to others in the community; don’t wait for things to come you. Eventually the shop did so well and expanded so much that she took on some employees, bought a Mazda truck and hired a driver.”
  • “Communication through the media is key. If we don’t provide information, how will ordinary people know that Altron assists money-lending businesses to do client assessment…”
  • “The writing is on the wall: millions of individuals will be displaced by automation in the next 50 years, but what’s important to remember is that humans are in control. No matter how far into the unknown technology takes us, the drivers will always be irrational, emotional and unpredictable humans.”
  • “One of the greatest values of mentors is their ability to see what you may not be able to and help navigate a course.”
  • “You should not tell your mentee what to do. All he or she needs is advice and guidance.”
  • “When people transcend their differences and work together to achieve common goals, greatness is possible.”

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