Florence Sibanda: Put God first in Leadership

“This journey has taught me that if people want to leave the organization, do not hold them back. Let them go and if you a good leader, sooner or later they will want to come back to be with you again.”

Q: Give us a brief background of your career and upbringing.

A: I grew up in a village in the Caprivi, now Zambezi. They used to tell me that we are poor but I saw things differently. I just knew that I wanted to improve my life and make sure that my children would have better. In 1991 I began my career as a warden at the Ministry of Environment where I worked until 2002.

I then went on to work for an NGO called IRDNC, for the National Heritage Council as a scientific officer, before moving as a chief geologist at the Ministry of Mines and Energy where I subsequently arrived at my current role as Deputy Director in the forestry department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water & Forestry. 

Q: With such a colourful background, what have been the lessons learnt?

A: The biggest lesson I have learned is that if you have a good leader, it will inspire you to do good and if you have a bad leader, it will inspire you to be the opposite. This journey has taught me that if people want to leave the organization, do not hold them back. Let them go and if you a good leader, sooner or later they will want to come back to be with you again.

Q: But how do you transit between your role at Zebra and the Ministry?

A: What helps is that we do not meet too often for board meetings at Zebra Holdings. We have our meetings during the weekends or after hours so it allows me to focus on my time at the ministry. It is an easy transition for me, besides the awesome people I am blessed to be working with.

My aim is to continue to do the best with what is available to me. When there are challenges, the entire team be it Zebra or the Ministry chips in. The idea is to continue on our mandate and implement our goals which we have previously set and be a Ministry that delivers. 

Q: But what is the impact of your leadership?

A: I don’t believe in being a boss. In my department there is no one who is superior to another. I believe in working in a relaxed atmosphere, where people are aware of their responsibilities and as a leader that is how you get the results you want. My aim is to impart knowledge. There are many of my subordinates who I have encouraged to continue their studies and who have gone on and achieved their Master’s Degree and be somebody in society. 

I learn from the young people which in turn increases our productivity because they have good ideas also. If I want someone to do something, I should be able to do that thing also. I don’t raise expectations on something I cannot do myself. I must be aware of the amount of time required to do that thing and the challenges that come with it.

Q: Are there any challenges in your different responsibilities?

When you work with people from different background and religious beliefs, there will always be challenges. Also, you cannot please everyone. If you want to do the right thing, you just cannot. If you see that you are pleasing everyone then it means something is wrong. 

Q: How do you plan for growth?

A: My daughter told me a long time ago that if you want to climb the corporate ladder, let Jesus hold your ladder. It means that I might not always be going where I want to be but I will be going where God wants me to be.

Q: What interesting fact is not known about you?

A: I love to be creative with my hands. The sawing machine is my favourite, I knit, I make bangles and I also love to do gardening work. I also love to spend time with my family, I’m not much of an outgoing person. 

Q: Who inspires you?

A: I look up to God first of all and also to my daughter. She is doing her dream job which she has always wanted to do from kindergarten and her drive towards her passion is very inspirational to me.

Q: On this international women’s month, what is your message to young Namibian women?

A: Pursue your dreams but do it in an honest way. Don’t look for shortcuts. Put God first. Be patient when looking for a husband. It should not be in your time, but in God’s time.


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