There aren’t many people who add sparkle to a room when they enter itbut when we meet up with Happy Ralinala, she is radiates confidence andher warm smile kept the crew calm as we didn’t know what to expect fromher. From her soft spoken voice to her humility you can easily tell whatkind of a leader she is and we were honoured as Successful WomanMagazine team to have her. That same warmth was present when she camefor our Women of Influence breakfast, as she was our keynote speaker.
Born in a humble home in Soweto, Happy’s childhood was more texturedthan many people’s. “I was born in Soweto and grew up in both Soweto andDundee in KwaZulu-Natal. Growing up as the eldest of five siblings, Iwas always surrounded by strong impressions of hard work and tenacity askey ingredients to success. I am a daughter, sister, wife and a motherwith a purpose to enable Africa as a continent to reach her fullpotential. I’m also in the humbling position of heading up a division ofone of South Africa’s largest financial institutions,” Happy explains.Empowering Q & A with Ms Happy Ralinala1. How was growing up in during apartheid?Growing up in apartheid South Africa was both rewarding and scary.Rewarding, in that, this period helped me find my voice – a voice thatis positive and transformative, a voice that is unwavering on my beliefsand rights as an individual and as a South African. Scary, in that,through my activist ways, I could never know who was looking to arrestme for the role I played in voicing the struggles of many disadvantagedpeople.2. What motivates you?Seeing other people succeed truly motivates me. Helping people,particularly the youth, to achieve their dreams and aspirations andreach their full potential is my way of making a difference.3. What is your take on women empowerment?As women continue to break glass ceilings across various economicsectors, there is soaring expectation on their role and contribution togrow economies and help build strong and thriving societies. Thisresponsibility comes with remembering that success begins when we allowourselves, as women, to understand that life is about growing; it isabout acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to live more fully andeffectively.4. Your passion for women empowerment, development and leadership, howdid that come about?As a young woman trying to make it in the corporate world, I saw howimportant it was to surround myself with a strong network of mentors,coaches and leaders who would help steer my career. Often women have towork twice as hard to advance compared to their male counterparts. Theyhave to learn new skills and have the mental stamina and willingness tosucceed –without losing their authenticity and identity.5. What is your secret to your success?I always challenge myself to do better. I firmly believe that ‘you areonly as good as your last game’. This has guided everything that hashappened in my life and has been instrumental throughout my career. Froma very early age, I realised the power of education and knew thatlearning through formal and informal means would be key in my life’sjourney. It was through sheer courage and determination that I lookedat my earlier adversities and turned these into opportunities to learnnew skills.6. What does success mean to you?Success to me means living with purpose – a purpose to help peopleachieve their goals and ambitions. It is about a feeling of fulfilmentwhich is often brought about acts of kindness and efforts of ‘paying itforward’. Success is also about the little blessings in my individualspace that grounds me and fills me with pride and appreciation.7. How do you keep humble with all the achievements?My family, friends, colleagues and the type of work I do humble me. I’malways reminded that every interaction is an opportunity, a secondchance to change a life and improve the circumstances of others. Thisis what we call stewardship – leaving things better than how we foundthem.8. Best lessons you have ever learned?I owe the person that I am today and the successes that have come alongin my life to my entrepreneurial mother. She ensured that the bestlessons were learn’t through the smallest tasks. Accountability,integrity and hard work are just some of the early lessons I learned asa young girl growing up. I assumed big responsibilities as a younggirl: seeing to the house and looking after my siblings while my motherwas out making ends meet. This early learning instilled in me humility,resilience and drive.9. What are your favourite books?Reading is one of my favourite ways of passing time. I enjoy all genresof books – from business and finance, biographies, autobiographies andleadership to religion, cooking, house and garden. One of the mostmemorable books I’ve read that had a profound influence on my personaland professional life is by David McNally and Mac Anderson, titled,‘Even eagles need a push’.
We’ve all seen it, or felt it, at some point in our life: how just onemoment of encouragement can change a life forever. It can be thegreatest gift we’ll ever give or receive. The book is about the power ofencouragement and the realisation that even the best ‘high flyers’ orthe most successful need a word of encouragement every so often.10. How do you encourage creative thinking in your organisation?By understanding that every employee is an individual and has a uniquecontribution to make towards finding solutions to day-to-day challengesexperienced in the organisation. This is the ultimate expression oftrust and empowerment – vital qualities for any high performanceenvironment.11. How do we identify a leader?In the words of our former President, Nelson Mandela: “A leader is likea shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go outahead, where upon the others follow, not realising that all along theyare being directed from behind”.This is the philosophy of ServantLeadership. This is a type of leader who views leadership through thelens of changing and enriching the lives of individuals.12. 5 tips to be a good leaderThere are six qualities that I hold close as a leader. A good leadershould:
• Be a visionary• Be a good listener• Have humility• Have empathy• Believe in the concept of community and strive to invest and empowerindividuals and societies• Subscribe to Stewardship. Living by this value means striving to leavethings better than you found them.13. Tips on how to unleash your leadership potentialI work with a team of dynamic people. We work hard, but also ensurethat we have fun in the process. We laugh together and are veryconstructive in our feedback to each other. I work for a greatorganisation that believes in the strength of its people.14. What makes leaders to succeed?Trust! As a leader, you need to trust and invest in people becauseeverybody is capable and has potential. The role of any leader is toassure people that they are capable by creating hope and possibilities.