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Nhlanzeko Khanyile, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on overcoming your self-perceptions, breaking glass ceilings and leading ethically.
I am an MBA Candidate at London Business School born and bred in Durban, South Africa. I have a background in finance and accounting and a passion for sustainable development, particularly in emerging markets. I believe that businesses can be used as a vehicle to drive growth in an economy. This is what led me to apply to London Business School to complete my MBA. The school’s motto is “to have a profound impact on the way the world does business and the way business impacts the world.”
I applied for the Laidlaw Scholarship at London Business School as the vision of the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund strongly aligns with my aspirations as a woman in business. I would like to play a meaningful role in business to drive impactful solutions that address the development gap in emerging markets through infrastructure investment.
The investment sector has a gross underrepresentation of women and an even smaller representation of women of colour. I identified the London Business School MBA, with the support of the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund, as a tool that would assist me in breaking the high barriers of entry in the investment sector for women like myself.
The Laidlaw network would provide a platform for me to interact and build relationships with like-minded individuals who are passionate about making a positive and lasting impact on the world. This exposure would ultimately make me better prepared for the challenges women face in business and with the tools and skills to tackle those challenges head-on.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
My biggest life challenge has been overcoming my story.
My story includes several traumas that I encountered during my formative years which stuck with me in a negative manner. I adopted a deep victim mentality believing that because unfortunate things happened in my life, such things will continue to happen in my life forever.
For example, believing that I will always be poor because I was born poor.
How I overcame my story was by affirming myself and by making an active choice that the situation I was born into will not shape my current narrative. While the choice was clear, the action required to shift the narrative was challenging for me. It required intentionality and self-awareness on my part. However, I knew that I had to be willing to let go of the stories that didn’t serve me anymore in favour of exploring my current opportunities to the fullest.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
There was a point in my university journey where I wanted to drop out of my studies to pursue a completely different field. I consulted with an educational psychologist during that time to discuss my thought process. He visualised my potential decisions and made me see the two decisions as two ends of a spectrum and said that I have not considered anything in between the two ends (i.e.: there is an entire spectrum in between).
He made me realise that in life, the skills and learnings we acquire are not mutually exclusive to the goals and aspirations we may have. There are always ways in which what we previously did and what we are currently doing can contribute towards the things that we want to do in the future. Our decisions are not mutually exclusive and independent of one another.
If you ever feel like you are not where you want to be at the moment, you can still use the things you did in the past and in the present during the journey of discovering what it is that you truly want to do. Your efforts are never wasted.
What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
That good people finish last.
I do not believe in this piece of advice because it makes people who choose to live a life of integrity doubt themselves when in fact, they are doing what is right not just for themselves, but also for the greater good of society.
Making ethical decisions in life can be challenging and isolating in the short term. However, I strongly believe that it is always worthwhile in the long term.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
⚡ Find your 'why' and know it well
⚡ Develop daily habits that get you closer to your goals
⚡ Surround yourself with people who challenge you to be a better version of yourself
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Viola Davis. They are all influential women of colour who have made history in their respective fields and are examples of women who have phenomenal achievements despite their backgrounds.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
It means playing an active role in breaking the ceilings that limit the career acceleration women face in business and the challenges women experience in society. I also view being a Laidlaw Scholar as being a life-long advocate for how education can be used as a tool to reduce poverty. Lastly, I believe that being a Laidlaw Scholar means being a servant leader inside and outside of the office.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
I am leading investments alongside an experienced and passionate team of individuals who enhance the livelihoods of people living in developing economies. The financial and non-financial results of these interventions are measurable and observable and leave a lasting positive impact on the communities where the projects are present.
📺 Currently binging: Downfall: The Case Against Boeing
🎵 My current anthem: Good Job by Alicia Keys
📚 My top book recommendation: How will you measure your life? by Clayton Christensen
🎧 Podcast obsession: Oprah's Super Soul
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Receiving the final digital images of a professional photoshoot I recently did with my family.
Nhlanzeko is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. You can find Nhlanzeko on LinkedIn. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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Paseka Khosa on overcoming financial hardship and advocating for unwavering belief in oneself.
Fisayo Adeleke on her mission to increase women's access to opportunities, and dealing with uncertainty.
Helena Couto on breaking out of your pre-defined place in society, and larger than life goals.
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Thank you for sharing your story and motivations Nhlanzeko Khanyile! Inspiring journey and authentic evolution of mindset. I felt really indentified with your best piece of advice: your efforts are never wasted.
I am a physician by training, and I am transitioning to a very different function. Making the decision to shift gears was not easy, precisely because I felt I was "wasting" my training.
Thank you for engaging, @Silvia Fernandez Mulero! Having read your biography, it is also very impressive! I look forward to hearing more about your journey through life in more in detail in one of our future Scholar Spotlights.