INTRODUCING VANESSA KODISANG, A GREGARIOUS AND TRUTHFUL LEADER

In celebration of Women’s Month, I reached out to women leaders who I have come to know through my teaching, asking them to share their leadership secrets and styles with me. These women are powerful, compassionate and self-aware, making them both hardcore and heartfelt leaders.


Introducing Vanessa Kodisang, Executive Head of People at Hollard. Vanessa is a Ennea-type Three.

As a fellow type Seven, I was interested in how Vanessa’s Ennea-type guides her leadership style. This is what she had to say:


Boy, would I want to be led by someone like me! Minus the disorganization, distractions and disintegrating at One, of course.


Jokes aside, I do believe my Enneagram type (when healthy) makes for a leader that is able to see the silver linings with whatever corporate shenanigans bring to the table, which lends to my resilience. I’m a leader who can tackle a multitude of challenges which speaks to my ability to be creative when faced with different tasks and problems.

Being a Seven makes for great interactions within a team as I am big on socializing with my community to ensure we have an intrinsic understanding of each other that transcends the working environment. I also have an aptitude for managing high performance teams as I strive for excellence; not because that is what I’m meant to do but rather because it feels so damn good!

However, when there is a stressor that triggers my insecurities – I find myself in these situations often, as I am always placing myself in discomfort as mundane is boring to me – and I am not able to show up perfectly; or I am in an environment that proves less than ideal ethically, culturally and otherwise, not inclusive… the critic in me grows hundred-inch wings and soars. I become critical of myself and the team in not meeting the mark. This can be quite tough for a team who was enjoying a prime rib steak and shots the night before, in my presence.

Being a Seven means the ride is fun but the lows can devastate me personally. I do gymnastics internally not to let this show to the team and others by suppressing my feelings to avoid the pain while catastrophising and planning my exit from all possible dreadful outcomes.

I am glad that I have come to an awareness that allows me to see myself in troubled times and I explain myself to my teams before we get there. I am loyal to a fault and believe people should love their work and enjoy their days in the office with me. I take a great deal of time and attention in making sure the environment I create allows for people to be authentic and to have a good time, whilst meeting audacious goals and learning to take the truth when there is a miss. I find past team members, who didn’t mind constructive feedback, maintain friendships with me long after they have left my leadership.


Powerful stuff and so true to the type Seven! I then asked Vanessa about her leadership Superpower.


Connecting, she stated.


I connect with people with ease and sincerity. It energizes me and I find it helps me navigate the world with great pleasure. I am greeted with hugs at restaurants I go to because waiters become my friends. I charm security guards and CEOs alike because every engagement with another human being is an opportunity to connect.


Vanessa’s one wish for future women leaders is for them to be vulnerable, be soft, be hard, be a bitch, be supportive, be introverted, be sexy, be intelligent… be whatever it is that you truly are.

This is a comment made far too often and yet we still struggle with the mold of leadership that has been drilled into our psyche over the years. Have your baby cry in the background whilst in a meeting without feeling exposed. Goodness, don’t have a child if you don’t want to! We are in the frontline of standing up for our truths in a space that, with its best intentions, still tries to put us in a production line to sound, look and even have the same ambitions or challenges.

The biggest protest is being yourself, whether it is easy on a Monday and a fight by the time Friday comes around. I’m rolling my eyes typing this because I know it’s my mantra, but I fail, that is why I must keep trying.

Standing up for who I am is my lifeline.


I asked Vanessa what work she would do, if she didn’t need the money. True to a type Seven soul, she says:

I would be a tattooed musician with a soulful, sexy jazzy, neo soul sound. Smoking on stage with a brilliant band on a good hair day. Or I’d be a photographer capturing exquisite moments around the globe.


I then asked Vanessa what one item she’d take with her to a desert island. Her answer was simple: her partner, Ben.


If Vanessa was given money to start her own business she would create an Epicurean space.

Here, I could give people my dream experiences with food, music and energy. This space would be a lounge or bar of sorts, but I’d lose all my money because it would be less about making a profit but rather giving people a feeling.


To end off, I asked Vanessa to choose one song that would play every time she walked into a room for the rest of her life.

This is exceptionally hard. Headed in the right direction, India Arie.


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