At Sasfin, many of our leaders are women. Meet Natisha Lazarus, the most recent addition to our incredible team.
Was there a defining moment that shaped your career?
There were two turning points that shaped my career, as well as the leader I am today. The first was my Line Manager in the business and commercial segment. Whilst I had gained some banking experience, my knowledge of business and commercial banking was very limited. Nevertheless, my manager was willing to take a chance on me and appointed me to the role of Accounts Analyst. Given my willingness to learn, he was the one individual that encouraged and motivated me.
It’s a lesson I carry with me today, as I’m also willing to take a risk on individuals who are motivated to learn and grow. With the right attitude, experience will come.
That same manager pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the deep end, by not only teaching me the basics of how to nurture and grow clients but also allowed me the opportunity to manage a portfolio of business clients. As a junior Analyst, this stretched me to think and more importantly it created a platform that allowed me to build on my skills and confidence to nurture and grow my client base.
My second defining moment was when I began my leadership journey. This was a mindset shift from managing a portfolio of business clients to leading a team of 150 people.
What’s beautiful about the progression of any career is that it gives you the tools to stretch yourself and to support others. I’ve drawn on my own experiences as a banker working with clients and previous managers, which has shaped the leader I am today.
What are the most important elements of leadership that you embrace?
You need to be authentic and true to yourself. I’ve always made a point of letting my teams know who the real Natisha is. Given the world in which we live, where social media dominates, we often fall into the trap of portraying the perfect leader or person. That’s not what people want from their leaders. Instead, they want to see your inner qualities, the ‘real you’ and what you value as a person. This is what gravitates people towards leaders.
Personally, I have always made time for people. Getting to know people on a personal level is very important, as it has strengthened the relationships I’ve built with my teams, ultimately contributing to business and personal success. I firmly believe that human connection is the foundation of building a successful team.
What does success look like to you?
If you asked me that question 20 years ago, I would have said that it is creating wealth for myself. Today, success is building the Business Banking Segment, coupled with supporting and enabling our clients to grow their businesses and become successful. Being part of the financial sector, I have the ability to make a real, on-the-ground impact to businesses and people in South Africa.
On a personal level, it’s creating security for my family.
What is the biggest lesson you are teaching your children?
I believe independence is one of the most important traits we can foster. The ability to stand on your own two feet can help you shape the life you want. From an early age, I’ve taught my daughters that you don’t necessarily need to rely on a man, especially when it pertains to financial independence.
My eldest daughter really resonates with the difficulties I’ve had to endure, particularly relocating to Joburg to build a life with minimal support , and yet I have managed to achieve many successes. Today, she reflects on my journey and has realised the importance of being independent as female, aiming to break the glass ceiling for woman in South Africa.
Are challenges an advantage?
Challenges are advantages if you look at them in a positive light. It’s all about your mindset. I have never looked at a challenge and thought, ‘this has happened to break me down.’ Instead, I view challenges as opportunities to strengthen me and allow me to reassess my life to make positive changes.
Can women have it all?
We can definitely try, but based on my personal and career experience, you have to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve your career goals. I had my first daughter in the midst of starting a new job. I had no maternity leave and could only take two months’ unpaid leave before I returned to work. It was incredibly difficult managing being a new mother and settling into my role, but I realised then that it was a sacrifice I had to make, which was the right one at the time.
From my perspective, you can’t have it all, so make sure you know which sacrifices are worth it, why you are making them, and what they will eventually bring to your life.
Everything valuable in my life was not possible without me making the necessary sacrifices.
Who inspires you to reach for the stars?
My mother and grandmother were both very resilient women. Nothing was too difficult or too much of a challenge for them to overcome. The foundation and values they set for us as children is what I have brought to my own family. They did not have easy lives, and yet they always had smiles on their faces that brought us joy and assisted them to overcome many hurdles in their lives. Growing up, observing such strong and successful women has encouraged me to excel in everything I do. They have inspired me to achieve more.
In my experience, inspiration coupled with hard work and perseverance, is a foundation to achieve success.
What advice would you offer future leaders?
You have to be authentic… be yourself. No leadership style is perfect, which is why it’s so important to be honest with yourself and build on your blind spots. You cannot be everything to everybody. Instead, build on a core strength and make a meaningful impact on someone. It’s also okay to fail, however, learn from your mistakes and try again. Women in particular try too hard to be ‘super women,’ wanting to take on too much. It’s okay to say no. finally, focus on building meaningful relationships, as business is about people.