Murunwa Oni has a simple but powerful business mantra: Share the love. It’s a mantra that has developed over the course of her career and one that now shapes how she engages with her team, colleagues and clients.
“Share the love has so many meanings for me,” she says. “You have to be kind and acknowledge people. I am where I am today because of the leaders who gave me a platform, acknowledged where I was doing well, and gave me direction where I wasn’t. Feedback is such an important element in any growth and development journey.”
Murunwa was sent to boarding school from the age of ten. Her family lived in a remote village in Limpopo and boarding school was the best way to receive a good education. The experience made her both independent and resilient, and it was not until she was part of a team that the importance of working together, relying on each other and how powerful a strong leader can be began to shape Murunwa’s world view.
“I was lucky enough to not only learn this lesson early in my career, but to be shaped by incredible leaders,” she says.
“My first job was at a stock broking business. Around a year or two after I started working, a transaction that we did went wrong. and I was on the call when it happened. Between the time it happened to when we picked up and corrected it, we had made a loss. It’s a terrible feeling and it was made worse because I had no idea how my boss was going to react, although I felt certain she would blame me since I was the person who did the transaction, and I was panicking.
“Instead, the opposite happened. She calmly brought our whole team together and said we weren’t going to focus on the symptoms, we would address the real issue instead, which lay in the process. It changed everything for me. Not only was I inspired by the type of leader I wanted to become, but I understood what it takes to make a team better – focus on the process and not who did what on the day. Don’t play the blame game but find solutions together. When someone invests their time into you, you realise the value that a leader brings to their team, and you want to pay that forward.”
Business is a team sport
Sharing the love is about more than being a good leader that invests time and attention into her people. It comes down to helping each other as well. “In every business, people matter and they must come first,” says Murunwa. “Members of my team have contracted Covid and the first thing was said was, ‘look after you. You come first.’ And then the rest of the team rallied round, spread the workload, and helped each other get it done. We shared the love.
“Covid is an extreme situation, but throughout my career, I’ve always encouraged people to ask for help. I’m very independent and that impacts my leadership style. I expect people to have personal accountability and to run with things. Because my default is to jump in, I often have to hold myself back if things go wrong so that everyone has the opportunity to go through the process. There is no value in me always resolving issues. In the same way, if someone isn’t coping or needs assistance, they should feel safe enough to ask for help, or secure enough to put up their hands if something has gone wrong.”
Success takes a village
For Murunwa, success isn’t a title. It’s growth and fulfillment, on a personal level and through supporting others. “I’ve had to learn that I don’t need to do everything myself, and I’ve done that by leaning on the incredible people in my life and on my teams, and through letting them lean on me and walk this journey with me.
“There is strength in numbers. We need to remember that it is possible to have it all, it’s just about timing. You may not be able to have it all together, but if you’re focusing on the journey instead of a destination, that’s okay. There’s time when I’m only focused on my family, and time when my team gets my all and my husband steps in because I’m swamped. I took time to do my MBA, which I’m incredibly proud of. You can be a leader, a mother-to-be and focused on personal and career growth and development. You just can’t do it all at the same time. You need to share the love and work with those around you.”