Advocate Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s Public Protector, was nominated as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014 due to her ability to stand firm on corruption at the most senior levels in South Africa. Her work on constitutional reform, land reform and the struggle for the protection of human rights and equality speaks for itself, and her journey is one of integrity and accountability. Advocate Madonsela shared her inspirational story and lessons learnt along the way at our recent Inspiration Sessions:

What will your legacy be: while Thuli has achieved a great amount, she feels that she is standing on the shoulders of giants like Winnie Mandela and Helen Suzman and that each generation should ask what their legacy will be. Are you leaders or consumers? Her advice is that if you want to go fast, then go alone. However, if you want to go far, take company as by rising with the support of others, your legacy is sustained. For this generation, South Africa has changed significantly with so many opportunities, so see yourself as a leader and be part of the solution. If one door closes, other opportunities open up.

Begin with the end in mind: she follows the advice from the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by beginning with the end in mind. By heeding this advice she said ‘don’t jump from a boat before you have clarified where you want to land’ and ‘are you happy with what you are doing and does it resonate with your soul’? Thuli once had a choice within her career of accepting a Harvard scholarship, but chose to remain in South Africa and assist the Constitutional Assembly in drafting South Africa’s new Constitution as one of the technical experts.

Importance of emotional intelligence: Thuli emphasised the importance of emotional intelligence in your career. She amusingly reflected on her younger self and her need at 25 to ‘fit in’ after which she thought her troubles will go away. This was a lesson about accepting yourself. With her increased experience by her mid 30’s, the lesson was more about accepting others. How you deal with conflict and how you deal with triggers will determine your success in your career.

Legacy of Public Protector: when Thuli’s non-renewable seven-year term of office comes to an end in October 2016‚ she hopes to leave behind an office that would have improved how government treats its people because that is the whole point of this office — to ensure that the state is accountable, but also that the state is able to note its mistakes and fix them.

In her final words, she challenged citizens and civil society to keep democracy alive and never lose vigilance by engaging, petitioning government and working through the Public Protector and Human Rights Commission. ‘Collectively we should hold each other accountable’. Advocate Thuli Madonsela is a true inspiration to us all.