CA Leandra Matthews leads with empathy and excellence

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CA Leandra Matthews leads with empathy and excellence

Jun 15, 2024 | Interviews, Strategy & Leadership

Leandra Matthews worked for nine months from May 2021 to January 2022 in the shared services division of Multichoice. She never set foot at their offices and never met any of her colleagues physically. Her laptop was delivered to her on her first day and collected from her on her last. Despite the unusual circumstances, virtual working due to the COVID pandemic, she counts it as one of the most enjoyable phases of her career given that she was immersed in the vibrant culture of the entertainment industry.

‘When I left the company, I was surprised that my colleagues held a well thought out farewell for me. It was done virtually but the messages they shared were very heart-warming. Some said that I impacted their lives and that I saw them for much more than the jobs they were doing and their careers. I didn’t realise that when I was just doing my normal thing of finding out how people are doing it would have such a profound effect.’ Leandra recalls.

‘I have been very deliberate when working in an organisation to appreciate that people are first and foremost human beings before their job titles. You are first a father, mother, brother, daughter etc before acting as a finance manager or any other position. Colleagues should learn and understand the person first. The appreciation from colleagues as expressed in the farewell validated my leadership approach and stands out for me as one of the highlights of my career,’ she adds.

Excellence in reporting

Another career highlight for Leandra was playing a pivotal role in the production of the Sasol Integration Report which received accolades at the Excellence in Integrated Reporting Awards curated by EY. She joined Sasol in 2013 after five years at PwC. In a nine-year stint at the integrated chemical and energy company, she served in various roles including assistant finance manager, group technical reporting specialist, manager decision support and finally, for 20 months, as a senior finance regulatory manager.

At inception, she was deployed to then newly established transactional shared services function where she managed a team of ten handling intercompany functions and setting policies and procedures for internal reporting. After a restructure, she shifted outside of shared services to a technical accounting role where she was responsible for drafting some technical notes and provided input to the remuneration report for the listed financial statements. She also took charge of reviewing and drafting technical accounting memos and was responsible for project managing the integrated report.

‘It was good exposure and experience as I worked on such complex accounting matters as managing the reporting for Sasol’s defined benefit fund. After two years, I moved to Sasol Energy where I was involved in financial planning and analysis preparing decision support reports for the executive committee and board.  I enjoyed that because it was different from what I had done before,’ Leandra explains.

In August 2019, Leandra took up the senior manager finance regulatory reporting role which was an important position given that Sasol operates in a highly regulated environment. Her tasks included submissions to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa and customs and excise reports to the South African Revenue Services. She joined Multichoice after yet another restructure at Sasol in 2021.

Seeking new challenges

‘I only stayed at Multichoice for nine months because someone at Kumba was very insistent that I interview for my current job as head of financial reporting. I am glad I took the interview because I enjoy the dynamic nature of the role. Things are always changing, bringing new challenges that keep me highly engaged. Without this constant change, I would get bored and lack mental stimulation.,’ Leandra explains.

Anglo American is the majority owner of Kumba Iron Ore. Because Kumba is listed, this means that there are dual reporting requirements as Leandra and her team prepare reports that are required by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Anglo American. They also handle the taxation and the integrated report. With multiple stakeholders, it involves understanding and packaging the right information in the right manner for the executive committee, audit committee and the board of directors.

Among the lessons Leandra would give to her younger self is not to let your value be defined by someone else’s inability to see your worth; stand up for yourself more and trust your gut.

‘When I was younger, I really doubted myself and my sentiments would get muddled by ums and ahs when I was trying to express myself in meetings. I would focus too much on what I didn’t know instead of what I knew and show too much respect of my seniors thinking that I didn’t have better ideas than them. In retrospect, if I prepared myself better, I would have been able to contribute quite positively to the discourse and not let my confidence drop. I excelled at research and writing things, it was just when it came to speaking up that I would end up falling short,’ she explains.

Measure of success

Personality tests have found Leandra to be a people person who needs to be careful not to help those in need to the extent that she ends up rescuing them instead of teaching and coaching. As an ambitious person, she sets realistic goals and when she sets her mind on doing something, she works extremely hard to do it.

‘Setting goals that are aligned to what is important to you and achieving those goals is my measure of success,’ she states.

‘I often work very long hours,’ Leandra laments. ‘My approach to handling this is informed by the lessons that I learnt from my mentor who is also a mother. When it comes to relationships, I cannot be everything to everyone at the same time. During peak periods, my family understands that I may not be as easily accessible and when work pressures are less, my colleagues understand that I need to dedicate time to my family.’

Leandra enjoys cooking for the family and keeping away from work during the early evenings before her two kids retire to bed. Cooking she says, is a way to de-stress and be creative, as are her other pastimes of hiking, walking and exercising.

‘I am also a frequent traveller; I would rather drive a cheap skorokoro vehicle and use the money I would have spent on a fancy car to go travel the world. Individually, I love traveling around Europe but as a family, we frequent Mauritius because of how much fun the kids can have in a really safe environment,’ she concludes.

 

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