- Always persevere:
For my first job in banking, the application requested for only First Class and 2:1 graduates. But because I was relentless and determined to join the bank, I applied despite my 2:2, and wrote a cover letter explaining why I deserved a chance. The good news is that I got in.
We give up too early sometimes. Nothing is impossible. It is only impossible in your brain. Open your mind!
- No sentiments in leadership:
Let the best person get what he or she deserves. A person should not lose what they are entitled to because they are close to you, the same way another should not benefit unduly because they are close to you. People must earn what they get.
- Keep your competition on the radar:
Monitor your competition. At all times, you need to know what others are doing. While you should be mindful of any creeping sense of psychological inferiority and avoid being paranoid, do ensure that competition stays on your radar as this is the only way to prevent complacency and being satisfied with mediocrity and old glory.
- Take the difficult path:
I’m not a shortcut person. I often take the path less taken, the seemingly more difficult path, because I understand that in the long run, this can create monumental impact. All the decisions I have made in life that have helped me were seemingly difficult decisions that ended up being rewarding in the long run. See what others don’t see, stay focused on the long run. As humans, we are used to seeing only the now. It takes the development of the mind to see beyond today.
- Define your purpose:
In turning around several businesses, we have realised how important defining your firm’s purpose is. One of our country CEOs at UBA transformed the country’s operations for good. In sharing how he achieved this, he told a story of how each staff had the bank’s purpose as their laptop screensaver.
This was the first thing they saw in the morning upon resuming work, and the last thing they saw when leaving. The lesson is that to turn your staff into performers, they must feel committed to a higher purpose. Define your purpose, goal, orientation and focus. This sets the direction.
- Remain accessible:
As CEO of the then Standard Trust Bank, I sat on the same floor with my executives. This helped to build a strong bond that exists till today. As a leader, do not be far from your people. People must feel that they connect with you as a leader because the truth is people give their best to those they love. Interact with your people; attend their events, know their family, break artificial barriers because ultimately this kinship helps to achieve great results in the workplace.
- Get the people equation right:
Here, there are two parts.
- Age is nothing but a number but remain humble:
I became branch manager of a bank at a very early age of 26. However, I quickly learned that in leadership, age is not a factor. If you have a job to do, do it. Take charge and run the business. You were chosen to be a leader for a reason, get the job done! However, leadership is first amongst equals. It must go with humility. You should not lord it over others.
- Listen to others:
It is not enough to say that you listen to others, you must practice this. As a leader, should be proactive in hearing from others, you must encourage others to speak up. It is the job of a good leader to listen to people. At meetings, call the quiet ones out to contribute. Give everyone a platform. This diversity in contribution will form an enriched and balanced decision at the end of the day. Many leaders want to be heard only. The mere fact that you’re appointed to lead means you are good. No need to impress anyone anymore.
- The importance of marketing:
Aggressively and passionately sell yourself. Deliberately manage your brand perception. As a leader, you must set how you want the world to see you. Define your own narrative. Don’t let the world set this for you because once done, you can’t do anything about it. These days, I’d much rather over communicate than under communicate.
- Emotional intelligence:
There is a crucial need for emotional intelligence in the workplace. This is different from diplomacy and office politics. Instead, it is being aware of how others feel and not focusing on your own emotions. It is a combination of humility, inclusiveness, empathy and maturity.
- Execution: This is the art and discipline of getting things done. It makes all the difference. This is the translation of idea into action. Decisiveness is necessary for execution. Have an idea, define milestones, assess your movement from time to time to see where you measure – this is the process of execution.