Leadership means different things to different people: senior finance leaders share their thoughts on key skills for the top job
This article was first published in the September 2018 Africa edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Felix Mutati FCCA
‘You are not ready for leadership until you have first mastered the contours of failure. The most inspiring leaders are those who show us their ability to tenaciously overcome failures and motivate their people to succeed against the grain.
‘Leadership is not about managing grand projects or the preservation of one’s own image, but about developing people and celebrating their creativity and diversity. Only then can we incubate the greatest ideas and express the grandest designs.
‘I learned a lot about leadership from Nelson Mandela: his long walk epitomised the idea that after climbing a great hill one discovers there are many more to climb.
‘Now we must pick up the baton of Mandela’s leadership and express our hard-fought freedom to work responsibly and continue our collective climb so that we may all enjoy the glorious vistas that will surely surround us when we achieve our goals.’
Minister of works and supply, Zambia
‘Leadership has three broad elements and characteristics.
‘First comes vision and creativity. It’s about asking what opportunities the organisation can grasp.
‘The second element is courage. This is all about trying to do new things or behaving in a different way. Positioning yourself for a projected future can put your leadership at risk because it is dealing with ambiguity. A leader, though, has to be someone who is willing to run risks.
‘The third element is, at a lofty level, to inspire – at a more prosaic level, it is to influence and persuade others that your vision is one worth pursuing. It can be lonely to act on a vision with courage – you need to take people with you to make the vision happen.’
CEO of the International Federation of Accountants
(see also interview on page 12)
Taiwo Oyedele FCCA
‘When I was an associate, I thought that when I become a leader life would be easy - that I wouldn’t have to work too hard, I would just go for meetings, have coffee, play golf, read newspapers. But as I found out, leadership is not just about you, it’s bigger than you. It’s about other people, the organisation and its stakeholders, and that is what makes it critical. For the accountancy profession and organisations like ACCA and PwC, it is also about public interest and the reputation of the profession. People should not wait until they become a leader to find out about leadership.’
West Africa tax leader, PwC
Mildred Chiri ACCA
‘As a leader you must have vision and share it with your staff. For example, I told my team that, to receive any recognition or have relevance, we must rise to the challenge of our annual report deadline. Everyone has heeded that call and works flat out to hit the year-end date.
‘You also need a listening ear and empathy, so that people feel you are together with them. There is also a need for some technical skills, so that when things go wrong, you know where to press the button to jump-start the system.
‘The hardest part of leadership is that you bear the brunt when things go wrong. The buck stops at you. Also, when giving adverse appraisals or reports or having to fire someone, you have to give the final approval.’
Auditor general, Zimbabwe
Japheth Katto FCCA
‘Good leadership is about being people-centred. A good leader must know how to value, handle and develop people. Your licence to operate in the organisation as a leader is given by the people you lead. You must listen and consult – and then make informed decisions.’
Chairman, Stanbic Bank Uganda