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Women Directors Roundtable: Impactful and Sustainable Leadership Styles

  Sep 8, 2017

Research indicates that the leadership style one adopts in different situations influences how well a team accomplishes its goals. Leadership styles may be influenced by several factors surrounding the individual, which may vary from one situation to another, to various personality types. Eventually, most of the people develop a dominant leadership style for all situations. Through experience, group members expect and even predict certain behavior patterns from leaders. It is not what leaders believe their style is, that is important, but what followers believe it to be.

Joyce-Ann Wainaina, Chief Executive – Citi Bank N.A Kenya and East Africa, Catherine Igathe, Managing Director AIG – Kenya, Eva Muraya – Founder and CEO, Brand Strategy and Design and Dr. Laila Macharia – Founder Scion Reel, discuss the impact of leadership approaches for sustainable organisational growth during the Women in Executive Leadership League Program – Directors Roundtable.

The Women in Executive Leadership League program is aimed at raising the standards of excellence and the number of competent women at board level. The program equips women in senior executive management with the necessary skills to serve in boards, building a pool of network of influential women leaders who can impart change in their respective fields.

The summit is moderated and facilitated by a rich mix of industry captains. The course leader, Patricia Murugami is the advisor to the Dean and program leader: Women in Business & Leadership. She has a vast wealth of knowledge on leadership and management, having developed over 1,000 senior managers across the region. This panel was moderated by Agnes Ruoro, the Project Lead Top 100 Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya. Agnes is also a Doctoral Fellow at Strathmore Business School.


Leadership and Growth

Catherine Igathe: I started leading people at quite an early age. I am glad that my fist boss gave challenging, but seemingly worthwhile opportunities that plunged me out of my comfort zone into delivering what was expected. Although my leadership journey up the corporate ladder has been steady, getting the break to lead was a test of patience and resilience. My take is that one should not deploy a single leadership style but apply different approaches into different tasks. However, this should always be anchored around one’s authentic self. One’s authenticity should remain intact regardless of the circumstance.

Joyce-Ann Wainaina: I have worked for Citi Bank for the past 27 years. Every time I say this, I am often met with the curious eyes questioning the validity of why I have made the choice to serve one organisation throughout my career. I look at each significant milestone as an entirely new job, requiring different skills set.  These milestones have been; Managing myself, managing others, managing managers and currently, executive management.

Building one’s networks and driving client value through performance have been very pivotal in my journey. The power of networks cannot be underestimated.

Eva Muraya: I held my first leadership position at 11 years of age. I have had the privilege of being around strong Men and Women in my family who always bestowed confidence in me that I could achieve what so ever I set my mind to achieve. The beauty of this was that it has always given me the self-assurance to find solutions for the problems that I saw around me. My leadership style has always been driven by innovative thinking.

Dr. Laila Macharia: As a young graduate of Law, when I began my career; I had this bewildered and an informed expectation that the world was eagerly awaiting my expertise. There was such a great difference between my expectations and the reality on the ground. I had to re-learn and reset my mind to accept that there was much that I didn’t know. One of the significant lessons that I had to learn was that; one must earn their dues. By accepting to learn and to be molded through the experience of others, I realised that I was very results oriented and that I thrived in performance – driven environs. I made my debut into private sector, through real estate and most current in Private Equity and Venture Capital. 


Sustainable Executive Leadership Style

Eva Muraya: I set up my business in 2001. I hadn’t realised how challenging being an entrepreneur was; especially in accessing credit. It was during this realisation that I founded Kenya Women Association of Business Owners (KWABO). KWABO has been able to influence policies favorable for women to access credit, conduct businesses effectively and access new markets. Most importantly I have found value in collaboration. Mine the power of your networks.

Dr. Laila Macharia: Women should not feel entitled to executive leadership just because they are women. Leadership is earned and not granted. What has been unfortunate in the women in leadership narrative, is that it is often half informed. Success stories often give the impression of little or minimal failures, whereas poor leadership stories featuring women, put the validity of women to serve in positions of leadership to test. The women in leadership story is not without failure and challenges. Nothing of worth is earned without a struggle.

Joyce-Ann Wainaina: I work in a highly-regulated industry. It is important for one to understand the operations of the business and the organisation very well. Significant and important lessons learnt along this journey has been seeking for assistance where and when I needed it, investing in training and learning from the failures and success of other organisations.

Catherine Igathe: Communication is key in leadership. Most of the times, we do not give the right information or we do not communicate effectively. As an executive, you need to learn how to communicate to the board. One must also network internally: Who are the people who have the stake in influencing decisions at the organisation? What is the organisation’s strategy and how does your competencies drive the strategy forward? Lastly, do not try to do everything, as you stand a greater chance of losing sight of the bigger picture. Enjoy, and do not be afraid of seeking help when you need it.

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