What does leadership mean to you and how do you define it?
Leadership is an awesome privilege, it means having the opportunity to create, build on, make something better, invariably with people whom you have an obligation to inspire, capacitate, and enable towards that cause. I believe everyone leads somewhere, so we all exercise that responsibility to a greater or lesser extent in our lives.
What is the most important lesson you have learned, from your personal or business life?
I’d like to offer two. I’ve learned that most barriers are in our heads. Change the narrative, and you can change the world, your’s in the least, or someone else’s, your country, or indeed the globe. I’ve also learned that life, personal and business, are team sports, best played well with others.
Is there someone who has had a major impact on you as a leader?
I have had a few, but three leaders stand out as having had a major impact on my leadership. These three in particular all saw something in me, in some cases something I didn’t see, in other cases something I hoped was there. Essentially my potential. They all drew that out in different ways. One was incredibly tough on me, but I trusted her motives. One was hugely empowering and constantly positively reinforcing. The other, very balanced in employing both methods. All three gave me enormous responsibilities that challenged and stretched me, whilst providing just the right amount of support, seemingly knowing what I needed and when.
Have you experienced failure? If so, what did you learn?
Oh yes, I have failed countless times. So I’ve learnt to regard failure as inevitable, especially as I have gone out of my comfort zones, pushed my limits and established new frontiers for myself. I’ve also learnt that it’s sometimes fascinating to see yourself fail (that’s when you don’t take yourself too seriously), oftentimes it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, or downright horrible, but always necessary for learning and growing.
Who do you admire in the business world and why?
I admire and have admired quite a few business leaders over the years. Hard to pick just one, but suffice to say I admire those who lead with integrity, who are great at envisioning the difficult and seemingly impossible things to get done. Those leaders who have the instinct, tenacity and resoluteness to go after it, and gain support along the way. I admire how they break through our barriers and paradigms and establish new fascinating norms for society’s good.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring board directors?
Understand your motivation for wanting to become a board director and in which industries or sectors. Prepare for it well, particularly if you can get corporate governance and board development training beforehand. Consider the responsibility carefully, conducting due diligence of the company offering the directorship, especially as a non-executive director.
If you were able to run one company, apart from your own business, which would you choose and why?
I’d be keen to run a business that harnesses the opportunity and need for long term food security, particularly while leveraging my home continent of Africa. Done right, it creates sustainable jobs, scales up large cohorts of subsistence farmers, makes farming attractive and relevant to young people, develops rural communities, takes the pressure off cities, encourages responsible use of the environment, and so on. This would be a new area for me, but a place of passion.