Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group, or organisation to influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organisations. Zimbabwe is full of such leaders yet one area of concern is that they may not pass on their leadership skills to upcoming generations. In a broadcast brought by Zimpapers TV network (ZTN) in partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe (ICAZ), Andy Hodges (AH) talked to the Group chief executive officer for Old Mutual Zimbabwe and Head of Banking Portfolio, Old Mutual Rest of Africa, Samuel Matsekete (SM) on the Leadership talk show and discussed on his leadership journey so as to inspire the next generation of leaders. Below is an extract of the interview.
AH: Sam you have served in various roles with multiple organisations over your career, from banking to asset management, insurance and you even worked for a roofing and piping materials company TH Zimbabwe. Diverse companies indeed. Did this contribute in any way to your leadership journey to where you are now as Group chief executive officer for Old Mutual Zimbabwe and Head of Banking Portfolio, Old Mutual Rest of Africa?
SM: Certainly, I worked for a number of organisations as you outlined and different industries hence that makes me unique in my own career path, but the major benefits that I drew from this were just interacting with different environments, cultures, organisations, and different industries always present different challenges, the flexibility and ability to adapt to each of those is one of the skills that I bring to the bay in my current position or in my responsibilities.
AH: You said something interesting about people staying in an organisation for twenty years and hopefully they get to the top and others can move upwards, leadership to leadership positions by joining different organisations. Both are equally as good depending on what suits you as an individual.
SM: Certainly, I think when you look at the way that industry and commerce are involved just generally now you would find out that the trend is involving one where people seek to have variety will probably now have fewer careerists than people that are saying I want to try new things.
AH: Sam your experience and expertise are anchored on the core fields of finance, banking, investment management, insurance, and risk management. You state that your leadership skills have been developed from exposure at the executive level spanning a number of industries within local and international organisations. In what way, maybe you can expand on this?
SM: In the areas of my career the main drive in the earliest years was about being responsible and what was available at the time, I was definitive about my career and l went after it.
AH: Do you think it is important for future leaders?
SM: It is very important because in mind it gives you more control about what you want to be. It also gives you the sense of fulfilment because you become purposeful and you also would have processed what you would want to be in that industry.
AH: What have been the highlights and milestones of your leadership journey?
SM: My highlights would be a privilege to be involved with situations of change, to be part of the change in the organisation that I was involved with, and to be leading some of them. I went to Old Mutual at its demutualise, I was part of the team setting it up, putting up the structures and l remember celebrating getting my first license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The most fulfilling phase above all was the transition at Barclays where you would have seen an organisation as part of the global group has its brand known globally being bought and transforming getting into being a part of a regional entity, bringing a new name to the market and being the helm of that organisation with the sensitivities and all changes that had to happen around it, leading through that phase was satisfying.
AH: Was it an easy or difficult journey?
SM: It has its challenges and that’s what the fulfillment comes from. For example, the transition at Barclays into First Capital one would have seen the way customers responded, needed to be managed and there were sensitivities around that, even colleagues, the internal change, cultural shifts that needed to be managed.
AH: In your opinion, what are the attributes of leadership?
SM: Leadership means leading people and it also means you actually have to harness what’s within people and you realise as sooner as you do as a leader that you are not a leader because you know everything or you know better and you cannot claim to be everywhere, every time so work through people and you need people to deliver whatever it is that you set out to do.
AH: So how important is it to listen?
SM: Very important and I think in today’s leadership rules it is even more critical, that is how you ensure that you are close to the pulse of things because it is very easy to be far from where your reality is, far from the pulse and when you lose that touch you would think that you are still leading when you are having your own lonely path without anyone following.
AH: As a leader, you cannot do everything, how important is building your team around you as an effective leader.
SM: You build your team through listening but also involving and recognising that the team can also lead you some of the time because they actually have what you might not have for the task that you face at that particular time hence they add value.
AH: I note that your background is in Accounting, in fact after your degree you started by serving articles of clerkship with KPMG chartered accountants. In your opinion, how important is education to any budding future leaders? What advice would you give concerning education?
SM: Education remains important in my view since it offers the capacity to learn and that is how we adapt to the changing environment, new things will come and new technology. As leaders, we need to respond and we cannot do it without learning and that is how we adapt to the changing environment because new things will come up, new technology, and new ways of seeing things hence we cannot do that without learning.
AH: Every successful path comes naturally with failure. How did you and would you recommend that future leaders deal with this important issue?
SM: If you want to draw any benefit from failure is to learn from your mistakes and lessons and also how can you avoid them because every occasion that you fail brings loads of learnings. Allow yourself to fail because it’s in trying to push the frontiers. Take more risks and continue moving forward.
AH: A journey is never done alone. Was the support of your family important in achieving your goals? How important is it to networking?
SM: My family contributed a lot since they anchored my pathway, encouraged me to go for it and explore it. My mother encultured a sense of adding value, being productive, and also working hard in me while my wife and children gave me the space and appreciated me.
AH: It is said that Leaders are problem solvers and solution providers, and an important trait is that they must learn to listen. What do you consider to be the greatest challenge facing leaders in Zimbabwe today and in your opinion how can or should these be navigated?
SM: I would say it is the way we have always done things, being conditioned and feeling that you are buttered hence you will fail to see things differently. Being open-minded, looking at your current environment with optimism will bring a change.
AH: What advice would you give to future leaders? What would you consider the most important attributes that they should focus on or have?
SM: As leaders, l would encourage us to listen and listen more. Be close to the action and be able to adapt because changes march faster.
AH: Finally, as one of today’s leaders, what do you think is your legacy? At the end of the day, what would you like to be remembered for?
SM: If l can be remembered in some role for shaping our industries in the financial services but most importantly being remembered for calculating a way of doing things which is to do things right, in my opinion I think it’s much fulfilling. – Sunday Mail