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In a bid to contribute towards the fight against cholera, anchored by our group’s core values on environmental protection that recognize that our existence is made possible by the societies in which we operate, Madison Financial Services PLC (MFS) has officially handed over general cleaning equipment including work suits, gum boots, industrial reusable gloves, all-purpose disinfectants, industrial bins and wheelbarrows to the Government through the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry.

 

#MakeLusakaClean

#MadisonFinancialServicesPLC

#ProudlyZambian

#itsworthit

Madison General Insurance Company Zambia Limited complies to SI71 of 2015, please click here to see the certificate.

Talk delivered by the Group Executive Chairman to the Board Room Chat members at Top Floor, Elunda II on 4th September, 2014 at 18:30 hrs.

When Lombe asked me to come and speak on the topic "The Evolution of a Business Leader", I had this suspicion that what she really meant was "come and talk about yourself".

I will try my best but the first thing I want to dispel is that, I do not consider myself a successful entrepreneur as most people think but I have to accept that I am playing a role as a business leader.

Looking back, I find that from a young age there were traits which seemed to be present in me, pointing towards leadership. I suppose my parents were responsible for this. For instance, I was not allowed to be outside of the top four (4) pupils in examination results. I suppose that my parents wanted me to exhibit a certain minimum and acceptable level of intelligence and an appreciation of achievement and hard-work.

Also being a very shy person, my parents always insisted that I speak up and show self- confidence. Although like everybody else I frolicked in the dirt, at some point I had to take a bath and wear well pressed clean clothes never mind that they were torn on the back seat. Appearance was important to my parents. Indeed the way a leader appears is important. More importantly honesty was non negotiable in our household and my dad clapped me on several occasions for telling a lie. You will appreciate that the question of corporate governance had already arisen at that tender age.

My dad believed in quality in everything. For instance the moment the women of the house dreaded most was when my dad sat down to have his nsima. If the nsima was not done to his satisfaction his silence could be heard in China and there was no peace in the house that day. Accordingly my step-mother got around this problem by teaching total quality management in the household to reach the level of excellence my dad desired. Naturally dad’s habits rubbed off me. To this day quality and excellence embody my cultural norms and beliefs.

Today in my adult life, I realise that if I have been successful then part of my evolution as a leader is attributed to the following traits, as already mentioned:

  • A measure of Intellect
  • A desire to achieve
  • Respect for hard work
  • Self confidence
  • Honesty
  • Respect for quality and excellence

When I was at Munali Secondary School my recollection is that there was an insistence on developing in each of us one or more practical skills. For instance, I did art, music and wood-work. I didn’t like sports especially cross country running but today I realise that endurance is a very important part of a leader’s qualities and also I realise that the art, music and wood-work I did have helped me to formulate ideas today.

Munali Secondary School also encouraged public speaking to help develop self confidence. This must be encouraged in all schools. A very important aspect of leadership in business is to have a constant flow of ideas because, and as you are aware, the world is forever changing and therefore there must always be a Plan B, Plan C and so on. For instance Nokia was in Agriculture before moving into the technology business.

The problem I see in Zambia is that we do not take pride in generating new and innovative ideas. Instead we prefer to copy what others are doing and so we have a rather strong culture of jealousness and envy. The other thing I remember whilst at Munali was that there was great emphasis on not only having skills but acquiring knowledge of all sorts and we were all encouraged to read widely. Today I realise that as a leader I must value the importance of both skills and knowledge to forge ahead because without these, the opportunity for success is very limited.

Therefore I read very widely, find time for television to catch up with world news and to get fresh ideas. One thing I am aware about is that to be in business one must be conscious of the following:

  • Having an idea (or ideas)
  • Looking for opportunities for the idea or ideas to be tested and applied; and 
  • Recognising, measuring, averting or minimising risk.

No matter how brilliant an idea is, it is useless if there is no opportunity to market the idea and so prior research is important. Also it is important to recognise that if you do not manage risk, your business can go belly up due to ignorance.

The LSA Group is the result of ideas and innovation and of taking up opportunities which are available to us, limited only by the available resources to us. Also we are not afraid to take on risk and managing it. Business is about risk. The 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report shows that in Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia ranks number one in the desire for people to set up a business. However it also shows that Zambia falls behind countries like Malawi and Uganda in exhibiting fear of failure which prevents us from starting business. We want to be in business but we are afraid to be in business.

Therefore another important trait for a business leader to have is courage. Courage to take on risk and the intelligence to manage risk. You may have the idea, have the opportunity and be successful at managing risk but two important aspects of successful business leadership are Talent and Energy. Regarding Talent I have already touched on the need to sharpen skills and acquire as much knowledge as possible. In fact I would say to get the best out of people invest in them. Train them well but also remember to reward them well.

However the one thing I try to do with my own talent is to be very observant and so I scribble down ideas, things I see, smell, hear, touch and taste so that I can remember them. I scribble down ideas which form in my mind before they escape and when I travel I carry with me a camera to capture images of interesting things I come across. In regard to Energy I realise that very little can be done if you have mental and physical fatigue and also there is need for one to have the right emotional balance. To have the right balance of emotional intelligence is a very important ingredient for one to provide leadership to others. We need at all times to feel for others. i.e we must be empathetic. Meanwhile, in view of the impact of change on business, strategic leadership is important.

Studies by the Harvard Business School have shown that there are six (6) components of strategic leadership. I discuss these below.

  1. I constantly scan the internal and external environments to anticipate how the future is likely to look like and respond to the challenges of tomorrow today. Scenario planning is important here.
  2. I try as far as possible to challenge the status quo and I have no problem in accepting the divergent views of colleagues in the Group as well as those from outside the Group. Challenging the status quo allows for different ideas and perspectives to come through leading to better decisions to be made.
  3. A lot of data and information are generated from scanning the environment and this requires analysing or interpreting it. The results of analyses are not always pleasant but as a leader I must face up to the facts however unpleasant they may be and take that into account in whatever the decisions are made thereafter.
  4. Good analysis or interpretation leads to informed decisions and informed decisions have tended to be beneficial to the Group.
  5. Then there is the issue of strategic control. On one hand this requires having control over information generated in the Group. Sensitive information must be secured because if it falls in the hands of competitors we will lose the strategic advantage we may have. On the other hand there has to be control over the behaviour of people. Although I prefer a participative and democratic leadership style which allows for empowerment across the Group and at different levels, it is important to provide rules and regulations to guide people so that they know when not to cross the boundaries. However by promoting collaboration in the Group the strategic control of people becomes a non- issue. Strategic control is critical to ensuring that the organisation remains aligned to the vision and the mission.
  6. We always try to learn from our mistakes and I truly believe that it’s alright for one to make a mistake as long as one is willing to learn from it. When I was appointed to manage and provide leadership in Madison Insurance Company Limited, the Company started with myself only then we became three (3) then six (6) and today we are over four hundred (400) people. One of the big lessons I have learnt along the way is that to succeed you must surround yourself with the right people. Those of you who have read the book “ Good to Great” by Jim Collins should not forget the advice given that kick off the bus the under performers and do so early before they put you in trouble. So I have learnt to carefully choose the people I work with to avoid the emotional problem of sacking people. In fact when I look back to my childhood my parents always advised me to keep the right company i.e people with the same values as myself and my family. But people must not be punished for making mistakes.

Another lesson I have learnt along the way is that you must network and network and network. If you do not connect with the right people a lot of doors will not open. We have found many difficulties along the way and by knowing the right people it has been possible to resolve difficult problems.

Networking also allows for business opportunities to emerge.

Another important perspective is about the culture in the Group. Our culture is very achievement-oriented and we want entrepreneurship to emerge. One way we are enhancing this culture is through the IDEA OF THE MONTH competition which we started about a year ago. This allows for two things to happen: 

  • Corporate venturing which is aimed at growing our businesses with new ventures or new businesses; and
  • Strategic entrepreneurship which is aimed at improving efficiencies and lowering costs.

Staff with good ideas to offer are rewarded with cash and they also stand a good chance of being promoted. The shared values and beliefs which constitute our culture are helping us to shape our people into leaders and are also helping us to shape our organisational structures and control systems to produce positive behaviours which then impact on our products and the quality of our service delivery.

There are many things to share with you but let me end with corporate governance. I learnt very early in my life as a junior manager in the Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited that it was important to have policies to govern every situation in the Company. Including the need to protect the interests of all stakeholders. Through corporate governance we ensure that our board of directors get our management teams to achieve superior financial performance.

Accordingly you will find that each of our subsidiary companies has a separate board of directors with independents in the majority. Also each board of directors has committees of the board and we rely on a performance management system to remove bias in assessing the performance of our people.

My observation is that businesses with weak governance structures tend to fail. Quite a number of Zambians want to be in total control of their businesses so that they can have free access to the company’s resources. They fail to distinguish between the business and themselves as proprietors. This leads to unsustainable expenditure and bankruptcy.

Thank you.