Tolulope Adedeji shares the characteristics of successful female CEOs
Tolu is a business, marketing and management professional with 15 years experience across multiple brands and countries. She is currently the Marketing Director for West Africa at Ab inbev.
Within Africa, the trend is analogous reinforced by a disproportionate masculine culture. The maximum potential doesn't necessarily translate to company captainship for everyone and this is perfectly fine. Everyone cannot be CEO, but everyone can be the very best of themselves.
Before evaluating the key characteristics of Successful CEOs, it is essential to grasp that the job of the CEOs is limited to less than 0.1% of any large corporation so it intrinsic that the very best within that organization secure the role. Gender is not a requirement. Rather, it is Competence, Character and Commitment (The famous 3Cs). It is a fiercely competitive destination and those who embrace this realism have a shot.
Having secured the role, a CEO whether female or male knows that what got them the CEO roles will not keep them there. There is a lot more required.
Some of these characteristics are:
1. Ability to staff and lead the right team:
A leader without followers is merely taking a walk. Creating and nurturing a team that runs like a well lubricated machine is the first role of a CEO. Some organizations have leadership teams that consists of brilliant individuals that make up a collective disaster (where the team members are focused on personal vendettas and personal motives). A CEO must be able to staff fantastic team players and exit weaklings fast. A CEO needs to be 100% focused on the company vision, strategies and winning externally and cannot afford quenching internal squabbles. It is just too expensive a cost to carry. This may seem like an easy task but it is not, given unpredictable human behaviour.
2. Technical mastery:
A CEO's job is primarily to create and share value. Value for shareholders via dividends and asset appreciation, for consumers with winning portfolio offerings and for employees via competitive salaries and bonuses. To achieve these, a successful CEO needs proficiency in financial acumen, business strategies, Leadership, consumer and customer understanding, innovation and previous board experience. This doesn't mean mastery of all these skills but there should be good cognition of the fundamentals.
- The Intelligent Automation opportunity in emerging economies
- Sh400mn to be invested into cancer centres in Kisii, Nyeri, Mombasa and Nakuru
- The Demand for Resilience training in South Africa: Why do we need it, and how do we get it?
- Read the latest issue of Business Chief, Africa edition, here
3. Personality Fit:
Imagine you need to choose to invest between two companies. Company X has a CEO that is decisive, bold, accountable, disciplined, visionary, optimistic, emotionally stable, listens and inspires the organization whilst CEO of company Z is erratic, cannot decide, timid, pessimistic, throws tantrums, reckless and is impossible to work with. Which company will you invest in? I expect the majority to pick company X. This shows that there is a preferred personality for CEO roles.
4. Inspiring Leadership presence:
This is a very important characteristic to succeed. The CEO is the chief PR employee of any organization. The job is heavy on human interactions- both internally and externally. Externally with investors, shareholders, government, customers, consumers and more. Internally, with employees. A typical business has its highs and lows as defined by the product life cycle. A successful CEO must be able to inspire positivity and belief especially when the business dips and retain both employees' and investors' confidence. He/she must have great communication skills and that * Je ne sais quoi* factor.
Specifically for women, the additional highlight is extreme persistence. A CEO appointment may occur within corporate organizations after about 20-25 years of climbing the corporate ladder. For females, this is particularly challenging because of the years of mothering during career growth. Many females drop off the ladder due to the pressure of combining multiple pregnancies, maternity breaks and child care. For an average African woman with 4.5 births, this means at least 12 months of maternity leave, 12 months of 'reduced hours' post maternity and at least 24 months of combining breastfeeding and working C-Suite presentations.
So, to every woman reading this with the ambition of being a CEO, I wish you an extra dose of persistence and resilience. We all need it. To everyman working with a woman with ambition, continue to show a little bit of kindness and fair competition.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.