One of the best ways to become a leader is by soaking up advice from those who got there before you. A plethora of leadership books exist and it can be daunting to decide where to start.
You may want to go with popular books like “The 48 Laws of Power” or you may consider this list which spices things up by choosing books with a specific kind of woman in mind.
Whether you’re the woman whose family and friends dismiss her anxiety because “Africans don’t deal with that” or you’re struggling to find a balance between being a wife, mother, daughter, aunty, bff and/or businesswoman, we’ve got a book on leadership for you.
“#Girlboss” by Sophia Amoruso:
For the woman who doesn’t have time for the haters
Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer worth over $250 million. When she was 22 years old, she was broke and had spent most of her teens on the road and shoplifting. “#Girlboss” is a book for the a typical CEO, it charts Amoruso’s ascendance into success offering practical life and career advice.
This one is for the women who walk the unbeaten path and have to listen to people asking them why they are setting up a puff-puff business when they haven’t yet married. In “#Girlboss” Amoruso reminds us to be loyal to our passions and remain nonconforming.
“Flying Without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success” by Thomas J. DeLong:
For the anxious #MotherlandMogul
“Flying Without a Net” is a useful guide to anxious professionals. Fear of the unknown is very real for some of us. It holds us back from new challenges and dims our brightness by making us vulnerable.
In this book, Thomas J. DeLong, Harvard Business School professor, teaches how to deal with fears and to turn vulnerability into strength. “Flying Without a Net” is essential learning on how to confront fears and improve on your courage.
“The First-Time Manager” by Loren B. Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary S. Topchik:
For the newbie just starting out
Called the “ultimate guide for anyone starting his or her career in management”, “The First-Time Manager” is effectively a beginner’s guide. This book is great for newbies venturing into the worlds of management and entrepreneurship.
It offers easy advice on diverse topics from discovering your management style and hiring and keeping your staff motivated to dealing with bosses and leading meetings.
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois P. Frankel:
For the good girl ready to go bad
Apparently nice girls carry last. You may be making huge mistakes in your career by being overly likeable. “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is a must-have for business women.
It shows that being a nice girl may not be the best way to take charge of your career. Lois Frankel coaches us on getting rid of unconscious mistakes such as multi-tasking and not negotiating.
“The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius:
For the multitasking woman
This list won’t be complete without one from history. Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 to 180 A.D, he was also a legislator, a parent, a military officer, a political leader and a spouse. No wonder, Aurelius is considered to be one of the most powerful and respectable leaders in history.
And where better to learn than from a leader whose name is remembered thousands of years after his death? “The Emperor’s Handbook” brings timeless lesson from a Roman emperor to readers of today. It is a translation of Aurelius’s private personal notes on life, leadership and everyday advice.
What kind of leadership books is for a woman like you? Share them with us.
I thought I was ready when I took on my first ‘official’ management role as a performance manager. I had technical ability (I’d undertaken a good deal of additional, unpaid supervisory work, under the guise of ‘development opportunities’ prior to that) and I had a professional attitude so I thought I was good to go.
Ha! Boy, did I get that wrong. The main difficulty was that I didn’t know the difference between leadership and management.
If you’re a new manager, some of the lessons that I and countless other leaders have learnt (and I’ll be learning as long as I’m still here) will, hopefully, help you to transition into a management and leadership role in a more authentic way.
Prioritise being the leader your team needs, rather than doing everything perfectly
Chances are you’re a conscientious woman with high standards so you don’t need to stress about being seen to be doing a good job; that’s a given. It’s better to work out what your team needs from you than to focus on ticking every box.
Spend time with your new colleagues, get to know them and find out what they need most from you, whilst you learn more about the role.
If change is needed, find a way of working that works for you and your team
You’ll need to develop the confidence to challenge the status quo, which takes guts, especially if you’re managing a group of people you only just met, or you’re new to the organisation.
Overstand your values
Yes, I said overstand. It’s one thing to be aware of your own values; it’s quite another to understand how your values serve you and influence the way in which you lead. The best leaders have a high level of self-awareness.
Check out this article for more on understanding your values. If you’re not already, spend time getting get clear on your values.
There will be days when you feel more like an infant school teacher than a manager and there’ll be days when you feel on top of the world because things are going so well. Spend time reflecting on your day or week and ask yourself what you did that was good and should be repeated and what wasn’t so good.
How can you do things differently next time? Reflecting like this helps to improve your practice as a leader and is a pretty good de-stresser, too!
Don’t try to switch up your persona
Pretending to be someone you’re not is hard work and tiring. If you’re not a suit kinda person, don’t go for a power suit, just because you’re now in a leadership role.
If you’re a soft-natured person, don’t try to come across as hard-nosed. People will see straight through you and inconsistencies in the way you treat and lead will cause others to doubt your credibility. Do you, boo.
Don’t be afraid to be a bit vulnerable
Exercise wisdom, of course (this ain’t therapy!) but being honest about things you’re not sure of can help your new team to connect with you as another human being and see you as more than just ‘the new boss.’
If they can see that you’re ok with your imperfections and limitations, they can relate to you and come alongside you far quicker. It’s also freeing for you to release the pressure that striving for perfection creates.
Just because you’re the manager, doesn’t mean that you should, or will have, all the answers
It’s not your job to know everything, it’s your job to facilitate your team in coming up with solutions and support staff so that they can do their job.
You will make mistakes
Get comfortable with the fact that things won’t always go to plan and that’s ok. You’ll learn for the next time.
Being liked as a manager is underrated
Yes, it’s true that staff need to respect you but being respected and being liked don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s a lot easier and more enjoyable for everyone when you’re likeable.
Boy, is leadership great for your growth!
Try not to compartmentalise your learning. Growth is growth sobe intentional in transferring the development in your professional life to your personal development.
A year from now, you’ll have grown immensely through your experiences so soak it up, my dear!
What’s your experience been? What do you wish you’d been told earlier on? Let me know in the comments below.
Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the launch of WANDA, a newly established nonprofit organization educating, empowering and advocating for women and girls of African decent to become leaders in the fields of nutrition, dietetics and agriculture.
The launch, which took place on March 5th was held in honor of International Women’s Day and as such, featured a panel of innovative and groundbreaking social entrepreneurs in industries ranging from beauty and cosmetics, to television and entertainment. WANDA Founder, Tambra Raye Stevenson, groundbreaking in her own right as a National Geographic Traveler of the Year and founder of the DC-based NativSol Kitchen, describes WANDA (Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics, and Agriculture) as an initiative bringing together “sisters of the soil” to encourage all women, young and old, to lead in advancing the fields of nutrition and agriculture.
“Women and girls are at the heart of transforming our communities through preserving our foodways, building vibrant economies and healthy communities,” she said. WANDA will also be launched in Abuja, Nigeria in May.
As a Ghanaian-American woman just beginning her journey into the fields of agriculture and nutrition, I find WANDA’s mission intriguing. The organization promotes itself as a Pan-African initiative, which is hugely significant to me at this point in my career. Though most of my professional experience falls within the realm of international development, a heightened social awareness of racial injustice in the United States, underscored by the growth of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, has compelled me to offer whatever service I can to ensuring a healthy future for Africans AND African-Americans alike.
Having shared this passion with colleagues and advisors, I have been told that I cannot have a successful career straddling both sides of the Atlantic – I would have to choose. The launch of this organization confirmed that I am not alone in my desire to protect and promote health throughout the African Diaspora. And for me WANDA is blazing a trail where there had been none before.
If you missed the launch, check out my top 10 black girl magic moments that continue to resonate with me.
1. Getting in formation
Inspired by the song that launched many a think piece, WANDA flexed its impressive marketing and social media muscle by borrowing from Beyonce’s celebrated and controversial song, “Formation” for the title of their event. Dubbing the launch, “Black Women Getting in Formation: Power of Media and the Arts to Advance Nutrition and Agricultural Advocacy,” WANDA brought attention to the convening power of a song some have identified as a call to arms for black women.
In a recent interview with Black Enterprise, Stevenson shared that WANDA’s version of “getting in formation” means encouraging women and girls to pursue education and leadership roles in health and agriculture.
For me, gathering under the backdrop of “Formation” and a national conversation about self-love and unapologetic blackness brought a palpable sense of pride and purpose to the launch. It was an environment that allowed participants to celebrate each others accomplishments, relate to each others struggles and commit to partnerships moving forward.
A moment that stayed with me, however, was when panelist and WANDA honoree Rahama Wright, CEO of Shea Yeleen International reminded attendees that countless unnamed and unknown women have always and are still doing the work only recently championed by Beyonce. Way before the Super Bowl performance that stunned America, black women worked together to achieve success and independence. This moment from Wright reminded me that despite Beyonce’s undeniable contributions to the movement, the real heroes in the quest for justice and equality are in our midst and should not be overlooked.
2. Celebrating excellence in entrepreneurship
Speaking of celebrating the heroes in our midst, WANDA set a great example by honoring four WANDA women leading the way in promoting positive images of blackness and black women. Along with Ms. Wright, WANDA honored Julian Kiganda, CEO of Bold and Fearless, DeShuna Spencer, Founder and CEO of KweliTV, and Mukami Kinoti Kimotho, Founder and CEO of Joodj.
During the panel discussion, each honoree offered a unique perspective on the realities of being a black female entrepreneur. The most memorable moment for me was the vulnerability each woman shared in explaining that their successes were not won overnight. The panelists openly discussed the tendency in the black community to erase struggles from one’s personal narrative. By openly discussing the blood, sweat and tears that goes into growing an organization from the ground up, the panelists believe that more women may be encouraged to continue chasing their dreams even when they face hardship. It was a message that resonated with the audience who clapped in support of these personal and uplifting statements.
3. The food
NativSol Kitchen provided the tasty, healthy and culturally relevant fare originating from different countries across the continent. Stevenson dazzled attendees with a Morroccan stew, West African rice dishes, savory black eyed peas, and my personal favorite from the event, bissap, or zobo as it is known in Nigeria. The drink is made from dried hibiscus leaves and is known for its tangy flavor and deep crimson color.
NativSol spiced its version up with a touch of ginger, giving the beverage a kick that rounded out the meal. The message I took away from the impressive spread is that food from across the African continent and Diaspora is naturally delicious and healthy. Over time, departure from these foods and the uptake of the Western diet has left a staggering percentage of the Diaspora suffering from overweight, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. In the United States, over 75% of African Americans are overweight or obese, while in Africa nutrition related non-communicable disease will account for 40% of the disease burden on the continent by 2030.
A part of WANDA’s mission is to reverse this trajectory and restore health to the Diaspora by embracing the heritage foods that characterize so many of its classic dishes. For more information about the link between culture, food and health check out Oldways African Heritage and Health, a wellness program developing resources and initiatives to promote the healthy foods and delicious eating traditions of African Heritage for good health and community.
4. The fashion
Sometimes being one of a few, if not the only black woman in the one’s work environment requires a precarious balancing act of trying to maintain one’s identity while not becoming a target of stereotypes or scrutiny.Sometimes it can become pretty stressful. For black women, hair can be one of the most treacherous waters to navigate in the workplace. What I loved about the WANDA launch was seeing successful professional black women in all of their diverse glory.
From Kiganda’s waist length locs to Kimotho’s cropped and colored do, the women at the launch exuded class and professionalism no matter the texture, length or color of their hair. Not only did attendees’ hair make a statement, but their clothes did as well. Who says being a businesswoman only means blue, grey and black suits? The WANDA event was a feast for the eyes, with attendees rocking colorful Ankara print and eye catching jewelry from a range of African countries. This reinforced to me the necessity for all women of the Diaspora to rebel against the societal norms of the work place and refuse to forget just how beautiful every kind of black woman is.
5. Establishing a multigenerational connection
The number of mothers and daughters who came to the launch together pleasantly surprised me. So much of whom I am as a woman in terms of my confidence and self-esteem comes from my mother therefore it only makes sense that mother/daughter pairs would be interested in ensuring that their descendants yet to come are guaranteed equal access to the education and job opportunities they desire.
Beyond those with familial ties, women of all ages were able to connect at the WANDA launch. During the panel discussion, a lawyer with plenty of years of experience asked panelists if they ever seek to engage older women. All panelists highlighted the importance of engaging all generations, particularly elders, in their work.
Mothers, grandmothers and women leaders in general play the pivotal role of passing down cultural knowledge and eating habits, and promote economic growth in their communities. This traditional role fits well into WANDA’s model of empowerment through mentorship. It touched me to know that WANDA and its honorees saw it fitting to remind us that we all can influence the next generation. and we ‘have a duty to plant trees, so they can sit in the shade.’
6. Remembering the importance of self care
After the panel discussion concluded, I asked the panelists how they maintain their enthusiasm and confidence. I also asked how they care for themselves and maintain their sanity if they ever face backlash for their work. I asked this question because, as in the case of Beyoncé, black women who stand up for themselves and for their people can sometimes open themselves up to racist and sexist criticism.
Activists and public figures such as Melissa Harris-Perry have publicly discussed the self-care routines they adopted to protect themselves from their detractors. Though all panelists gave incredible answers, such as knowing one’s limits, never neglecting one’s health and feeling comfortable admitting failure, my favorite piece of advice came from Spencer who discussed the importance of having a team of friends and trusted advisers who you can go to for laughs, tough love, a shoulder to cry on and more.
Spencer noted that surrounding one’s self with like-minded individuals keeps one focused and inspired. I remember looking around the room in the moment and thinking, “We need each other. None of us can do this alone.” This sentiment was solidified by Stevenson who admitted that unlike past initiatives she tried to grown on her own, WANDA would be a child raised by the village – a community of women who want to see the child thrive. The grassroots nature of this organization encouraged me to address my own fears of failure and get involved with WANDA by working on my writing.
7. Reflecting on the pain that unites us (and how to overcome)
The moment that drew out the most thought and reflection came from a comment shared by a woman named Rose. Originally from Uganda, Rose had this to say during the question and answer portion of the panel: “Africans will never heal until African-Americans heal”. Having never heard such a statement, I stopped, as did many other participants, to seriously reflect on what this means.
Though I’m sure it can be interpreted in many different ways, I took what Rose said to mean that our destiny, as people of the Diaspora is interlinked. It has been interlinked since the first of us endured the Middle Passage. It was interlinked when the Civil Rights movement exploded during a time of widespread liberation on the continent and will continue to be interlinked as Africans and African-Americans battle the very similar challenges of hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, marginalization and limited access to resources. These feelings were hard to unpack, but were appreciated by the panelists who praised Rose for remembering the importance of communal healing and love within the African Diaspora. This was a thought provoking moment that will not be soon forgotten.
8. The unveiling of little Wanda
In a moment that drew a collective “Awwwwww!!!” from attendees and panelists alike, Stevenson unveiled an exciting and creative aspect of the WANDA initiative: Little Wanda of the upcoming “Where’s WANDA?” series, is a character inspired by Stevenson’s own journey to Africa and childhood goals of healing her family.
In developing series, Little Wanda travels across the African continent meeting WANDA Women, or Big Wandas, that research, produce and promote African heritage foods to nourish their communities. “Where’s WANDA,” geared towards girls under ten years of age, will include educational enrichment resources inviting young girls to travel and learn with Little Wanda.
I believe this character, the Diaspora’s answer to “Dora the Explorer,” will open so many opportunities for little girls of African descent to learn about culture and heritage in a way they never have before. With her adorable afro and cute ankara skirt, Little Wanda is a character young girls can relate to and that sort of representation in the media is so important. Follow @NativSol and @IamWANDAorg to catch updates on where Little Wanda goes next!
9. ToluMiDE debuts “Mama Sunshine”
TolumiDE is a talented Nigerian-Canadian singer and songwriter whose music spans the genres of R&B, Afropop and Soul. Having never met her nor listened her music, I was struck by Tolu’s earthy voice and quirky adlibs. A WANDA honoree herself, TolumiDE graced attendees with a new song called, “Mama Sunshine”.
While listening to the catchy song filled with themes of growth, resilience and renewal, I felt the song was a perfect way to begin a new chapter for many of the women standing in the room. WANDA has provided an opportunity to connect and build a community with a common purpose and that is something I am very thankful for.
TolumiDE had a song for these feelings as well, offering an encore with her song of thanks and praise, “My Love”. Be sure to check out the video on YouTube!
10. Recognizing the strength in numbers
The WANDA launch was an awakening for me, drawing out feelings of affirmation, inspiration, solidarity and energy that come with finally feeling understood and identifying a direction. Following the close of the event, participants lingered for hours, laughing, sharing and embracing their newfound roles as students, mentors, leaders, advocates, and WANDA Women.
We closed by taking a final picture, which solidified for me that I have become apart of something bigger than myself. The sense of community offered by WANDA and its powerful women and male advocates fills a hole that many black women in the fields of nutrition, dietetics and agriculture often feel, being one of a few, if not the only black woman in their work place.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people of African descent only make up roughly 2.6 percent of the registered nutritionists and dietitians. It is time to change this and WANDA is a big step forward in finding the solution. There is strength in community and strength in numbers, and I look forward to watching WANDA’s membership grow.
To all intents and purposes, many economies on the continent have seen a slowdown. Businesses are being tested for resilience, they are being pushed to the edge, and the strength and acumen of their value chains are being tested.But come what may, businesses must go on.They may not thrive as they when the economy was buoyant, but they must continue in earnest.
As I think about these times, two things come to mind.
The need to build a strong brand to have a sustainable and viable business in and out of a slowdown.
The need to continually prepare and plan to scale your business around the core business activity at the earliest possible opportunity.
Building a brand. Building a business
What is the difference between a brand and a business? A business is an enterprise that creates an opportunity to trade and generate revenue.A brand is made up of intrinsic values, quality and characteristics that endear clients and aspirational clients to the business.
I always say when starting a business, it is crucial to focus on building the brand first, so that you can have a viable, sustainable business in the medium to long term.And building a brand is not child’s play. A business brand is almost always made up of the personal and business values of the CEO.
Especially for a small business, it is almost impossible to separate the personal brand of the CEO from the business brand.These become indistinguishable given that the CEO is the face of the business, and most likely the primary client-facing representative of the business.
For the business owner and CEO, this brings home the need to reflect on, define and articulate your personal and business values right from the outset.This delivers you your business brand.Understand and define what you are trying to achieve with your business and what values are aligned with that personal and business aspirations.
Then, commit to live those values – through how you operate your business, how you choose and interact with clients, the quality of your services and products, how you recruit and engage with staff, how you present yourself to the world – presentation skills, public speaking skills, networking, and personal style.When we focus on these from the outset, we endear clients, and essentially revenues, to our business, create brand loyalty, and, come what may, in and out of recession, we enjoy a level of brand loyalty.
Scaling your business
Most business start with one core idea, concept, initiative, but there is always an opportunity to scale and expand that business.Think of a fashion brand that starts initially producing clothes, then start to produce and sell accessories, then later on goes into interiors, and maybe even then a lifestyle venture such as a restaurant.
What enables such a business to do that successfully is the power of their brand.When a brand is strong, it has a following, and clients will seek out that brand for every aspect of their daily needs.
It’s an intentional decision.Many global corporations and their CEOs at one point decided to develop their personal and business values (=brand) to keep their clients and customers hooked. In the event of an economic slowdown or economic upturn, their business, through their brand strength, remains a viable and sustainable enterprise.
You can do it!
The price of business and entrepreneurship is uncertainty, and the prize is a vision fulfilled, success even in the midst of uncertainty.
Someone recently shared with me a precise lesson in living. They said, if we knew the times and seasons, if we knew exactly what would happen to us or our business next month, next year or in 3 year, we would not need faith, we would not need to be resilient.
It is often the uncertainty in business and the ambition and determination to curb that very uncertainty that fuels the drive to success.
Risk taking buoyed by a strong brand can bring some comforting business stability.
When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
What exactly is a personal brand? There is no official definition but it’s artful combination of your expertise, talents and skills as well as the platforms that you use to present these. Many people focus only on their personal brand when they’re looking for a job, but the work doesn’t stop there. As a young professional, you can continue to find new opportunities and establish yourself in the job market by keeping your personal brand updated, fresh and in front of the right people.
Whether you are in your first job after youth service or a brand new entrepreneur looking to establish credibility in the market, below are 5 things you can do today to build and sustain your personal brand.
1. Define your brand
What do you want to be known for? Are there certain attributes that you want to be linked to? What is your area of expertise? What are you passionate about? Once you establish this, you will be able to clearly define your brand. Be specific.
Choosing a general subject matter like “lifestyle” will not make you stand out of the crowd. According to Inc. Magazine, with a niche focus, you’ll have more opportunities to prove you know what you’re talking about. While your potential audience might be slightly smaller, it will also be that much more relevant.
2. Social media presence
Social media platforms are great tools for promoting your personal brand. Make sure that the content on your profiles is consistent across the board and aligns with your brand. Flesh out your LinkedIn profile. Contribute to conversations on Twitter. Delete or untag yourself from questionable pictures on Facebook. Post regular updates about issues you care about on all three. Be careful about the images and videos you upload to Instagram. Remember that all the content you post online contributes to your personal brand.
Take advantage of writing opportunities. This allows you to not only share your knowledge but also establish yourself as an expert in your field. You can start by guest blogging for blogs that you admire. If you want to write more frequently, you can start your own blog or create a personal website. An added advantage of having your own website is that it increases the rank for your name on search engines. You can also reach out to newspapers and magazines, and write opinion articles to be published in them.
Networking is important in building and growing your personal brand. Engage with other people in your industry both online and offline. Participate in online professional discussions and forums. Attend networking eventsand be ready to make connections with, share and learn from the people you meet. According to Forbes, your personal brand is strengthened or weakened by your connection to other brands. Find and leverage strong brands that can elevate your own personal brand.
5. Speaking engagements
Speaking at different events gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and meet new people. It also builds a rapport and trust with your audience. This will allow you to not only communicate effectively with them but also to grow your network. Interacting with people this way differentiates you from your competition and increases your credibility.
Cultivating your personal brand is not an overnight task. Like everything else, it takes patience, perseverance, proactivity and a lot of time. Don’t just limit your personal branding to online tools like LinkedIn and your website. Get out into the world and find opportunities to keep growing and connecting via media interviews, networking events and conferences.
Images of and from Folashade Adeoso. Follow her here and here.
From the get-go, society encourages young people to learn quickly and strive to lead. We’re bombarded by mainstream notions on what it means to be a go-getter —a true leader. And, although these notions are true to some extent, they don’t necessarily encapsulate all qualities of bad-ass leaders in today’s millennial-driven world.
So, here is a list of 7 uncommon traits of impactful leaders and go-getters.
1. You’ve got a lot of fears
Fear is usually seen as a painful weakness and an inhibitor to leadership. Ironically, it probably has the opposite effect on you. Fear grounds you to reality. It makes you practical and risk-adverse. Fear acts a constant reminder of your limitations, but also reminds you that there are ways to work around them.
Fear empowers you. You’ve got high standards for yourself and those around you. You dream big. The stakes are higher and you may not have many resources at your disposal. But the role of fear in your life makes you incredibly ingenious, inventive, and a go-getter.
2. You’ve failed often and failed hard
Failure and fear go hand-in-hand. In the realm of impactful leaders and entrepreneurship, success is difficult and rarely guaranteed. Although failure might be likely, you don’t let the possibility stop you.
The great thing about being a 20-something is that you’ve got time and opportunity on your side. If you aren’t failing occasionally or at all, you’re doing something wrong. A life without failure is a life without risk. A life without risk is a life without measurable success. And is that a life really worth living?
3. “Disorganization” is your middle name
You probably have a written schedule that you never follow. You’ve got work assignments and projects strewn across your apartment. Your mind is a composition of deadlines, reminders, and goals to accomplish – high hopes and dreams.
You weirdly find order out of your chaotic life. The fact that you have a multitude of commitments makes you feel like you’re on track. Even if it’s in an unorganized way.
4. You’re not the loudest voice in a crowd
But you’ve often got something important to say. In any setting, what you comment on resonates with people, even if your voice doesn’t carry through the room. People tend to listen intently to those that speak softly or only on occasion.
With speaking, less is often more and you always use that to your advantage.
5. You hold unique perspectives
You always offer advice or insight that diverges from mainstream ideology. And although it makes you worrisome that your thoughts never align with what most people think, they’re often always valued by your peers.
People often ask you for advice and it usually catches you by surprise. You’re not convinced that you’re the leader in a group but almost always you’re nominated to take the role. You probably don’t realize you have a propensity to lead, but others probably do.
6. You put people first
A leader only gains presence through the conviction of her followers. You know this all too well.
The defining quality of a true leader is one who leads to allow others to take their place one day.
You hope to pass on what you’ve learned and are passionate about to the next generation.
7. You have no idea where life is taking you
Confused, disoriented, and possibly disillusioned with occasional quarter-life crises sounds a lot like you. You don’t have all the answers and you’re still on a steep learning curve. You don’t exactly subscribe to the 5-Year Career Plan and that’s OK with you because the world is your oyster, and you can do just about anything with it.
A life of mystery and unknown opportunity is what you’ve always sought out. You’re not sure if the goals you have now will be the same in the next two years. But you don’t mind because you live in the present. And, you live to lead.
Lucy Quist is a Ghanaian business leader whose commitment to Africa’s youth is palatable. CEO at Airtel Ghana, she is the first Ghanaian woman to lead a multinational telecommunications company. Trained as an electrical and electronic engineer, Lucy has received numerous awards for her vision and strategic planning for the expansion and integration of various telecoms businesses in Ghana and also across the continent.
Lucy Quist (LQ) sat down with SLA Co-Founder Afua Osei, at She Hive Accra, where she shared powerful insights on leadership and integrity. After her talk, Femi-Abena Senola (FS), former Vodafone manager and She Hive Accra content intern, spoke with her about more personal matters – from her family to her role models and her legacy. In this candid interview, we learn about the goals and dreams that truly inspire this global leader to continue her work.
FS: Hi Lucy, Thank you for joining us at She Hive Accra. Lucy, boss, what are you most proud of?
LQ: You’re welcome. I’m extremely proud of my family and my kids. My kids have demonstrated so much independence. I am also proud of the fact that over the years, I have been able to demonstrate to Ghana and the world that leadership is not a function of gender. I believe that black women, African women, are able to lead big businesses.
FS: What quotes sums up your career to date?
LQ: Impact driven by integrity, excellence and generosity.
FS: Who is the first person that pops into your head when you think about leadership?
LQ: Tidjane Thiam. He is the CEO of Credit Suisse. I have never met him but really admire his professional record. He inspires me to sustain a global path in my career. From what I know about him, he was at McKinsey, then he became a sector Minister in his home country, Cote D’Ivoire.
After a while he left the ministerial job to become the CFO of Prudential, then rose to become the CEO. Because he did such a great job at Prudential, Credit Suisse poached him. On the world hearing that a black African man was becoming the CEO of Credit Suisse, the share prices of Credit Suisse automatically went sky high. I think he is a man of full of integrity and that also resonateswith me.
We talk about changing Africa; we talk about creating the Africa we believe in. We know all our entrepreneurs are really important but it is equally important to have visibility in big businesses. When you look at revolutions that have taken place in the western world, aside the economic ones, they were all led by corporations, by businesses which means that companies change the human story. As Africans, we must be willing to play the corporate games, not play it for personal gain but play it for positive change.
FS: What are three things people would be surprised to know about Lucy?
LQ: That I don’t have a favourite food, the thing is I like variety. I may want this today at another time, I may want something else. The second thing is that I really like to sing.
FS: Really? I’m surprised.
LQ: I love [ love, love,] to sing. I really look forward to being part of an organised singing group one day, whether it be part of a choir or a band, etc. I look forward to the opportunity but I do not have the time right now. If you’re going to work with other people, you must fully commit. I look forward to a time when I can make that commitment, but I am very passionate about singing.
FS: So we can look forward to Lucy the professional singer maybe?
FS: And the final thing we’d be surprised to know about you?
LQ: Final one: I feel very global, I really believe you can make a life anywhere. I tend to believe that I can live anywhere. There are a number of places I feel at home at, from DRC to Europe to Ghana, etc.
FS: During your presentation, you stated that you could not have achieved what you did/do without support from your team and you made reference to your husband who has been very supportive. Many think that this may be the case because you met each other at a young age. Would you like to shed some light on this?
LQ: I was not very young actually; I was about 26 when we met and we got married a few years later. At that point I was mature enough to know what I wanted, who I wanted to be with and what values were important to me.
FS: Do you feel that if you met a different person your life would be different?
LQ: It is an unbreakable yes and I’ll give you concrete evidence: Before I met my husband, I had never heard of INSEAD [the business school]. I knew I wanted to pursue an MBA, but at the time I had no idea which school to choose. My husband said to me: “Lucy, you’re the kind of person who goes to INSEAD”. And I was like what school is that? And he said, it’s a wonderful school, one of the best in the world for MBAs. The rest is history. He literally sent me there.
There are so many examples and instances where he would lead and say to me this is what you need to do, go, go, go.
FS: OK, moving on to next question, what advice would you give an African woman at the start of her career?
LQ: Have huge dreams, be extremely ambitious, develop a consistent routine, make sure you’re known for some great things and make sure your name pops into people’s minds. Be very confident in what your dreams are and the rest of the world will conspire to get you there.
FS: What’s one app on your phone that you cannot live without?
FS: Really you still use the app?
LQ: Yes, I do and I’ll tell you why. I use Facebook as a platform to mentor and coach people. I use Facebook to communicate, to engage and to inspire others.
FS: Ok, please elaborate.
LQ: As part of my commitment to pay it forward, to mentor and coach people, I post on Facebook at least 3 times a week. This is my way of keeping in touch with people I would have loved to meet but cannot. I share lessons I’ve learnt or things that inspire me with the hope that it will spark something in others.
To lead, we need to learn. I like learning from other people’s lives and stories. I believe that when sharing my experience, I am helping people to shortcut. [And for others not to repeat my mistakes]. I want people to think, oh I heard Lucy speak about this challenge or mistake and how she overcame it – therefore I do not have to make that same mistake. I strongly encourage people to learn from other’s mistakes so that we can get there [to our destination] quicker. This is why Facebook is important to me.
FS: I didn’t know you had a Facebook page. I thought you were only on LinkedIn and even that I feel you probably do not have time for that.
LQ: Actually, I do. I am quite active on LinkedIn although not as much as I am on Facebook and the reason is that as a professional, I believe that inspiring the next generation is extremely important to me. I would not have achieved anything if no one in this next generation is impacted, and that’s why Facebook is so important. Facebook enables me to reach out to people of all walks of life and receive immediate feedback.
I am active on LinkedIn primarily for professional news and knowledge sharing. There’s a lot you can learn on leadership, career progression, managing people, technology etc. on LinkedIn.
FS: I think people would be surprised you’re on Facebook that much. They may even think it not you but rather an Airtel initiative, an Airtel PR piece, etc.
LQ: No, it’s not. It’s me and I make it a point, as much as possible, not to post commercially oriented materials on my personal page. My page is to inspire people to reach out and engage a great number of people. Actually, to make it clear, my Facebook page is to inspire the potential of the next generation. I am there to help them to realise their full potential.
FS: What would you like your legacy to be?
LQ: For inspiring the next generation of Africans– to inspire them to lead the world. This is why Tidjane Thiam is so important. He demonstrates to us that we have what it takes to lead the world, not just our country or the continent. The world needs us but we need to step up and we need to step into the world of leadership.
FS: Lucy, thanks so much for your time. Before we finish, do you have anything to say to your fans and our audience, and tell them how can they reach you?
LQ: They can engage with me via Facebook and Twitter. I usually tweet what’s on my Facebook page. I am also on Instagrambut to be honest, I am a bit of a learner on that platform. I don’t post too often. I only post every now and then.
Facebook and Twitter are the best ways people can reach me and on these platforms, I share so that we can learn together.
Want to reach out to Lucy? Have any questions or want to request for mentoring or any other opportunities, you can connect with her via Lucy Quist Official.
Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.