[00:00:00] Oluwanifemi Kolawole: On this episode of Expert and African, I revisit some of the stories and recommendations from different African tech experts that I've spoken with in the past year. Coming up shortly are five ways that team leads and startup founders can use to up their leadership game.
[00:00:17] But first, a message from our sponsor.
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[00:01:04] Oluwanifemi Kolawole: So let's get to it.
[00:01:06] Leaders, in whatever capacity they occupy in any company, play pivotal roles in business success. Simply put, bad or good leadership has a direct correlation to the productivity of a business.
[00:01:22] A global leadership forecast for 2018 suggested that four out of 10 tech leaders are failing. But while every tech leader does not need to be a technical expert, they need to understand the importance of people handling skills, and more importantly, these five skills.
[00:01:45] Interestingly, there are several distinguishing characteristics that set exceptional leaders out. But, a good combination of two or three from this list can make the difference in outcomes. While these aren't necessarily leadership hacks, they are what different tech experts have tried and tested.
[00:02:07] One, empathy. Executives and leaders need to put themselves in the shoe of the people on their team to truly connect with them. Although this might look counterproductive, given the policies and procedures some companies run. A 2021 survey by Catalyst considers empathy as a strategic imperative.
[00:02:30] The survey showed that of the 889 US employees questioned, 623 believe that they would be more productive if they had empathetic leaders.
[00:02:41] Transformation experts suggest that deliberate interaction with employees will help leaders to know their team's pain points and address them. For someone who spent the first eight years of her career in New York City, Patricia Pedhom Nono experienced shock when she came back to Cameroon to occupy a leadership role. Following feedback, she discovered that a team thought she was mean and inconsiderate. From there, she acknowledged what she was doing wrong and made consistent efforts to become the best version of a leader she could be.
[00:03:18] 12 years later, Patricia has exemplified empathy in her roles and now teaches tech leaders to do the same for workplace productivity.
[00:03:29] Number two, be proactive; anticipate challenges before they come.
[00:03:36] African tech businesses, now more than ever, need their leaders to be agile and proactive given the terrain they play in. Leading a company or team can become overwhelming, especially when you constantly have to put out hypothetical fires. However, anticipating challenges will help with proper preparation and building fail-safes in case of any unfortunate occurrence.
[00:04:05] As a brand manager, Rachael Akalia of Patricia technologies emphasizes the need to be ahead by taking initiatives and making preparations for whatever comes after. Proactive leaders also prioritize essential projects their team should focus on part-time instead of stretching them too thin across many activities with no long-term value.
[00:04:28] Three, delegate; do not micromanage.
[00:04:35] Delegation appears to be one of the largely accepted leadership skills adopted by tech leaders that I've chatted with. A general consensus reveals how micromanaging has a tendency of impeding a team's creativity. On one hand, it can trick a leader to believe work is getting done. And on the other hand, the team is developing an unhealthy workplace habit of doing the barest minimum because independent decision-making is highly discouraged.
[00:05:03] Interestingly, micromanagers often get to control the outcomes of every team activity, which can sometimes be a good thing. But as counterintuitive as it sounds, this could result in a number of disgruntled employees and birth a redundant team.
[00:05:20] Victor Ekwealor, in his role as growth lead, revealed how unhealthy it can get for a leader that micromanages. As a matter of fact, it impedes them from pursuing other important initiatives that could move the business forward. Because micromanaging can be easily mistaken for a hands-on people management style, a leader requires self-assessment and honest feedback from their team to ascertain if they belong to this group. Ironically, micromanagers that improve to become delegators often do well, mainly because they already have the basic idea of what each team member is capable of.
[00:06:01] Four, know your team's capabilities.
[00:06:05] Drawing from his own quirks and constant need to chase new opportunities, Everest Nwagwu, a marketing expert disclosed during a chat that whenever he gets to build his own company, he would be deliberate about discovering high performers like himself.
[00:06:21] His reason is to be able to motivate them early in their journey to take on many projects so that when it's time to leave for the next phase, they have made a considerable mark on the company. Being an informed leader engenders proper team management, as it gives insight into how to capitalize on individual strengths for optimal results while noting how to collectively help them to improve on their weaknesses.
[00:06:48] For Saze Ibraheem, who plays in the same space as Everest, leading teams has been enjoyable for her because she identifies the exceptionality of every team member and leverages it for the team's success. So far, she has had an enviable leadership style in every company she finds herself in.
[00:07:11] And finally, self-care.
[00:07:14] Although not all the experts I've spoken with believe in the idea of work life balance. One thing they all agree on is a need to constantly find time to unwind because leaders who practice self care, get to lead productive teams.
[00:07:30] While it may seem antithetical for dedicated leaders to take self-care seriously, unwinding does have a way of helping them introspect and discover ways to play their role better. In a way it's an investment in overall productivity.
[00:07:49] Note that there are different spectrums to self care, as it means different things to different people. However, they all fall under categories like emotional, physical, social, and spiritual.
[00:08:04] Sometimes it may not necessarily mean avoiding work. It could involve reading books to improve knowledge. Other times it could just mean taking a break to rest, or being deliberate about your diet or exercising or even volunteering for your hobbies.
[00:08:25] In all, remember a sane leader leads a sane team.
[00:08:33] Thank you for listening to Expert and African. What do you think makes a leader productive? I would like to hear from you. Please send your feedback and recommendations to [email protected]
[00:08:45] Don't forget to catch up on previous episodes of Expert and African on Google Podcast, Apple Podcast, Spotify, and anywhere else you get your podcasts.
[00:08:55] This episode is proudly sponsored by the Techpoint Africa Business team. For more information on startups and innovation, visit techpoint.africa.