African Women Business Leaders – #AnEveningWith Lucy Quist, CEO of Airtel Ghana

A few short weeks ago a group of around 40 women, and a few good men, gathered for a dinner party. But the gathering was purposeful as it was intentional, for they gathered to share #AnEveningWith Maidie Arkutu and Lucy Quist, respectively CEOs of Unilever Ghana and Airtel Ghana.

Convened by the WCEO Academy, an initiative of Alldens Lane, the evening was a deliberate effort to gather established female business leaders for an engaging evening of #BusinessConversations with emerging female business leaders. But we wanted to ensure that it was fun and it was lively, so we added great gourmet food, expertly prepared by Chef Selassie of Midunu Ghana, and we also added fine, gentle music for the soul, generously sponsored by Inen PR.

The atmosphere was rousing. Both Maidie and Lucy were as instructive as they were inspirational even as they stirred us to grab a hold, forcefully, if need be, of what we dreamed of and sought after for our lives and our businesses. I cannot thank Lucy and Maidie enough. They were both tremendous.

This week, the Business Woman documents excerpts from Lucy”s responses to the Q&A sessions.

Prepare to be energized.

On Fostering a Culture of Innovation in an Organization
“Give people room to grow and to thrive,” Lucy said. Her advice is to let your team generate new ideas and devise creative ways of executing these ideas. If they never fail at it, and this is as normal as success is in any organization, we would never have that great innovation and eureka moment. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Create an enabling environment in your organization.

Deciding the best candidates for your team or organization
Lucy explained this question by taking us back to a time in 2008 when she had her first interview with a telecoms company. She asked the interviewers three questions: (1) explain why I should work for you, (2) what am I going to learn by working for you?, and (3) where is it going to take me. These three questions, she was later told, got her the job. Interviewers are looking for ambition and drive in candidates, and this is what organizations need – as such decide on candidates who demonstrate mindful ambition and drive.

Lucy also gave a superb example of a candidate who she interviewed in Central Africa a few years back. The candidate was as bold and confident as he was mindful when, as a way of demonstrating his preparedness for the job, he identified a few things that he felt the company was doing right, and a few things that he thought they were doing wrong – and why – and raised these to the interviewers. Lucy explained that this candidate challenged them and of course got the job.

The most important questions you face daily as a leader in your organization
For Lucy this entails asking herself a few questions daily and also ensuring that she answers those questions daily through her deliverables, outputs and outcomes. Some of those questions include: (1) what impact am I trying to make? (2) are we as a team making the right impact?

Lucy went on to say that as a leader you have to create disciples. You need people who will take the vision and run with it. It can just be you. You cannot be everywhere all the time – it is all about your people, your team, your staff.

What does the word leader mean to you?
Lucy explained that leadership is a very personal experience, and for her it is all about what she is influencing her team and those around her to do. For her, leadership is also about being authentic, being your authentic self, whilst also believing in the vision and the purpose of what you are doing. “I do need to believe the purpose that goes behind delivering the P&L,” she explained.

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