Leadership is not just taking up a position or occupying one. It is not a call to sainthood but a call to service. Leadership is more than just having certification or being an expert in a field. It is about how you influence people and make things happen. I admire leadership and therefore I keep a lot of interest in both the theory and practice of leadership to sharpen my leadership skills.
One leader I have been studying is the Managing Director of Apex Bank, Mr. Kojo Mattah. For me, my honoured work with him and for him were like the book ‘Tuesdays with Moriee’, every day, was packed with new lessons about leadership, humility, humanity, life, etc. I have been schooled; I will call it leadership apprenticeship. Here are 10 leadership lessons from KM’s leadership style:
- Humble but tough
Humility is his hallmark. He connects with the powerful and the venerable. He threats everyone as a human being not only by their position or power. He does not enjoy the courtesies like having his car door opened for him. He loves it simple. He is so nice when dealing with him but he is a tough personality and a smart tactical negotiator. You must meet him prepared if you have a meeting with him. He does not allow his position to define him, rather he defines his position with his personality.
- 2. Never too busy to touch base with his followers
He is a leader who is very accessible both to staff or our cherished stakeholders. His morning ‘hellos’ to staff is his brand. He actually makes time for the staff at the head office and there are high chances of him opening the door to your office once he was at the head office. One remarkable gesture from him was that he was not too busy to visit one of the bank’s third-party security guard who was hospitalized. Not only did he visit him at the hospital but he ensured this guard got all the needed medical care.
- He is a leader with a smart head and golden heart.
To many of his staff, he represented more than just their MD. There were people who shared their pains and frustrations just as they will do with their father or trusted friends. He was the first MD I saw who will share yearly gifts to female staff during Christmas. He has very great relationship with his family and fondly speaks about his beautiful family. He is a giver who does not mind helping out once an opportunity present itself.
- A reader and learner
KM is a reader; he is widely read and he still reads. I have shared great moments with him discussing the books that he has read. He has great collection of books. When he took over as the MD he initiated a reading culture, invested in books and shared books to staff for reading. He continuously shares books yearly as his complimentary gifts to staff for the new year.
- Smart to the core
I have accompanied him on his visits to some of our rural banks where he engages their top managers. I have been privileged to be with him in high profiled meetings and I have been amazed about his ability to be spot-on with responses on issues concerning every part of the bank. He thinks in micro seconds and I will say, he thinks on his feet. His numerical strength is admirable. Like the problem of the day section in the brilliant science and math quiz, you can expect him to give you a clue once the problem was given. He is versatile with handling difficult meetings and have a way of still saying what must be said and still reduce the tension in the room.
- A journal culture
Mr. Kojo Mattah has an admirable diary culture with which he organizes his schedules. If you discuss an appointment for a program with him, he will immediately reach out to his planner and lock the dates in his digital planner. He has note books dedicated to his key meetings and personally take notes during meetings. He has journals for staff, board, BoG, etc. This is how he tracks the key points for his various meetings.
- He gives others the room to shine
He is ready to commend and let others know who did what. If he knows you are the expert in an area, he is happy to let you handle that assignment. Allowing others to do what they do best is not one of his difficulties. He will let you shine without even blinking an eye.
- Unassuming until you cross his red line.
No matter how humble, easy going, friendly he appears you cannot substitute that for the quality smart work output he expects from his staff. He is a leader who appreciates smart work and not necessarily hard work. If you have an assignment to deliver, do not project how hard working you are but be smart with how you get the assignment done.
- He shares what he knows and have with his community
This leader makes time for his family, church and community. Reading about him, I noticed he gave much of his time to serve his church. He is the immediate past President of Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and currently the President of his old School old student Association.
- He is mentally focused
I have been privileged to be on a number of working travels with him and I observed he has an evening walking ritual which he does not miss, rain or shine. Sometimes, per the events of the day, you will assume he will call it off but his 1-hour walk is not determined by his feelings but a choice. He will walk within the confines of his hotel for an hour to end his daily schedules. This activity of his, for me is possible because he is focused and mentally disciplined.
Leadership is a stage, just like life is a stage. You will leave it one day so it is important to live it better than you found it. This is for me the statement made by KM through his leadership style; he gave the role his best and left a great footprint in the chronicles of leadership. So as leaders, we all have a role to play, wherever we lead, let us give it our best shot.