Jocelyne Msigwa, the ambitious woman behind the people and culture department at Sahara Ventures is one of the passionate women when it comes to leadership and technology. I had a chance to meet with her for the first time in July when she was facilitating a ten days workshop on innovation leadership. The ten days were full of deep discussions, presentations, round table talks, and games. It was at this moment, I realized the secret of success behind the tech company in Tanzania, Sahara Ventures. The leadership approach under Jocelyne is quite different from many companies. The presence of activities such as learning Wednesday, which allows sharing of knowledge among the workers, and happy hour on Friday not only promotes freedom of different opinions but strengthens the bond between the members of the Sahara Ventures team. The success of Sahara Ventures has been greatly influenced by the corporate culture and the leadership style that exists at Sahara Ventures. As a leader who deals with people at Sahara Ventures, it was an honor to learn from her and understand leadership from a practical point of view.
Her passion for leadership enabled her to start Eagle Lead Africa, a platform that focuses on empowering the next generation of leaders by conducting workshops, fireside chats, and podcasts series to positively engaging leaders in all levels of leadership to impact their organizations and society. She defines innovation leadership as "the ability to outperform normative approaches by a significant margin and deliver new outcomes and transformations". It is a modern way of leading people that's different from old approaches to leadership. Innovation leadership is not commanding subordinates to do what you want them to do but welcoming them to give their honest inputs and contributions. It is a kind of leadership that allows room for discussion rather than obeying orders. The main goal of innovation leadership is to improve efficiency at work and strengthen the relationship between the leaders and the followers. It enables the followers to feel the ownership of the company rather than feeling that they are just workers. The feeling of ownership creates morale and improves the ability of the team to perform beyond the expected goals or targets.
These are the top five lessons I learned from Jocelyne concerning innovation leadership.
An innovative leader must have a clear vision and undivided focus. During the training, I learned that innovative leaders know exactly what they want and have a clear strategy of how to get what they want. It is not about being a leader, but being a leader who sees the big picture of what the company wants. Having a vision should also be accompanied by the strategies to make the vision a reality.
I learned that innovative leaders require feedback. Feedback helps the leader to evaluate himself or herself and know where he/she stands as a leader, how people are reacting to his leadership style and the impacts the innovation leadership approach has impacted the growth of the company or organization.
It is important to understand that nobody knows everything. We are all learning and we will always be students of leadership. An innovative leader knows that there is always room for improvement in learning how to lead others. He/she is not a person who has a fixed mindset and doesn't want to learn. An innovative leader questions his decision and allows others to air their opinions even if they are different from him/her. It is not easy but you can learn to listen to others and respect their opinions.
During the 10 days of training, we had a chance to explore the link between innovation leadership and creativity. Leaders need to remove the boundaries of ways of doing things in workplaces. Being creative is finding new ways of ding things that can add value to what you are doing as a leader or a follower. In whatever position you are, you can be creative. Innovative leaders are creative and this is why they are good problem solvers at the workplace. They know what they want and they are ready to create a thousand ways to get what they want.
Innovative leaders are leaders who bring deep impact. Their focus is not on short term impact but on d impacts that are changing the culture of the organization and affecting the community outside the company. The secret behind being impactful is their power to influence others to see the big picture of the vision of the company and break the picture into actions that can deliver measurable results.