Making Change Happen: Leadership Traits which Deliver the Competitive Edge. By Nicki Halle, Executive Search Consultant

Making Change Happen: Leadership Traits which Deliver the Competitive Edge. By Nicki Halle, Executive Search Consultant

Change management has never been easy, but it is arguably tougher in today’s business landscape.  Achieving this in financial services on the African continent has certainly become a differentiating factor in 2021 and those who have not been quick enough to evolve are already falling behind.

Critically, the pace of change is a different proposition now, since covid forced us to realise how quickly we can evolve if the need is strong enough.  The convergence of technology developments combined with differing consumer demand to effect transactions digitally rather than face to face, set the context for the urgent need for agility and change within Financial Institutions of all sizes in Africa.

With this backdrop, the qualities of successful leadership are evolving with a rejuvenated focus on the intricacies and ability to drive and embed change within the organisation.  There is undivided agreement about the end goal, but less understanding about what the actual steps should look like – the transformation journey itself.

Architects often say it is easier to demolish and start anew but with live running workforces, transforming an enterprise on-the-go requires astute and reasoned methods and a considered approach. It goes beyond placing the focus on technology, as the industry is presently.  Businesses are moving away from widespread siloed mentality where this can reduce the efficiency of the overall operation in particular the speed of implementation of change.

Of course, it is not only longstanding or legacy organisations that need an agile mindset towards their business.  As start-ups scale, they are under pressure to evolve and grow while maintaining the fresh outlook through which they brought something new to the market in the first place.

When so many large-scale transformation projects fail, leaders need to look at transformation differently and ask themselves what are the core principles of change and transformation?  How does one effect change enterprise-wide and what are the real dynamics of modern leadership?

It takes the vision to identify processes that are redundant or limiting, for example longstanding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may be less relevant within new business and operating models.  The way in which teams inter-operate and report may need to be adjusted; upskilling will be an inevitable requirement; Human Resources and recruitment parameters likewise to be re-considered.

The instruments with which to change course need to be clearly and realistically set on course, but what else is required to inspire and influence?  Is indeed failure required to succeed?  Do we need to be hiring leaders who are prepared to take a risk based on less complete information, fail, adjust and try again?

Here at Executives in Africa, we have seen a huge increase in the number of transformation and change mandates which have involved identifying candidates with these key leadership traits across the continent as well as further afield in the Diaspora.  These are not always easy to assess and often the use of behavioural profiling are a critical in giving insight into these less tangible skills.

Demand in 2021 for leaders with an agile approach, expertise in change management and those who embrace digital ways of working have seen a sharp increase.  Strengthening your organization’s change muscle by having the right leaders in place who display these qualities in place, will invariably give your business the competitive edge in this new and evolving landscape.

To find out more about the recent Searches we have run in Transformation and Change Management, contact Nicki Halle, Executive Search Consultant at


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