INSEAD Participant Interview
Interview with a past participant of AVIRA: Critically assess your leadership style
Finance Manager of the African Circle Pollution Management Limited, Nigeria
"I’d say that attending AVIRA is like getting an X-ray of how you are as a senior leader. AVIRA will expose you to cutting-edge ideas, refresh your outlook and give you the energy to do more. It’s a truly remarkable experience, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend." says Deborah David, past participant of AVIRA: Awareness, Vision, Imagination, Role, Action.
Can you describe your current role, and your career path up until now?
Initially, I trained as an accountant. Over the past two decades, I’ve honed my leadership skills via stints in senior finance roles at global companies here in Lagos, including KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Centrica Energy.
Right now, I’m the Finance Manager at African Circle Pollution Management Limited. The Nigerian Ports Authority is a leading client, but we also deliver environmental and waste management services to organisations across the oil and gas industry, as well as local and federal government agencies.
I came to the role in 2012 when the company was undergoing process change – some top executives had left under certain circumstances. It was challenging, to say the least. However, it’s been an amazing opportunity to help reinvent the finance function, rework and shore up relationships with clients and stakeholders, and bring everything back up to an outstanding level of performance.
Why did you decide to “go back to school” with an executive education programme like AVIRA when you’re already a senior leader in your firm?
AVIRA has a major emphasis on self-awareness and reflection. Why is that important to you?
When you’re locked in a routine and working under time pressures, you can become oblivious to better ways of doing things. You don’t pause to appreciate new approaches or models.
Being totally immersed in the day-to-day also makes it harder to keep a grip on your long-term career goals. I was seeking answers to all sorts of questions. What’s my leadership legacy going to be? Have I accomplished what I set out to achieve? How do I unearth new potential in myself and move forward? AVIRA gives you the space to step back and assess such things from the perspective of a senior leader in an organisation. So, that emphasis on reflection was one of the central reasons I wanted to attend the programme.
AVIRA also has a practical focus, built around the concept of helping leaders close the knowing–doing gap. Was this aspect useful for you?
Tell us more about how AVIRA helped you to develop your leadership approach.
I now use more “pull-power” than “push-power”. Instead of simply driving for results, I try to understand what’s preventing others from reaching their goals.
I must give credit to INSEAD’s faculty, who took such an insightful and holistic view of my background and development as a leader. I’ve achieved a lot in my life, but it hasn’t been easy. I lost my mother at a young age and had to look after myself. The coaching I received during the programme helped me to see that my attitude to leadership stemmed very much from “it’s up to me to solve the problem”, rather than “let me do this collaboratively and look for a helping hand”.
This breakthrough has influenced my personal life as well. I make more time for a balanced life now, eating together with my family around the table every night. Previously, I was so driven by work that this rarely happened.