Lessons business leaders can learn from Bob Collymore
About a week ago, the world woke up to the news of the passing on Bob Collymore who was the CEO of Safaricom, the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya, and one of the most profitable companies in the East and Central African region, a position he held for close to 9 years.
Collymore, was one of the most celebrated business leaders in the country and there are a myriad of lessons that business leaders can gather from his leadership.
For example when he took over as the CEO in 2010, Safaricom subscribers had by then hit 13.5 million, with 21,000 agents.
But in March 2019, Safaricom passed the 30 millionth customer milestone, cementing the firm’s position as the most preferred mobile service provider in the country. Data from a March 2019 report by Communications Authority, also showed that Kenya had around 46.6 million active mobile subscriptions as at December 2018 and in terms of market share, Safaricom PLC had a 64.2 percent.
So here are some business lessons that business leaders or even those seeking to venture into entrepreneurship can gather from Bob Collymore:
// Define your own path to success: When Bob took over Safaricom in 2012, the company was at a crossroads of sorts; it was a moment of uncertainty and he was confronted with the dilemma of filling the shoes of a great predecessor, Michael Joseph. He however choose to find and define his own path and left a mark and even bigger shoes that Michael Joseph needs to fit into. Lesson learnt, as a leader don’t be a shadow of anyone. Be uniquely you.
// You are never too young to start or learn: In several interviews Bob stated that he started making money his own money at the tender age of 12 years from jewelry and art from shells before selling them. When he moved to the UK he landed his first job at 16 years and worked in a departmental store as an office boy. From his earnings he would pay for his bills.
// Treat your employees right: In 2018 Safaricom was ranked among the top 100 best employers globally in a list dominated by US companies. The telecommunications company was ranked number 67 in the Forbes Global 200 list of World’s Best Employers. The list was based on Forbes’ 2018 Global 2000 rankings, which included publicly traded companies from 60 countries. Also, from the overflowing tributes of the employees it was clear that he was indeed a great boss. Ensure as a business leader you treat your employees right after all it is oftenly said that people are the company’s greatest asset.
// Its not only profits but also impact lives: Through out his leadership, Safaricom has been able to impact and transform lives of Kenyans in many ways following the number of initiatives launched throughout either directly or indirectly from corporate initiatives and through setting up initiatives. In your own small way impact lives after all once you are gone all that people will remember is how you touched lives.
// Work towards leaving a great legacy: A famous quote on legacy by Martin Luther King Jr. goes like “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”
As a leader always think of what will you be known for when you leave this earth? The most influential people, the ones who leave behind incredible legacies, will live on in the hearts of the people they touch. Physically, they will no longer be a part of society but their principles, philosophies and achievements will become immortal, spreading from generation to generation.Work towards that one thing that you will be remembered for not only after death but even as you leave the organisation and hand over the mantle to someone else.
// Align your vision with the company’s vision and grow with the company: Bob worked with Vodafone Group rising to the different ranks to become the CEO of Safaricom, stay loyal and patient. It takes time
// Use your power to uplift others. Throughout his leadership Bob used his power to lead Safaricom into uplifting others and investing in the arts, music and the youth. For example Safaricom started off the Jazz Festival in 2014. The Festival prides itself in bringing together talented musicians from all over the world and has played a significant role in nurturing the Kenyan jazz scene, making the genre more accessible to fans and bringing together music lovers for a good cause.
But these events are more than the music, dancing and laughter synonymous with Safaricom Jazz; all proceeds go towards supporting Ghetto Classics, a non-profit, community-based programme that seeks to transform the lives of youth from underprivileged backgrounds by introducing them to the world of live jazz and classical music
//Humility: Humility goes a long way. Despite all his achievements/accolades, Bob lived a humble life. He understood that arrogance and pride ruin success; he stayed humble. This was evident in the TV interviews he gave and public lectures in the universities where he was invited severally to offer mentorship to students. He also made time to visit our Kilimani Office Space in 2016 to spend time and interact with our community. Many times, affluence takes away the humility in a human being.
Bob Collymore succumbed to Cancer on 1st July 2019 and will be remembered as a distinguished corporate leader who not only made billions for Safaricom, but also a man who changed the lives of many.
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