By: Patty Karuaihe Martin, CEO, Namib Re
At what point in your life did you realise you are comfortable to take up a leadership position?
My parents ran a family business and were known community leaders so, without realising at the time, they had already started impacting leadership traits and qualities in us from a young age. As my father died when I was only 12 years old, I had to step up in, running his business with my mother. This gave me an opportunity to realise my passion for business as well as leadership. I learnt then the art of decision making.
Because of my early involvement in the home business, I was clear on what I wanted out of my academic career, after completing my articles with Ernst &Young (EY), I was eager to elevate my leadership skills professionally. I therefore set clear goals for myself and was able to hold my first managerial roles in the male dominated industry by the age of 25. Thereafter I occupied various leadership positions at Institutions such as TransNamib and PWC before I took on the role of heading up NamibRe. Leadership has always been a natural development for me and NamibRe has provided the opportunity to implement the different leadership skills I have developed and nurtured over the years.
Is there anyone in particular whom you think influenced your leadership style?
My parents, as business and community leaders, set the pace and tone for me, particularly my mom was instrumental in my growth. I am very much a team player who loves empowering people to take charge of their duties and work environment. I think I got that from my mom. I love to grow people, to see themselves as partners in the business and not just employees. My brother, who worked as a judge at one stage, was a great example for me as a leader in a professional environment.
At the core of my leadership style is integrity, everything I do rests on that value. In today’s world it is unwise to be a leader that subscribes to only one style of leadership. I believe that my style of leadership is agile, because of my passion for learning, open innovation, developing people and my ability to create and communicate the vision of the organization.
What was the hardest thing you have faced during your career in leadership and how did you manage to successfully navigate your team through that?
Developing young talent and leaders and catering to the different individual needs can be quite complex, an exercise that requires resilience and tenacity. Today young people want more out of their roles and functions so the ability for leaders to create job satisfaction beyond monetary incentive becomes crucial. Thus we need to be able to adapt as leaders to things like AI in order to understand how we can create opportunities for our young talents to make impactful and meaningful contributions to the organizations and national economies.
How do you envisage taking your team through this current challenge?
Like all other sectors and industries both locally and internationally, NamibRe had to make certain changes in response to the Covid- 19 pandemic. That meant looking at our working conditions and existing setup and adjusting those as fast as we can as a business, for continuity of operations and adhering to the preventative measures set in place by both WHO and local government.
As a business, we have been busy exploring a few technological aspects with the aim of streamlining and simplifying the ease of doing business. So, what this crisis did is propel us to digitalize and move at a quicker pace to implement certain projects and ideas. We are embracing what everyone is referring to as the “new normal” but aiming to retain a corporate culture that can withstand the test of time.
The ground work we have invested in over the years has set a solid foundation that has allowed my team to adapt to the new way of working and doing business. The transition has been swift and very inspiring for me as their leader and team member.
I believe all businesses have to find solutions that are customer- centric and innovative. The upskilling of human capital becomes even for pertinent and urgent for one to remain relevant in this ever-changing business environment.