KAMPALA — Uganda’s corporate executives have been urged to lead with compassion, putting the wellbeing of their people above business targets as a more effective way to drive the country’s economic restart from the ruins of the Covid19 pandemic.
This is one of the major highlights shared at the inaugural Stanbic Bank Uganda Compassionate Leadership meeting held virtually on Thursday.
Held under the theme, ‘leading with Heart – Adapting to a new normal in a tough business environment’, the virtual engagement was attended by over 100 participants from a cross section of Uganda’s private sector.
The panel was moderated by Maurice Mugisha, the Deputy Managing Director of UBC who in his introductory remarks noted that the initiative was an important demonstration of corporate leadership by Stanbic Bank.
Panelists included Emma Mugisha, the Executive Director at Stanbic Bank Uganda, Peter Kimbowa, the Chairman Board for National Social Security Fund, Thadeus Nagenda, the Acting Chairman for Kampala City Traders Association and Isaac Nsereko, the Managing Director for RI Distributors.
Emma Mugisha said, the compassionate series will consist of three webinars featuring business leaders and technical persons that will help share their experiences on how they have effectively led their organizations and provided practical tools in overcoming the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking for Stanbic Bank, Mugisha said, the pandemic opened a window for the bank to experiment with innovations that enabled it to be more agile as the business environment changed.
“During the pandemic, supporting our people, both employees and customers, to remain health, survive the pandemic, was almost the only goal; business targets were momentarily relegated to a secondary priority list as we went all out to make sure everyone stayed safe, we are therefore pleased that all of us are here to share our experience and lessons,” said Mugisha.
According to Mugisha, when the bank prioritized the safety of its people and customers over sales targets and interest repayment, it came naturally as it felt like the right and only thing to do.
“Sometimes the right thing is the only thing to do. compassionate leadership comes naturally. It is to be human before everything else. And we are happy that many of our stakeholders noticed our goodness,” Mugisha added.
For example, during the lengthy preventive Covid19 lockdowns in Uganda, the bank suspended interest payment on outstanding loans for customers who expressed their inability to meet their obligations.
“We also restructured loans worth over 900billion, benefitting hundreds of economically distressed customers in various sectors of the economy. But communication is key in facilitating compassionate leadership. It starts with people being transparent, communicating that they need help,” said Mugisha.
Pandemic presented opportunity to do good
Kimbowa said, the leadership at the NSSF saw the pandemic create a crisis and an opportunity and managers at NSSF had to think of ways of keeping in touch with their members physically (where necessary), mentally and spiritually.
“The pandemic opened a window of opportunities to deliver value beyond money,” he said.
He cited the move by NSSF leadership to allow companies under distress to reschedule their NSSF contributions without accumulating penalty, and payment of invalidity benefit to COVID-19 patients.
Speaking specifically about compassionate leadership, Kimbowa said, it is all about leaders showing that they care more about those they lead, and others linked to their organizations.
For leaders to achieve productivity in organizations they lead, he said, they must listen, be people-centric and “Stanbic Bank has demonstrated this through this compassionate leadership forum,” he said.
He also said, under compassionate leadership, leaders must be willing to learn new ideas and work to leave strong foundations for their organizations.
“We are not meant to live forever, but what do we leave behind…it is important to keep learning to be future ready,” he said, before adding that adopting new technology is the way to go.
KACITA’s Nagenda said, they responded to Covid-19 by sensitizing their members to observe standard operating procedures as a means to getting back to business.
He acknowledged the support that banks offered the traders during the pandemic with loan moratoriums/extensions.
“By the time the bank confiscates your property, they have tried every possible solution,” he said.
For Nsereko, whose organization manages the largest number of cross border truck drivers who were at some point faulted for spreading the virus, he said the pandemic put leadership on trial but also presented an opportunity to do good for its people.
“We had to reorganize our operations. We for example replaced older drivers with relatively younger ones capable of beating the pandemic to ensure that we kept were ageing drivers safe,” he said.
Nsereko says they also had to reward drivers that put their lives on the line to serve their customers during the pandemic. He also said, the pandemic has made them re-write company health and safety policies which were designed before the pandemic came.