A lesson in leadership: Medha’s visit to Zambia

Medha Wilson, Group CEO of MicroLoan Foundation, writes her account of her trip to Zambia last month.


What makes a good leader?

On my trip to Zambia last month, I had the pleasure of meeting the Chawama centre group, near to Lusaka. The centre was managed by an elected Chair, Deputy-Chair and Secretary who each played their role to perfection.

The group determined their own by-laws, which each member had to adhere to. Time management and discipline is of utmost importance. Everyone was expected to be on time. The leaders charged a late arrival fee of 5 ZMW per person. There are no exceptions. Myself and MicroLoan Zambia’s CEO, Jack Ngoma, paid our fine when we were 10 minutes late to their meeting.

Enforcing fines had a deeper purpose too. The collections created a revolving pot of emergency funds to help members facing difficulties. Members borrowing from this collection pot would repay at a later date, so money is always available to help members in need.

Each leader knew their role and executed this well – the chair, deputy chair and secretary. Each leader adopted a collaborative approach consulting with members and listened to them.

One leader in particular, the centre’s Secretary, stood out to me in her demonstration of leadership. She was firm and focussed, enforcing fines for latecomers, and taking attendance. But at the same time, she demonstrated compassion and empathy when speaking with members who were struggling. The group appeared to trust her, as she provided advice and support to those facing challenges in their businesses. She gave me a lot of thinking points on what a good leader should be.

Above all else, the centre works as a team. The group’s more senior members led sessions to impart learnings, including how to use mobile money. Every member adhered to the group’s rules, and if ever someone was struggling, the group would pull together to help.

Each businesswoman in the centre is going from strength to strength, increasing their business profits and building sustainable source of income to provide for their families. A thriving local economy is taking shape. It was fantastic to see our newly adopted centre model working as well as we’d hoped it would.

The welcome song performed by the centre upon our arrival perfectly exemplifies the above. Well-coordinated, in tune and uplifting. When women work together, unified and in harmony, they have the best chance of success.

Published on: 23/06/2022

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