Africa Leaders Magazine

ESTER KALI – CEO of Letshego Namibia

Ester Kali’s educational background includes an MBA (specialising in general and strategic management) from the Maastricht School of Management; thesis topic on the assessment of customer satisfaction with the delivery through the branch network; a case of First National Bank of Namibia and Financial Services Advanced Diploma – Institute of Bankers in South Africa. She says that serving in this position for over five years has been the most rewarding and challenging task at the same time which still gives her joy as she navigates through her journey and career aspirations.

ESTER KALI - CEO of Letshego Namibia - African Leaders Magazine

Some of the accomplishments she has achieved are: being able to successfully lead a team in order to obtain a banking licence which listed Letshego Namibia Holdings on the Namibia Stock Exchange in 2017; launching the bank’s first product in 2018; becoming the president of Bankers Association of Namibia (BAN) in 2020/2021 stepping into the big shoes of Sarel van Zyl; steering the appointment of the Bankers Association of Namibia CEO and being instrumental in the establishment of the BAN office.

“In the next two years I plan on expanding my literature through books, specifically in the digitisation and enterprise agility field. It is always important to expand knowledge even though you may feel that you have achieved great heights academically. I also intend on shaping the charity projects that I am involved with and dedicating more time to see it grow bigger than what it is,” Kali says.

A typical day for her starts with prayer and establishing a positive state of mind to get her through the day. “As much as I am driven by my work, I equally make time for my family. I’m a hands-on mother and always prepare our dinners. Fitness finds its way into my diary and I take time to wind down my day by writing down what I am grateful for. Weekends are for baking and watching movies with the family,” she says.

She loves keeping herself busy. “One of the facts about me are that I’ve had a sewing machine but never used it. Thankfully, due to lockdown I realised my talent at sewing.”

She gets inspiration from other women in leading positions at various institutions. “Women can learn so much from each other and I admire those women that need to juggle with so many hats and that make it seem so effortlessly done,” she said.

Kali says her childhood days were punctuated with challenges such as going to school without shoes, sometimes in the freezing Otjiwarongo winter, having one meal a day was not uncommon to her, studying at night was a mission as they had to share a candle because there was no electricity.

ESTER KALI - CEO of Letshego Namibia - African Leaders Magazine

“By virtue of being the eldest child, I naturally felt the burden of responsibility to assist my mother financially. My mother providing for our family as a single, strong, independent woman and managing to rise above the rest and not depending on anyone is my best childhood memory. Her hard work will always be admired and there are too many memories but each one links to my mother,” she says.

In an article on leading by example, published by the Namibia Economist, she had great words to share about leadership and her personal experience;

During these trying times, it is important to approach every situation with as much grace, kindness, faith and empathy as possible.

Today, effective communication has become the strongest catalyst in business activity. The importance to regularly check in with all employees and disclose monthly/quarterly accomplishments together are critical. This gives employees a sense of where an organization is headed while creating a sense of uniformity and routine during these times when everything else seems unnatural.

It is crucial for a leader to demonstrate a positive attitude. When the team leader has doubts about the future of the business, it dwells in the staff. As a business leader, you have to lead by example and inspire a can-do work ethos through words and actions.

A recent example of setting the example was done through my Covid-19 vaccination and I believe that vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe complications. As a leader it is important to encourage staff to do their part, adhere to health regulations and get vaccinated, to protect themselves and loved ones. It is equally important to also respect employees’ decisions and to constantly prioritize the safety in each working environment.

New upgrades in the dynamic of Human Resource (HR) systems and processes have remodeled the nature and scope of people management. Regardless, the effective management of the workforce remains the principal aim. As a leader it is important to place most emphasis on HR department and introduce practices to navigate the evolving work ecosystem that provides an easier work environment and enables staff to be most productive.

The current pandemic has changed the way we work, and more companies are turning to at-home solutions. The idea of letting employees work from home has been the fear of plenty of companies because of fears they will be less productive. According to Laurel Farrer many of these myths have been confirmed by managers but by working with a virtual operations consultant, you can evaluate which roles in your organization are most remote-compatible. She further admits to finding the delicate balance of equality in a hybrid team that can be challenging, but to be sure to keep the transition process as collaborative and transparent as possible to allow everyone’s voice to be heard.

ESTER KALI - CEO of Letshego Namibia - African Leaders Magazine

One method to spearhead your team has always been organizational skills. Here, the key is to stay organized. One has to adopt a new organizing system or start using a day planner to make sure they are never off schedule. It is recommended to create a daily/weekly work schedule and list the tasks that need to be completed. Staying committed to the schedule will automatically breed consistency and a routine.

We often face external struggles when the heart is restless and lose track of our direction and purpose. Through these times, it is important to reaffirm the heart as a leader to your team and stand on commitment and faith.

Everything derives from faith, and this is expressed through work. The commitment that one shows in prayer, belief in the Holy Spirit and practicing doctrines such as “Leave your next to God, He knows our next”, enhances faith. Truly without work, faith is dead.

Faith is a pure gift from God, and it pleases Him, and when you do things that please the Lord, He always rewards His humble servants. Many people today do not know how to express faith especially in work environments, but there is power in our mouths, speaking what we believe releases the faith from our hearts. I encourage all leaders today to be that example and show faith above all above factors to ensure that you and your team navigate these turbulent times.



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