7 questions with Mizinga Melu, CEO, Barclays Zambia


Mizinga Melu is an experienced bank executive. She has been the CEO of Barclays Zambia since April 2017 and prior to that held numerous senior positions at banks in southern and eastern Africa.

Mizinga has won numerous awards including, most recently, the 2017 Transformational Leadership Award, and is a as Non-Executive Director of the Museum for United Nations - UN Live Board. She holds an MBA from Henley Management College in the UK.

At a recent event in Zambia, she was quizzed by our members on leadership, management and her career journey. Here, we share some of our highlights from the session.

1. What happens when someone in your team fails?

Performance management is one of the fundamental tools leaders use in developing their teams. The best way to use this tool is to provide continuous assessment and feedback. As a leader, my expectations have always been of a very high standard and I find that the best way to deal with the team is to give them continuous feedback. Of course, in the journey of leadership you will always have non performers. It is important to be clear on what is expected of them and once you set SMART objectives, then it is quite clear when one does not perform and falls short. The best is to have the continuous conversations so that there are no surprises.

2. How has your management style changed over the years?

It has changed. I think I consult more now. I distribute leadership more among my team. When I trust that you can do it, I let you do it. While, before, I was maybe too hands-on. It took me time to learn that I can trust people – I thought I could do everything myself. 

I learned from that, a leadership style where I could allow people their space. As your career progresses, you will manage more senior people - they want you to give them the space to do their work. For me, the main things I’ve learnt are around distributing leadership, accountability and trust.

3. What do you think it’s like to work for you? 

The greatest desire for any leader is to see their team members develop. And their development is primarily driven by two things: their personal efforts and their leader’s efforts. When people work for me, l do my best to provide mentorship and I am deliberate about their development by exposing them to platforms that may, ultimately, drive them towards their career goals. However, this requires that they also put in their best at all times.   

4. How do you encourage creativity?  What is the key to developing people, so they are creating the ideas?

Steve Jobs once said: ‘don’t hire clever people and tell them what to do’. People, especially highly talented individuals, thrive on ideation. So one needs to give them the space to come up with ways of working and creative ideas.

At Barclays, data analytics is one of our key strategic agendas and it allows the team to think beyond their ways of work and come up with more creative ways of identifying growth opportunities in the firm.

People who are hungry to grow, thrive on creativity. They will make mistakes as they grow but it is exactly that, it is part of growing as a leader.


5. What does success mean to you?

For me, on a technical level, success is about setting firm targets and achieving them. But bigger than that, I think it’s about how you make a difference in people’s lives. You need to be able to look around at people and say, ‘because I worked with you, you have been able to be a CEO as well in your own life’. Then, that’s success. 

6. What have been the driving forces behind your success?

First of all, it’s been about doing what I love. I have been a managing director since 2008, and I have been in leadership roles forever. So for me, it’s about waking up each morning and doing a job that doesn’t feel like work. Yes, you are getting paid, but you enjoy what you do. That’s been a great success, because when it comes naturally, you just enjoy it and you do well. 

It's been God’s grace, because I have had the right people around me. I think one of the biggest successes for me is hiring the right people because because a great team delivers great results. I also have a very supportive family that has helped me grow as a leader.

7. How has your definition of success changed over time?

Before I became a chief executive, it was very much about me. It was about, can I do this? So, my first managing director job was very much about me and my family.  But now it's more about other people and developing talent. It's about what are people going to say when I walk in the room, regarding what I am doing for them. It’s about the legacy I will leave behind. I would like to be remembered as a leader who made a change by developing people and giving them opportunities to grow. That’s how I define success now.

The Africa List CDC Group