Commissioner General of Uganda's Revenue Authority discusses leadership and management

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Doris Akol is a Ugandan lawyer and administrator. She is the current Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority. Ms Akol was first appointed to the role in 2014 and in 2018 began her second term in office.

She has won several awards including the 2018 African Women in Leadership Award from African Virtuous Women Awards Organisation and the 2018 Person of the Year Public Excellence Award from the African Leadership magazine.

How do you define success?

For me, success can be defined in different ways. One, it could be defined as when you set out to do something and you have achieved it, then you're successful. But I also think it has other dimensions – your success should be able to have an impact on other people, other than yourself. And, therefore, it has to have a little bit more altruism to it. So, I would suggest that, success in my view, is not only achieving what you set out to do, but it’s also about positively impacting other people.

Has your definition of success changed as your career has developed?

I think it has, because when I started out in my career, I think I did achieve a lot of what I wanted to do. But at some point, I needed a little bit more than just my own career success, I also wanted to have a bearing on bettering other people's lives. I think taking on an administrative role in a government agency has enabled me to do that because government is one place where you can do something that really impacts other people's lives. Even if I took it just from the mandate of the organisation I work for because of the tax revenue we collect, we are able to impact the lives of Ugandans. But there’s also the role that I play – I’m looked up to in leadership like so many other people, and I am proud that some people have been impacted positively by my leadership.

Have you faced any major challenges in your career so far?

I think the constant expectations, only for the highest officials of the public, is great now. I wouldn’t say it’s a major challenge necessarily but it's something you can never quite satisfy. And maybe then it becomes a challenge because you may think you have succeeded but then it looks like maybe you haven't as a result of these higher expectations. So, getting over that and staying motivated is, for me, one of the issues that I have to constantly deal with.

Is there anything you have failed at?

Yes, there are things you try to do, they might be a little bit unconventional or new things you try to do, and they have not succeeded. Afterwards, we then have to step back, re-evaluate and understand where we went wrong. Maybe we didn't read up on it, or maybe we didn't use the right people or the right training. You learn the lesson, bide your time until you’re ready to relaunch.

In terms of helping more junior colleagues, what is one piece of advice that stands out that you would deliver to them?

Looking back on my own journey I think one of the important things is you need to know what it is you want. You need to know where you want to be in a number of years, say five years, because then it gives you the compass to follow and guide you. Roads can take you in different directions but you need to be able to know whether they are going to the places you want to be.

You also need to know why you want to do something in your career. And when you have the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, you will probably get there.

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The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ – did you have those two things in mind when you were planning your career?

Yes, I did. I started out in the private sector, where the work I was doing wasn’t giving me the opportunity to practice in the breadth that I wanted to practice in. And I knew I would get that from the public sector. I also knew that in the public sector, not only am I able to do what I want to professionally, but I'm also make an impact in a number of ways.

Is there one thing you would redo in your career?

No, I don't think so. I have been very happy with how my career has gone.

Do you still plan ahead in your career?

Yes, I think it's very important to do that for continuous improvement. I don't think anyone can really ever say they have arrived. At each level you reach, you need to plan where to go next. And it need not be only career wise, it can also be multidimensional. Planning is very important.

What are the driving factors behind a person’s success?

I would say passion. I'm not sure you can achieve success if you're not passionate about what it is you do. You also need to know the purpose, the bigger picture of what it is you're doing because then that drives you to actually achieve it.  You can’t get there with wishful thinking, there’s always going to be some hard work, some commitment, you have to be resilient for those times it's hard. You have to stay the course. I think for me those are the driving factors I would point out.

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