Charles Mudiwa: How Good is your Executive Presence?


Charles Mudiwa was recently appointed as CEO of Stanbic Bank Kenya after spending just over four years as the CEO of Stanbic Bank Zambia. Towards the end of his time in Zambia, Charles spoke to The Africa List community in Zambia as one of the CEOs that participated in our 2017 CEO Night in Lusaka. He is originally from Zimbabwe, where he started his executive career as an Executive Director of Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe responsible for Retail Banking and Operations. Charles then broadened his career across the region with four years as a Director for Standard Bank in South Africa where he was in charge of mass market banking, followed by nearly six years as CEO of Stanbic Bank Malawi. It could have all turned out very differently however - Charles confessed during the CEO Life Hack breakout session just after his talk that he started his career wanting to be a doctor. After just a month of medical school however, he dropped out and made the switch into banking, a move he says was his best career decision to date.

Given Charles' extensive experience as a CEO, we asked him to come and pass on some advice to The Africa List where he shared his thoughts on why executive presence is the number one leadership skill that senior leaders should be focusing on. 

"Executive presence is your most important leadership competency" 

In Charles' opinion, what senior leaders often forget is that once you've passed a certain level of seniority, people assume that you're technically competent enough to do the job you've been hired for, and that you're good enough with people to have come this far. So what leaders at this level should be focusing on, is their 'executive presence'.

He says that at this stage, what your stakeholders and your team care about the most is your character, how you present yourself and what your values are. In this talk, Charles shares the three aspects that he considers to be most important to having executive presence, and why it's important, particularly in these markets where The Africa List community operates where members often say that their main leadership challenge is navigating through volatile and uncertain macro environments. 

He admitted to the group that it's not something he got right immediately. "It took me a bit of time to realise the impact that I have on people, and how I respond to people. I used to get impatient with people who are not as fast at getting things done, but over time I’ve learned how to be better," he said. Sharing these lessons that he's had to learn the hard way has become central to planning his second career post-banking, life after the CEO office. "I enjoy teaching, I want to create a leadership school for young kids and have already started working towards that," he explained when asked what is still left on his career bucket list.

This forward looking perspective - that executive presence doesn't mean anything unless you use it for the benefit of your community - is something he emphasises in his talk, leaving the group to ponder his parting question - what are you doing now as a leader that will live on after you are gone? 

For more information about The Africa List in Zambia please visit the Zambia country page

For more leadership insights from Charles, read 'Leadership Life Hacks from 4 of Zambia's Top CEOs'.

The book that Charles refers to when discussing the 'second death', is called 'Have a Little Faith' by Mitch Alborn