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Thank you to the 1,400 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions!
I hope reading

7 Questions with Chresta Kaluba

helps you in your leadership.



Jonno White

7 Questions with Chresta Kaluba

Name: Chresta C. Kaluba

Current title: Chief Risk Officer

Current organization: Atlas Mara Zambia

I am a qualified and experienced financial management professional with extensive experience setting up and managing risk functions in the banking sector.

7 Questions with Chresta Kaluba


1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

Leading the people above me. It requires a delicate touch as superiors don't like to feel they are being led and the leading has to be subtle. Every leader faces this challenge, and those that excel are those that are brilliant at it; whether it's managing and leading your CEO, or your board members. It is particularly critical for a risk practitioner I think, because you cannot simply "do it yourself" if you don't like how the others are doing it. For sustainable results, you always have to "win them over".

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was managing the treasury middle office for FNB... the role had two main functions, risk management and accounting. I found the accounting mundane and easy but the risk management exciting... also, I was ambitious... and I figured that the best way to become CEO was to know as much as possible about the institution and risk management would allow me to do that.

So when a competitor bank advertised that they were looking for someone to head their risk management department, I was very interested and applied for the role. When I was offered the job, I was actually offered the exact pay was I was getting at FNB but I decided to move anyway... so I did, and that was the start of my journey as an executive.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I wake up really early... I love to take walks in the morning. Both for exercise purposes and just to think, organize my thoughts and plan my day. So I'm up at 04:45... I walk for an hour, than I take a nap.

I'm generally in the office by 08... and I'm usually in the office the whole day, until about 6 pm. I spend some time with the kids, until their bedtime (7:30pm) then relax with a good book or a movie after that.

At work, I make it a point reserve some time for thinking and planning. I think it's important to never become so busy you're always just reacting. Unfortunately, this is a very easy trap to fall into. Deliberate steps have to be taken to make time to think and plan.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

The biggest lesson for me is that leadership is about the team... the people you are leading. The leaders number one role is to look after the team and equip them to produce results. It is the teams responsibility to produce results, the leaders role is to make sure the team is able to do this. If the leader decides to produce the results him or herself, the work will be done, but from a leadership perspective, that leader will have failed.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The biggest impact was not from a book actually, but from an article. A CEO writing about how he was lazy and lived a life of luxury because his job was create a machine that produced results; and take care of that machine. His job was not to do what the machine is supposed to do.

This simple lesson made me do the following:
1. Start prioritizing my team. My number one job as a leader, is my team.
2. I make sure I'm not too busy. If I find myself too busy, something is not right... it usually means I am doing something I'm not supposed to be doing.
3. I listen more to my team... I allow them to be the experts they are supposed to be and I give myself the role of supporting and equipping them.
4. I invest in developing my team. I invest in making sure my team members are happy.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

By being deliberate about it. Making conscious decisions to invest in people, to prioritize them, to understand their needs and do what I can to meet those needs.

Also important is allowing team members to take ownership of their spaces... they are the experts; they are the leaders in their areas. I should trust them and respect them in that capacity.

I have found that if you treat people as leaders and experts, they generally rise to the occasion.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

A colleague from another department walked into our office and asked if it was okay to take a particular course of action. My immediate response was an emphatic “No!” There was no way such an action would be acceptable.

But then, a member of the team said “wait a minute, have you considered this other side of it?” We debated it for some good fifteen minutes and at the end of the discussion, my emphatic “No!” had changed into an emphatic “Yes!”

My willingness to question my own answers and my willingness to accept other people’s positions has served me well over the years.

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