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7 Questions with Dr Imtiaz Abdul Kader

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Dr Imtiaz Abdul Kader

Name: Dr Imtiaz Abdul Kader

Current title: CIO Absa Insurance

Current organisation: Absa Group

Imtiaz is a proud father of 2 and a researcher in the field of Strategy Execution and Leveraging Advanced Technologies to enable growth. He also works as an Executive in the Banking Industry He has had exposure across all domains in the ICT sector from an academic and practitioner perspective. Besides his 24 years’ experience in the ICT sector across the Telecoms and Banking domains, he holds a Masters in Engineering degree and a Doctorate. He has led large diverse teams to deliver enterprise programmes across multiple domains, including the Digital Strategy Definition and Execution. He also recently published his book #Throw Away the Box, focusing on understanding organisations and how technology can be leveraged to grow an organisation and the economy holistically. He continues to research the adoption of bleeding edge technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Computing, Quantum Computing.

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

I found that large organisations create blockers for themselves by being internally focused on playing business politics and also over monitoring and controlling strategy execution teams. In today's world of ever increasing new developments in technologies, creating new domains and ending archaic ones, strategy execution has to be agile and we have to trust the team we appointed to execute on it. Leaders need to move away from setting up teams for comfort and loyalty to teams being set up for, experience, knowledge and delivery capability.

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

I started my journey as a telecommunications technologist, which bred my passion for technology and its uses. As time progressed I pursued this passion academically which eventually led me to achieving my Doctorate in Strategy Execution. Enabled by my academic achievements I traversed a fruitful career taking me deep into the Change and Technology domains ending with myself now being placed as the CIO for Absa Insurance. In addition I dug deep and delved into the frightening world of entrepreneurship and founded an infant Research Company, via which I managed to publish my book.

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

With a lot of difficulty! :) These unprecedented times have led us to a working environment wherein the lines between work and family has become blurred. As a father, I found myself also being caught up being a full time teacher and chef. In saying the above I strongly believe the best Leaders are best Leaders first and foremost in their own lives. I make sure family is prioritised and stick to my own planned schedule.

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

Being very adaptable, is something that comes to mind when I think about the most recent leadership lesson that I have learnt. As Leaders we were forced into a business unusual state given the Covid pandemic. Being an adaptive leader is definitely a compulsory skill required for todays and tomorrow's leaders.

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?

#Throw Away the Box. I know this may seem like a self actualised question leading to a self actualised outcome. I researched and wrote the book focusing on how leaders can leverage advanced technologies and rapid technology advances to enable growth for organisations and the societies they operate in. I think it is foolish for leaders to believe that one exists without the other. A thriving organisation requires a thriving society and vice versa.

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

Leadership capacity building can be achieved through both experiential and theoretical knowledge acquisition approaches. I found the former to be more appropriate for immediate successors of current leaders while the latter being more appropriate for creating a leadership pipeline. I do believe that most often than not you need both, depending on the domain knowledge required, however if you look at some of the most successful leaders out their such as Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba) you will see that self motivation, self discipline perseverance and the ability to bring the right people together are key traits for leaders.

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

Having embarked on the entrepreneurship journey starting an infant Research Company called Perfected Execution, I found that there are similarities towards leading a successful organisation, so my story would be a simple one....."lead yourself and the others will follow"