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7 Questions on Leadership with Jinu Johnson

Name: Jinu Johnson

Title: Chief Executive Officer

Organisation: Tanmeyah

Jinu Johnson, a visionary leader and trailblazing figure within the financial sector. With an astounding career that spans an impressive two decades plus in multinationals and regional financial institutions, Johnson has passionately dedicated his professional journey to empowering individuals and communities by facilitating greater access to financial services. At the helm of Tanmeyah - one of the largest financial institutions in Africa with over 4500 staff and 306 retail branches, Johnson is the driving force, offering unparalleled expertise, an unwavering commitment to fostering financial inclusion, and a well-documented history of catalyzing innovation and growth across diverse domains, including digital solutions, fintech, product development, wealth management, strategy, sales and distribution, and marketing.

Joining Tanmeyah as the CEO in May 2023, Johnson brings a wealth of experience, he was previously acting as The Head of Retail Banking at Mashreq Bank. This journey began with a strong foundation at HDFC Bank in India, followed by a dynamic career at Commercial Bank Qatar in various capacities before venturing to Egypt, where Johnson made significant contributions at both Barclays Bank Egypt and Attijariwafa Bank Egypt. As a Cairo resident for the past 11 years, Johnson possesses an intimate understanding of the local regulatory landscape and market dynamics. To further enhance their qualifications, Johnson holds a prestigious MBA in Finance & Marketing and boasts a plethora of esteemed certifications, including those in business lending and IFRS9 compliance

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Jinu's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The balancing act between being kind and being right is one of the most difficult ones. Being right normally gets you the right results quicker but being kind nurtures relationships faster; as at the end of the day, it's the people that drive the organization. It's a very thin line and if you stray to either side of the line, you risk disrupting the equilibrium.

The ideal scenario is to be right by being kind, and it's easier said than done given the time constraints and fast paced environment we operate in.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

The word leader is a bit too all-encompassing and as such referencing yourself as one is a bit ostentatious. You are a leader when you walk into a room anywhere in the world and you don't have to introduce yourself anymore. I still have to introduce myself every day.

I consider myself as someone who has always been passionate about delivering value and leaving things behind better than I found it. This has been innately part of my DNA from a very young age, and it helped me progress in my career. From early days, I did not shy away from asking for and taking responsibilities that I did not have the authority for, and it has been rewarding.

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

I am perhaps one of the worst examples when it comes to daily routine. Since adolescence I have needed only 4 hours sleep a day. I realize this is atypical, but I have never had fatigue nor other associated symptoms that is normally associated with lower number of sleeping hours. On the contrary, I am more active and energetic than the typical executive. This has afforded me an edge that I have 20 hours of productive hours per working days, and I normally spend around 14 hours for work and 6 hours with family.

My normal day starts at around 7, I work from home for around 1,5 hours and then reach office by around 9.30 AM and then leave office by around 9 PM. Once family goes to bed, I spend another 1 hour working from home and then catch up on personal reading.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

The current geopolitical environment has reminded me most is the need to be resilient. Resilient leadership: through focused responses and accepting realities whilst engaging all stakeholders, acknowledging that many unknowns exist, being decisive and communicating transparently are key hallmarks for resilient leadership.

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?

"Nine lies about work" - a book by Ashley Goodall & Marcus Buckingham is one such book, it debunks the common wisdom that hitherto has been the bedrock of executive decision making.

Every person has a personality; eliminating this would not make it better, conformity is needed but one should allow for individual freedom and creativity. We need to have employees who would thrive in an organization and not just survive.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Never ignore your common sense in the face of subject matter experience. It takes years to have technical subject matter experience and you will often encounter subject matter experts who would give guidance, whilst it is important that one take cognizance of this, one should never forego the common sense and intuitive judgement that you are blessed with, challenge if your common sense tells your otherwise - You will either win the argument or learn something new.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

The one story or rather the recurring theme in my early days vs. the present has been understanding that less is more and that at the highest levels, one's success is perhaps more defined by what you don't do rather than what you do.

Learning to have laser targeted focus and deciding what not to do has essentially been the meaningful story of my career.

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