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7 Questions on Leadership with Nancy Nwanze

Name: Nancy Nwanze

Title: Head of Customs, Excise and Trade Compliance - Africa

Organisation: Guinness Nigeria (a Diageo Company)

Nancy Nwanze is an accomplished professional with 12+ years of experience working across a breadth of roles, with a focus on regulatory compliance and advisory, international trade, business development, taxation, strategic communications and policy development.

She also has a strong track record of driving transformation and change, developing

business opportunities and supporting organisations to explore new approaches to

enhance productivity and efficiency.

Nancy is well versed in cross-border trade activities, trade finance and technology.

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

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


Jonno White

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

The ability to convince my team without coming across as imposing my views on them is my greatest challenge as a leader. My leadership style is for decisions to be made collectively without anyone feeling coerced or forced to act outside the person's conviction.

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

A couple of years ago (2014) while working with British American Tobacco (Nigeria), my formal functional director was looking to fill up a Regulatory Affairs Manager role for Anglophone West Africa. He approached me and asked me if I would love to channel my inquisitive energy to manage regulatory affairs in four West African countries....

I said "Yes". It was just one year after my Management Trainee programme. It was the best decision I took in my career as I learnt to better manage myself (you have lead yourself before you can lead others) and, my colleagues (seniors, peers and juniors).

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

I try to start up early in the morning because I work from home, I am able to wake up at 6:30am and be in my workspace by 7am. I try to read through my emails, review my work plan and take breakfast. I try to structure my meetings between 10am to 3pm with some few breaks in between (Some times, my meeting is starts from 8am to 5pm with few breaks).

From 3pm, I try to set my focus time on Microsoft Teams for 2 to 3 hours to review documents, prepare slides and respond to emails that require details. From 6pm to 7pm, I could exercise, call my friends and siblings or watch TV ( I love cartoons), but I always try to have dinner before 7:30pm.

I spend time on my personal development activities - study, research, future plans or surf the internet until 10pm. I get ready for bed, but some times I could be on the phone with my siblings who live around the world.

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

I have recently learnt that sometimes silence does not resolve dispute. You need to have tough conversations no matter how uncomfortable you may feel, but do it with respect.

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?

"How successful people lead" by John C Maxwell. My key learning from the book is that helping people grow, extends your influence and impact. A couple of years ago, I took a chance on a junior colleague and gave her an opportunity in my team.

She impacted the organisation positively, which reflected well on me and my team, in terms of her quality of delivery and the unique knowledge she brought to the table. The role was a stepping stone for her as it enabled her to gain greater opportunities within the organisation. Of recent, we have partnered in various projects, which have mutually benefited both of our careers.

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

Always challenge yourself to be the best you can be.

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

I took a personal decision not to get involved in a discussion regarding a topic as I felt it had nothing to me. So I decided to exclude myself from anything relating to the topic. Unfortunately, a couple of months later the topic became my pet project and it was very difficult to address.

I wished I collaborated with the team earlier to address the topic. My key leadership learning is to always get involved and collaborate.... never think it is not your headache because you can never tell the future.

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