In this Issue
I am pleased to share with you the inaugural edition of the Center for Microfinance Leadership quarterly newsletter and to take this opportunity to introduce myself. Many of you may be wondering who I am and why I joined Women’s World Banking. I have had many careers, including: a top-ranked tennis player, tennis coach, leadership and organization development executive, and leadership consultant and coach—all focused on helping people and organizations excel.
There has been a consistent strong focus in all of the organizations for which I have worked (Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and Touche and Citigroup) on developing leaders, particularly high potential women. As the head of my own consultancy for the last six years, my mission has been to take my Collaborative Competition™ approach and pioneer a new way of leadership in competitive industries. My passion for making a wider impact in the world comes from my experience leading workshops and coaching women from all parts of the world to become more confident, willing to take risks, and stretch and grow as strategic, collaborative and effective leaders. That is why it is such an honor to have been selected to lead the Center for Microfinance Leadership.
Leading the Center is the perfect opportunity to contribute to an industry that is going through enormous change and needs to pioneer leadership and organization development strategies in order to stay innovative and sustainable. My aim is to develop a Center that will partner with microfinance institutions, leading educational institutions, corporations and experts, to become a world-class center of excellence. We look forward to your inputs as the Center continues to grow and evolve around the core belief that the key to sustainability in the microfinance industry, as in any other, is the quality of its leaders. I encourage you to reach out to me to share your thoughts about how the Center can best contribute to the development of strong, principled leadership in microfinance.
Thinking about your role as a leader, what do you see as the next challenges for your organization?
I think leaders have to grow and develop over time. Self-awareness is very important. It’s critical that when you first start managing you know who you are and what makes you tick. It is very important for leaders to have empathy for those they lead; you must know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when necessary. It’s also very important to be able to drive performance, which means that you have to have passion and conviction to really motivate great performances from your staff. You must also have compassion for those you work with and you need to be able to communicate that compassion. Effective communication is very important to leadership.
What do you see as the Center’s role in microfinance and what would you like to see it contribute to the sector?
Being a woman that has led from the front and built my organization as well as contributed to other institutions, I strongly believe in peer learning and the importance of role models who can encourage you to grow and succeed. Mentoring for women who come from traditional societies that don’t necessarily support women in business is very important. I see the Center helping to mentor and build leaders through a strong network of information sharing. The Center must also be a laboratory to learn about general management strategies, regardless of gender. It should also provide technical expertise that will help leaders build strong and efficient institutions.
Thinking back, is there something that you wish a mentor had told you at the beginning?
Well, I was lucky because I had great mentors – my mentor for microfinance was Professor Muhammad Yunus. He said something to me very early on that really stuck. He told me that if I made mistakes, not to dwell on them. When you’re pioneering something and trying to build it, you are going to make mistakes. It’s learning from these mistakes that’s the most important thing. It is lonely being at the top of something and leading an institution, so you need to accept that. As a leader, what I advise others is that if you make a mistake, treat it like a learning opportunity.
What advice do you have for other CEOs in the microfinance sector?
Really invest in your human resources. As microfinance providers, I think we forget sometimes how important it is to have a strong human resources function. We need to run our institutions more professionally in this way.
Mujer…Es: a Dream Come True for WWB Network Member
After participating in WWB’s Women’s Leadership Workshop in New York City in 2008, Margarita Gonzalez, Marketing Director for Fundación WWB Colombia, returned home motivated to teach other women about leadership and represent WWB Colombia on a public stage. The central theme of her efforts would be women and their contributions to creating a world with a gender focus. WWB Colombia has always supported new initiatives and Executive Director Dr. Clara de Akerman has always been a leader that inspires her staff to take action including taking advantage of opportunities for personal growth. Margarita’s creativity and dedication, and the support of WWB and Dr. Akerman, brought WWB Colombia’s television program—Mujer…Es—to life in December 2009.
The program is created for women entrepreneurs, highlighting the personal success stories of these tenacious and self-motivated leaders. The program consists of conversations with entrepreneurs and also provides viewers with valuable information about finance, health and beauty, and the value of a positive attitude. The program also educates viewers on topics including women’s rights legislation, how to handle sexism and how to motivate the spirit of entrepreneurship in the next generation of women.
WWB Colombia has received an exceptional public response and plans to continue using platforms such as Mujer Es… to contribute to the lives and success of women microentrepreneurs, to stimulate credit demand, and to position the brand of WWB Colombia as an institution that supports women and contributes to their growth and development.
Margarita Gonzalez and WWB Colombia invite you to watch the show, spread the word, and send your feedback by visiting www.programamujeres.com
For any questions regarding the Center for Microfinance Leadership’s programs, or if you are a program graduate and would like to be featured in the Leadership Voices or Leadership in Action sections of the Quarterly Newsletter, please contact Sarah Buitoni, Senior Associate, Center for Microfinance Leadership, Women’s World Banking.