Whitney walked into the Management Canteen of her company, a subsidiary division of a giant conglomerate, of which she was recently announced as the new Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer. She was accompanied by Suku, a friend and fellow contestant for the position. A sudden hush fell on the crowded canteen at the unanticipated presence of the subject matter of their discussion making it difficult to continue their erstwhile conversation. Whitney had worked in various capacities with the group over the past 20 years and had proven her mettle. It was therefore no surprise that she emerged as the new Managing Director of the Food and Beverages Division after a keenly contested race for the coveted post. Suku, her closest ally had also been her stiffest competitor but Suku readily acceded to her superior abilities. After loading her tray with her preferred meal, she walked up to her favorite table and pulled up a chair. One of her colleagues at the table, Ifejika, bantered…” Madam M.D., you have left our league remember? You should join the table for the CEOs now o.” Whitney settled herself firmly in the seat and responded “Aren’t you guys forgetting something? You haven’t sent me forth yet o so till then, I remain a distinguished member of this table” she replied laughingly. With this, the edgy silence thawed and the usual camaraderie resumed.
Whitney could barely withhold her excitement as the official letter confirming her new status was handed to her after lunch and she rushed home to share the good news with her husband – Pedro. Pedro, a successful businessman with a chain of boutiques to his name, often operated from his home office and Whitney was sure he would be in the office. As she barged in through the door of his office, she did a rumba style dance and she handed him the letter with the words “Guess what dear?”. To her chagrin his response hit her like a slap in the face as he said in an off-handed manner “Congratulations, I hope you realise that the C.E.O position does not extend to our home.” Whitney beat a speedy retreat to the kitchen, served him his lunch and retreated to her study to ruminate. She quickly surmises that mounting the saddle of corporate leadership poses its own challenges, especially for a woman. These challenges must be carefully navigated to be successful. She acknowledges that she possesses both the capabilities and capacity to function successfully but realises that she must maintain a balance with relationships that could also impact negatively or positively on her performance. She broke this into 4.
- Her relationship with her spouse. This she considers to be of paramount influence on her performance at work because she needs to have peace of mind for optimal performance. That can only happen if the home front works and she receives the necessary support from Pedro. She senses that she needs to work on this relationship, stemming from his initial reaction to the promotion, by making him comfortable with it. After all, he will be expected to accompany her on official social events and invitations. If she however fails to receive his support, she may need to steel herself and focus on getting the job done regardless. She has never failed in any assigned role or responsibility hitherto and believes she knows how to engender Pedro’s cooperation and support.
- Her relationship with her two children. Both Tina and Peter are in the university and have an awesome relationship with their parents. They are doing well and making their parents proud. She expects the situation to continue and that they would not be a cause for concern at work.
- Her relationship with her peers. She had always experienced cordial relationships and support from her peers as she always exhibited team spirit. No man is an island and she realises the importance of teamwork in achieving desired results. In spite of competition, her excellent interpersonal skills place her in good standing with her peers and she intends to maintain it that way.
- Her relationship with subordinates further down the corporate ladder. Being a proponent of the strength in Human resources, she realises that this cadre of personnel can make or mar her results so they require careful handling. She determines to be an empathetic strong leader who is able to communicate a clearly defined vision and have it cascade down the ladder. She knows that consistent achievement of results will build employee confidence in her abilities but it should not be to the detriment of the people.
She concludes that as a woman, she should expect greater obstacles to success than her male counterparts because she must carefully balance home and work while gaining the confidence of her employees in a male-dominated environment. She however determines that it is achievable and sets her mind to it.
Two years later, Whitney is celebrated as the best performing C.E.O in the group and she is proudly accompanied by Pedro and the children, to the celebration event.
Havilah notes here that new opportunities are often fraught with challenges, but if properly analysed and thought through, success is achieved.