The critical role of leadership in supporting a remote team.

Angela Nyasha


Nine months ago I stepped into a leadership role at Sava that would allow me to strategically work with an executive team of three. I found the ideation and concept development foundation already laid, and my initial primary duty was to support their individual functions from an operations lens. This meant I had to first take time to understand the full scope of the company offerings to identify profitable business opportunities, then assess the competitive landscape and zero in on the best practices of global players in the fintech space. The subsequent step was

designing and implementing business strategies, plans and procedures.

Within a few weeks, it was evident that Sava was gradually starting to have legs and it was time to source additional talent that would help us take greater strides towards our vision of supporting African businesses stay afloat and scale.

We started hiring for crucial roles — so the team was expanding fairly quickly. The catch was that the existing team was not in one location — and even the consultants we were having initial conversations with were in different parts of the continent. So I had to maintain precision in keeping track of individual schedules and timezones to efficiently set up virtual and some in-person meetings. As I sat in on these introductory calls to listen and learn about the person potentially joining us, I soon realised that we didn’t have a structured onboarding process and this would eventually affect team motivation and productivity short-term. And because we were on stealth mode, I knew we could easily fall into the trap of squandering those precious moments of welcoming our new hires. I decided that as Chief of Staff I would devise a clear-cut onboarding process, and I was ready to take on the extra hours to offer introductory support, guided by Sava’s vision.

As I near my tenth month, I’ve realised that my role has become multifaceted, now that I’m working with the different teams that make up this business. From a sturdy tech team, to a creative and strategic marketing team, to a top tier growth team, I have my feet deep in the ground in all departments as well as all aspects of Sava.

A large percentage of the work I do daily involves leadership. To constructively ensure all teams are aligned and satisfied, I’ve leaned on a quote I hold highly: “You don’t manage people; you lead them.” But to serve as a leader, I’ve had to first understand my team. This has looked like designing the onboarding process to include sharing and learning; essentially active listening to understand how each person joining the team thinks, their ways of working, and even their strengths. Emotional intelligence has also been instrumental whenever challenges arise and are being addressed. For this I’ve borrowed from my educational background in engineering where one of the key pillars in projects has been to bravely take on a solution-oriented approach.

Having previously worked with a remote team to coordinate the development and subsequent launch of a product with Econet wireless under Cummi Technologies, I have structured my managerial plan to fit within the Sava culture, which includes teamwork. This has allowed the entire team to not just understand who is part of the team and what their strengths are, but also believe in and embrace the end goal.

Everything has built up to this stage — which is one where we’re in the final loop to the launch. Having taken stock of my time in this role and the work I’ve done, I’m happy with the mileage we’ve covered collectively. And I’ve now deliberately set a routine to take time to think through how we can be consistently efficient as more processes are set. By doing this, my work has taken on another facet, which involves giving feedback to all levels of the internal team.

I don’t restrict the definition of leadership into a single bracket because it’s a function that comprises many things. But being an effective leader is what I aim to continuously practise within this role as the business continues to grow.

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