Peter Kimbowa, is one of Uganda’s leading executive coaches and founded Uganda’s CEO Summit.  The Summit brings together leaders from the private and public sector to develop the character and competence required to lead complex enterprises with a purpose beyond products, profits and personal gain.  The Summit’s annual CEO Forum this year focussed on financing Uganda into a middle income economy.

Glynis Rankin spoke to Peter Kimbowa at the Forum about ethical leadership, identifying talent, and the potential of coaching in Uganda.

What do you see as the challenges facing senior leaders in Uganda today?

The first challenge I see is the mechanism for developing the leadership pipeline from an early stage; marking people to become specialists, innovators or leaders. People become leaders by default, especially in the corporate sector where I spend my time, training is considered as the solution to prepare leaders. The second challenge is the fact that we are yet to know how to develop a national policy for developing the right values for leaders.

Please explain more about the values based leadership system which you believe leaders can use to help Uganda develop into a middle income economy

Our leaders need a value based leadership system, to create a leadership brand and to establish a national value system. I think there is a need to build a set of behaviours and values that will govern good manners and good behaviour and thereafter hopefully reduce the amount of corruption and bribery. From this we can develop leaders who are role models, displaying the behaviours and habits that are most critical for leadership. I think it will be hugely motivational for upcoming leaders to have these role models; those that think straight and behave right. We want to drive ethical leadership among all leaders in Uganda.

What were the objectives of the 7th annual CEO Forum?

We see the CEO Forum as a platform for discussion for the government to support a process of prioritisation. The theme this year was financing Uganda into a middle income economy through a tripartite ecosystem; supporting the infrastructure (including power, transport and water), agriculture and tourism industries. The Forum emphasised the three ecosystems as a means to drive economic growth. We had private and public sector practitioners and development partners.

How successful was the Forum this year?

It was successful! If I look at the attendance, we had representatives at institutional level and technical level, we also had a lot of government representatives. It was also successful because we learnt lessons, next we need to set timelines to implement what came out of the discussions.

The Prime Minister heard the presentations for himself and he has now put me to task: he wants a report on how we can move forward and policy papers to share with Government. The partnership between CEOs and the public sector is heading somewhere.

What are your thoughts on the importance of identifying and building a pipeline of leaders and supporting them through executive coaching to deliver results?

You talked about the importance of identifying talent and of establishing a pipeline of leaders. I would say that the discipline of coaching is still at a formative stage in Uganda so the whole area of development and coaching needs a lot of attention.

The corporate sector has embraced coaching as it provides 30% more transformation than training. How we create a resilient nation is through empowered talent; coaching is key to achieving this. The key asset to any organisation is its people, so CEOs in Uganda have embarked on institutionalising coaching.

One of the key outcomes of the CEO Forum has been the coaching infrastructure for future ready CEOs, every year we share the results and outcomes for growing and developing people. I think the Forum has added credibility and awareness to the early stages of the process. The government is now considering adopting coaching and creating a coaching culture within Governance. As an example of this, we had a post Forum evaluation with the Minister for Finance Planning and Economic Development who sees coaching as important for reducing corruption. Everything starts and stops with leadership.

Could you tell us a bit about the CEO Apprenticeship Programme (CAP) that you’re running?

The CAP was designed as a result of realising that the indigenous pool of leadership talent was small. At the 2012 Forum, CEOs agreed that we need an infrastructure to develop those a heartbeat away from being CEO, so we created the CAP in partnership with Strathmore Business School (SBS).

The selected participants are nominated by sitting CEOs and graduate in December every year. The participants are coached by CEOs from corporate Uganda and Kenya and they also have access to professional coaching. We have had around 100 participants that have become CEOs in the last four years, those who haven’t made it yet are a heartbeat away and are acting and thinking like CEOs. It has not achieved perfection yet but it is shifting methodologies of delivery. With the support of Strathmore Business School, we see this as an initiative that will grow.

You were one of the coaches for the programme Creative Metier ran in partnership with FSD Africa and SBS, working with CEOs in the financial sector to understand coaching and a coaching culture. Do you think this type of programme would be of value to other sectors in the Ugandan economy?

I think it would be, if you look at the public sector, especially the Ministry for Finance Planning and Economic Development, what they call the Accounting Officers, would be greatly impacted. In the area of manufacturing, the programme would be very useful to the leaders in this sector – in addition to SME owners and managers in the downstream supply chain and others in the upstream. The sectors I see as urgent and important are manufacturing, tourism and maybe mining. We also have about four big oil companies, they would also benefit.

What difference would it make to an institution if they had a tool for identifying potential at senior level, such as Creative Metier’s Career Development Diagnostic (CDD)?

I think if the CDD comes at the right time in a career, especially at the executive level, then it would be highly relevant in addressing critical talent issues. We have worked with Creative Metier to create awareness and sensitise organisations about identifying talent and from the perspective of motivation and alignment to strategy, I think the CDD is a wonderful tool. I hope at some point Creative Metier can present the tool to Ugandan public and private sector leadership, either at a platform like the CEO Forum, or at company locations to raise awareness.

Just to conclude, if you were to think ten years ahead, what is your ambition for leadership in Uganda?

Just one thing; values based leadership. Leadership that is useful and where society can see the lasting value.