As you progress through your professional journey, you will come across the privilege of encountering true leaders. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a handful of them and upon reflection, I have discovered many commonalities in their professional qualities and characters.
Undoubtedly, solid subject matter expertise is the undisputed entry point for any leader. There is simply no replacement for it. As a banker, for example, it is essential to possess in-depth knowledge about the products, financial accounting, and regulations.
However, comprehensive general education is equally vital for combining experiences from different fields and making thoughtful and creative decisions. This also goes hand in hand with the ability for self-critical reflection, even if this quality contradicts the propagated success of alpha personalities.
True leaders recognize the importance of a strong team. One of my professors once said, “First line draws the first line, second draws third.” In other words, leaders are coaches who recognize the strengths of their players and combine them to create an unbeatable team. At the same time, they are present when they need to take on responsibility. Knowing when and how to interfere is an art.
All the impressive leaders I met in my career have did not shy away from having a point of view. While they compromised for the benefit of common goals, they also had limits. More often than not, this resulted in them either not making it to the very top or not staying there for as long as I hoped. At the moment, it was always sad, but it left a more impressive legacy.
Over the past five years, I have had the honor of working with Maksat Ishenbaev, the CEO of Bank Bai Tushum in Kyrgyzstan. He checked all the boxes listed above. His calm hand in steering the bank through difficult times and limited resources was impressive. Thanks to his leadership and his ability to empower the staff, the company became one of the preferred employers and a leader in digital financial services. We had many opportunities together to evaluate strategic options and the execution of business plans in board meetings and personal gatherings.
As the bank changes its ownership, it is time for him to move on. The entire staff bid him farewell with standing ovations. This is how it works. I know that the company will continue to flourish under its new leaders. Maksat will move on to his next challenge, where he will deliver the same impressive performance.