Comments Off on African Power Elites Personality: Habiba Ali

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

WHO WERE YOUR ROLE MODELS DURING THE PIVOTAL STAGES OF YOUR LIFE?

My mother’s sisters who were very industrious; they travelled long distances from home to run businesses. They inspired me to desire to be independent as they were independent and even took total responsibility for their families. My Mum as long as I have known her always sold something to manage the home.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

A leader should endeavour to have integrity and a high level of empathy towards their team members, valuing everyone for their unique strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, it is very important for a leader to be humble and firm.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?

• I am hardworking and always strive to achieve bigger and get better

• I am resilient, able to adapt to changing environments and situations

• I am not fearful of much; however, my most recent self-discovery is that I have a fear of heights [laughs]

WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST BLIND SPOTS?

My greatest weakness is the idea of failure, which lives in my subconscious. Additionally, I am my biggest critic when it comes to my personal work and efforts – something which I hold in high regard as I am always striving to achieve my best.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING IN YOUR OPINION THAT PEOPLE COMMONLY MISCONCEIVE ABOUT YOU?

I feel that people may think that I create ‘noise’ unnecessarily, which is generally attributed to my assertive behaviour. However, this incorrect perception is not me disrupting the calm; it is my decision to take an assertive stance to ensure my voice is heard to establish a certain goal or point of direction.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR KEEPING A TEAM MOTIVATED?

This is a difficult one because you think you know the recipe but it doesn’t always have the intended outcomes. Nevertheless, a leader should speak to the team members and find out what motivates each of them.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

Starting my business without a dime [laughs]. It took belief and passion, I must say.  Passion and persistence on my side and belief from Stewart Craine. He was the Managing Director of Barefoot Power when they agreed to sell me products and further went ahead to help me acquire Kiva Loan to make more sales and support women who were on selling the products on my behalf.

The Kiva Loan was the beginning and the proof of concept. This allowed me to create the background I had that ensured I could reach out to more organisations for other support. We also started the implementation of the Improved Cookstove Project shortly after and this project supported our overheads, so it made it easier to expand our other activities easily.

WHEN CONSIDERING A NEW PARTNERSHIP, WHAT FACTORS ARE DEAL-BREAKERS FOR YOU?

I think trust and the passion to join forces. Also, if I have a feeling that you don’t have our mutually beneficial interests at heart, then the trust is lost.  Sometimes, a business partner may only start to show their ‘other side’ later in the partnership; and this is the time to sit back and reanalyse. Then it needs to be addressed and resolved or dissolved.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP?

Delegation – I don’t even think I have fully developed this skill [laughs].

Recently I have learned that you need not just to know but also to understand every aspect of your business. Usually a business leader will focus on how to grow the business without necessarily understanding the nitty gritty of some aspects. However, knowledge of how the business cycle flows is important to the growth of the business and achievement of the leadership status for the organisation.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?

That I did it! I am very proud that I made the decision to start my business and the positive impact it is having on the communities in which we work. I also look back at where I am coming from and I smile because I know I have progressed and changed lives positively. For once I can without guilt pat myself and say, “I tried”!

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?

I have a strong support system. I am very lucky as my mother lives in the same town as me and is very hands-on with my children when I need to travel for work. Between me and my sister as well, we can manage the children when where my mum is not able to.

As my daughter is at boarding school, I have created a ‘buddy’ system with my son where open communication flows between us about my work and travel etc.  By creating this ‘buddy’ approach, we are both able to identify what is a priority to each other and compromise when it comes to my travel.

My team is in the building process to enable them manage activities when I am not there and this is where I still question my delegation tactics as I need to learn to totally let go.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?

This book makes one understand how to grow a business and keep it at grown. I highly recommend this book if you are the founder of or managing a start-up company, I wish I had read this book eight years ago when I started my business.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK, AND WHAT TREND WILL FADE?

There seems to be synergy between the Nigerian Energy/Power sector and what is happening globally. The energy field is beginning to cross boundaries with other sectors. There is a lot of drive for renewables and innovations around IoT and blockchain, which will act independently with no boundaries.

I feel strongly that the energy sector is going to become democratised where the energy monopoly in most countries is going to eventually dissolve. People will start to have their own energy sovereignty and be completely independent with their energy use and consumption.

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

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