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AfricaMoney | August 19, 2017

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Leadership ExpertSpeak: Mauritians have appetite for entrepreneurship & leadership

Leadership ExpertSpeak: Mauritians have appetite for entrepreneurship & leadership

Francois-Daniel Migeon, who has worked in diverse roles for the World Bank, McKinsey & Company, as well as the French Government, professed himself as positively impressed by the appetite of Mauritians for entrepreneurship and leadership. (Image: Cecilia Samoisi)

Francois-Daniel Migeon, Founder of Thomas More Partners, spoke to AfricaMoney on how his leadership consulting firm has been making positive change happen through quality leadership. Our leadership expert, who has worked in diverse roles for the World Bank, McKinsey & Company, as well as the French Government, professed himself as positively impressed by the appetite of Mauritians for entrepreneurship and leadership.

Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Can you tell us more about your professional experience and the achievements of Thomas More Partners till date?

Regarding Thomas More Partners, I started my company two years ago with the aim of providing quality leadership that makes positive change happen. Regarding my professional experience, it straddles both the private and public sector. In the private sector, I worked as an Associate Partner of McKinsey & Company where I served in the industrial sector for a total of 6 years and, finally, in the public sector, where I was working for the French Government and have been in charge of the government’s administrative reform till 2012.

You have suggested several reforms to change the government culture in France. Can you tell us how it has positively transformed the French Government?

In the administration, we took the first steps to reform services from the perspective of a citizen. It has been over five years and we have come a long way since, but I can remember that in the very beginning, some people said that the rules are written and so it shall be done. I insisted that rules are just the starting point; what we are interested in is a change in the front line, a change on the field to make sure that common people have access to quality services. That is most probably one of the iconic changes in the service culture of the French government. Obviously, we have some landmark reforms in terms of making change happen from scratch. One of our main efforts went towards redesigning the administrative services/departments at the grassroots level in France (les departments). We streamlined it from 20 units to 3 units, which was a huge restructuring to capture synergies, make the structure simpler and more agile so that citizen is served more rapidly and with greater efficiency.

With the Mauritian Government encouraging more and more people to become entrepreneurs in order to contribute to the island economy, what leadership skills do you think they need to acquire to attain world-class capabilities?

One of the key qualities of an entrepreneur is openness and curiosity. If you want to become world class, the key aspect is to really articulate what is going on, and what are the new things on the horizon. So, the starting point is the eagerness to identify and spot innovation, and make sure you can grasp it and bring it home for good use. That would be the first thing I would say in the usual course, but frankly, when I visited Mauritius, I met a couple of people who astonished me with the capacity to look around and to actually grasp things that are probably the key assets to develop. Entrepreneurship is about this capacity to grasp new things. Entrepreneurship is having deep inside of you the willingness to change, the desire to bring something to the world and see what exists already, and from this, bring your own bit of innovation to the business world. You do not have to start from scratch but be eager to build your own little kingdom on the bricks and mortar that others may already have provided as foundation.

You visited Mauritius last November and met several organisational leaders. Based on that experience, what is your impression of corporate leadership in Mauritius and how can the current crop of leaders build on their capabilities?

It would probably be pretentious of me to set myself to judge the Mauritius leadership bench. At this stage, all I would like to say is that I have been positively impressed by the appetite of Mauritians for entrepreneurship and leadership. I mainly met people who were reasoning deeply the perspective of leadership we are bringing, which is based on authenticity and maybe to a larger extent, what we see in other areas. I felt a sense of people thinking with both their mind and heart, and trying to bring together the best of themselves, and this is core that we invoke when we speak about authentic leadership. It is really the belief of people in their own capabilities, deep down inside. In fact, the idea is to make people know themselves, and to actually grow to a higher level. When we shared this with the leaders, it brought us a lot of optimistic reverts and feedback.

To what extent do you agree that ‘Great Leaders Are Made, Not Born’ and, along the same lines, what make a leader truly great in your eyes?

It is truly said that true leaders are made, not born. There is another saying I like, and that is: ‘Becoming a leader is as simple, as complex, as becoming oneself.’ Leadership is a journey towards a vision, which is to the point when you are deeply unified and rooted to who you are but at the same time open to others. So yes, there is no leadership by chance; leadership is always a consequence of a conscious choice. We take a responsibility as leaders. I can decide to be a leader while I can equally choose not to be one, so the first stage is decision. Thus, you have to decide if you wish to move towards leadership and then be open to learning from your experiences. It is very interesting when we speak to leaders and find out that their stories were rife with failures, trials and errors, and there is one thing that they did not quit is their desire to make a difference. No one can decide that for you.
On what are the features of a great leader, there are three. The first is the willingness to serve a cause which is higher than themselves. Second, is the quality of relationship with the people. A great leader is someone who welcomes others and invites them into their supportive environment. They want to meet people, speak to people, learn about other people and to bring what they can get to the table and also grasp what they can receive at the same time. Leaders must have the capacity to build a strong, collaborative and intertwining relationship where people feel that they are growing. When you sit next to a great leader, you feel intelligent, energized and developed and when you step out you will want to give the best of yourself. The third dimension is driving oneself towards perfectionism. Leadership is all about humility. A great leader considers himself or herself as the one who is on a higher plane in terms of competency and understanding. This is why they look to themselves to grow people, and are always capable to doing more and better than what they actually have, and have boundless energy to share around them.

According to you, what is the importance of leadership in an enterprise? How can it contribute to the sustainability of an organisation?

I think leadership is critical for an enterprise. Corporate life is constantly changing, you have new clients, stakeholders, and customers are generally evolving. If you want a thriving enterprise, obviously change is the name of the game. Well, if leadership is about the capability to make change happen, then leadership is the core quality for an enterprise to be thriving and sustainable. Leadership is the cornerstone of a thriving and sustainable performance and I am talking about the capability within the enterprise community. To have a critical mass of people like around 25% to 30% of the total employees in an organisation that are capable of making change happen, you will need to catalyse people to follow them. Then, when you have a critical number of people, basically you have two-third follow the one-third, then all is well, and you will have a company that will change and evolve. And, you will need these people not only at the top of the organisation but also impact those who are in the corridors of everyday work.
So how can we help someone to truly become a leader, and not just act as if they are a leader? It is a question of being yourself, and growing in your being. That journey is a self-awareness journey. The first step is making memoirs of what you have received from experiences, then taking these moments and pulling them together to say ‘I have this in my basket’. The second step is to realise what you have in your basket and knowing this is the best you have received, and finally, the third step is to decide to give back. It is a process of growing one’s being. This is basically what we do when we work with people on their leadership capabilities.

Finally, can you tell us more about your book “Invitation au leadership authentique – Développez un style de management personnel, efficace et durable” and how it may be expected to change the face of modern leadership?

In this book, which I wrote as a dialogue, and basically threw questions to the readers, I encouraged readers to delve deep into their memoirs and find those key events which can be the defining moments for their future. This is basically what the book is all about and it has been well received as it was more of a dialogue and made for lively reading.
I think the most critical part of what we are doing, and what really sets us apart, is that we really make people sit up and take responsibility for who they are.

- By Cecilia Samoisi and Kashish Jadoo

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