Keji Mustapha, Head of Founder Network at Connect Ventures joins C&C International Women’s Day panel
Our Leading Authentically invitation-only event will feature a globally renowned panel of high-profile women and together we’ll look at how we can reclaim our understanding of “leadership” on our own terms; how to be the leader of your career, your team, your tribe.
C&C Search is thrilled to announce that Keji Mustapha, Head of Founder Network at Connect Ventures, will join our Leading Authentically panel and we introduce Keji below.
Keji Mustapha, Connect Ventures
What does authentic leadership mean to you?
Being able to be open with your team and honest about the limits to your knowledge. Closely tied to this, is being able to “own your shit” – it starts with building a culture of openness and candour. A culture where everyone is encouraged to hold themselves accountable and the environment is such that team members are comfortable enough to hold their hands up when they’ve cocked up and can share their plans for how they plan to fix these issues.
Ultimately, authentic leadership is acknowledging and communicating that without failure, there’s no growth.
How is your organisation fostering a culture of diversity?
At Connect, I’m really lucky that a culture of diversity is baked into the firm. We all come from different backgrounds and we have a good representation on both the ethnicity and gender diversity front. To add to that, we also have diversity of thought and that’s really because, as we’ve built the team, we’ve focused on merit in the first instance.
One of the first things that attracted me to the role, was the application form. They’d used a beautiful Typeform, with such a human touch and so conversational. More importantly, the questions were around my interest in the role, what I could do/bring to it and generally, how I think. This approach was so refreshing especially as I’d heard so many stories about the VC industry in general and how inherently biased hiring processes were.
In your experience, what are the challenges you see facing female leaders today?
A challenge I keep hearing in conversations and seeing in real-time with female leaders both in tech and other industries, is that the concept of having it all at the same time, doesn’t exist. Historically, women have always been told they can have it all – the high flying jobs, leading teams or building successful companies, while being hands-on mothers and homemakers. The reality is that no one can have it all at the same time.
And if you’re building a new business or leading a new team, it’s most likely that this will have to take priority for a period of time. The more we share our experiences that it’s okay not to have it all, the more we can encourage our peers carrying around feelings of guilt and/or inadequacy at not being able to do have it all, all at the same time.
And what’s the leadership lesson you’d share?
The best leaders I’ve ever worked with seem to have three distinct traits in common – self-awareness, humility and empathy.
One of my best experiences working with a female leader came early on in my career, as an EA to an NHS Primary Care Trust department head. A couple of things she did still stick out. She would regularly offer to get coffees for team members especially, if she sensed that morale was dipping – it was a small way to serve her team and foster an environment where supporting each other became second nature.
She’d also simply wander around the department to get a better sense of what the team were actually doing and focusing on, rather than just hearing from line managers. This increased the feelings of trust as she’d regularly respond to the real-time feedback she was getting.
How do you define success?
For me, success is about a number of things including, getting fulfilment out of my work life and feeling contentment in my personal life. It’s understanding and accepting that I’m not always going to be able to balance both equally – there’s a time and place for each.
With work, success is making an impact; doing work that challenges and stretches me without leaving me feeling overwhelmed. On a personal level it’s a network of family and friends, and being able to spend quality time nurturing these relationships. It’s also the ability to continuously learn and develop myself through different experiences. I think Maya Angelou summed it up well when she said, “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
For more information on this event please get in touch with Sophie: firstname.lastname@example.org