Leadership: back to basics

By Dr. Afra Sajjad,Global Head of Learning Partnership, ACCA


I have done it.

I am sure that most of us have done it, at some time or another. A promotion or new team or project. We are landed with more tasks to complete personally and team members have lots to do.

We meet with key members of the team regularly and oversee the project or tasks, noting successes, trying to troubleshoot problems.

It feels like we are managing, leading. And perhaps we are, but often we are only managing the project. We are doing half a job. Because we are not managing the people.  


“The Essence of Management is to be an Enabler of Team Members.”

Along with managing our work and the project, we need to remember to manage the individuals in the team. We meet with a team member and ask them how they are completing a task. We hear a report, but it is through the prism of how well the project is going. If they are struggling, the project is being failed. We try to fix it.

Unless we stop taking a project or task centred approach to people and see a lack of delivery as a project problem, we will never be effective as leaders.


People are different. They have thousands of problems and issues, professional, personal, societal. These challenges are what makes them awesome.

I’ve done it – when a task was supposed to be completed, I have spoken to a team member and wondered why and perhaps been exasperated but tried to present a good face and drive the task to completion. What I should have done was to understand why it wasn’t done and take a more person-centred view of the issues. Not treat the person as a task completion machine. But to ask whether there is something else that is the problem. Get to the heart of that, because most colleagues want to do a good job.


Finally, to remember that often the issue is my responsibility – have I communicated with them effectively?

Have I taken proper account of making them feel supported in doing something for the first time?

Have they felt listened to enough to ask for help with no judgement?



“Enable your staff. Treat them as individuals, not task completers. It is a simple thing to say, but we need to remind ourselves of this nearly every day.”



About Author

Dr. Afra Sajjad, 

Global Head of Learning Partnerships, ACCA

Dr Afra Sajjad is driven by a passion for social development through people empowerment.

With an accomplished academic background with a doctorate in business reporting, her professional career spanning more than 20 years is combination of academic and corporate achievements.

She has coached and mentored professionals to personal and professional fulfilment.At ACCA she is actively involved in developing global learning partnerships focusing on digital transformation and student experience driven learning journeys.

She considers well-being and coaching as essential for learners accomplishing aspirations. She is committed to diversity and inclusive businesses and societies championing women in leadership policy initiatives.

Her passion is to a create a world joined up to help young men and women achieve personal and professional success through access to learning for all.