COVID 19 hit us in the face as a boutique environmental, social and governance risk management enterprise. Collective leadership was our knee jerk response to survival. It came so naturally to us. Here is our story and the lessons that we learnt about how authenticity can help one bravely face a storm. ESG Africa was founded in 2018 by Seynabou Ba. Once COVID 19 hit the shores she was quick to react. We were instructed to work from home and were given the tools we needed. Laptops and modems were quickly provided to those who didn’t have them. We were given masks and sanitizers. There was enough to share with people in the neighborhood as well. We felt it was important to raise awareness in the community as well by distributing pamphlets on preventive measures. In addition, we were all also paid early to plan any unforeseen events.

From a work perspective, regular conference calls were scheduled for team meetings as well as with the clients to reduce movements. Seynabou was the only one to go to on site visits when necessary and we were kept informed. Seynabou invited our advice and ideas on what changes we could make to bounce back as people and as a business. This participative approach pushed us to think from a
leader’s perspective.

Getting the Balance Right – at work and in life

When COVID-19 hit and everyone was sent home, weekly zoom calls were set up to check-in on allocated tasks as well as on our morale. Seynabou made it clear that it was essential for us to be honest about our wellbeing, and that we use these team calls as a safe space where we could share our ups and downs during these unprecedented events. It wasn’t always easy. Many anxious thoughts raced through our minds. How were we gonna get through this when we didn’t even fully grasp what was going on? How long was this going to last? Would we ever be able to go back to the office again? What would be the new normal? Something remarkable was Seynabou’s honesty during this whole process. Whether it was about where the company stood or how she was feeling day to day, it gave us as a team the permission to be honest and vulnerable. It brought us as closer as a team

Pulling Together – even though physically apart

Our face to face meetings turned virtual, and we conducted our business meetings as usual. COVID didn’t stop us from making sure that the work was done, we just adapted to the fact that there were fewer boots on the ground as Seynabou was the only one doing fieldwork. It was hard being physically apart so having these group projects in addition to the zoom calls allowed us to be together in some form. However we all rallied around her with remote support. She made us feel like essential collaborators, there was no sticking to your usual job anymore. Everyone had to bring their best self and work as a team. Seynabou contributed a lot towards this behavior because she trusted us. She encouraged us to be creative and see how we could keep on evolving despite the situation. How will we reinvent ourselves in the new tomorrow? What technologies will we adopt to keep on thriving? Her openness made us believe in the influence we could have in the
company. We believed in our future and the strength of our firm

Trusting each other – adapting together

Even as people were confined or not attending the office, ESG Africa kept hiring. We witnessed job contracts being terminated left right & center in other firms as a COVID 19 response. Seynabou showed that she was willing to take risks on people and follow through on pre-COVID 19 hiring commitments during the pandemic. This really inspired loyalty across the team, we felt that we could lean on each other and
felt safe even in the face of the unknown. Seynabou turned her company into ‘our’ company. We developed a collective unspoken but felt the resolve that no matter what life throws at us we would face it and move forward together. One of the best things we learned from Seynabou at ESG Africa is that intelligence is the ability to adapt.

Unleashing leadership in your teams

Balance, teamwork, trust, resilience and self actualization are the collective leadership traits we found as an ESG Africa team. We share this article in the hope that it will help you find yours. It may need one person to take the first step. Seynabou Ba showed us that she believed in collective leadership first. The first step for establishing effective collective leadership rests on the definition of a clear vision, to which the collaborators adhere. Our vision consisted of simply being resilient and staying our course despite the COVID 19 induced pressures. The main
goal was to survive and excel.

This global pandemic is an unprecedented event for everyone, all over the world. We watched it spread in China in December of 2019 and thought it would be conquered there and not reach our shores. Within two months we realized we were wrong. The pandemic hit us and disrupted our lives. We had to be agile and think of new ways of operating to ride the COVID 19 wave. Leadership is particularly important in times of turmoil.

Besides helping employees better handle workplace-related challenges, leaders need to inspire as sometimes the only thing left is hope. Inspiration can breed innovation as it did in our case.



ESG Africa, founded and led by Seynabou Ba, is a consulting firm that helps companies identify, assess and manage the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities inherent in their business models. ESG Africa has significant experience with private sector clients, private equity funds, local and international financial institutions, manufacturing, agribusiness and much more.

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