Publisher’s Note: Top 25 Most Impactful Chairs of Boards Influencing Business in 2023

As you will tell from their stories, these Chairs are real, humble, accessible, respectful and ready to serve, all attributes of true leadership.

‘The Unsung Heroes’

By Dr Hanningtone Gaya, CEO – The Knowledge Warehouse Kenya

As Kenya gears up to celebrate 60 years of self-governance on 1st June 2023, the Business Monthly EA panel decided it would be felicitous to recognise not only current most impactful Chairs of Boards of leading institutions, but also past men and women who have shaped corporations within the public and private sector while occupying the enviable positions.

Top management oversees both the day-to-day operations as well as the implementation of company strategies. As such, they are usually well-known and rightly often celebrated for their outstanding contributions towards the company’s success.

On the contrary, the board of directors, led by the Chair, sets the overall strategy and company’s direction beforehand, exercises oversight, evaluates, and monitors management. It sets the tone at the top, directs the pace and provides the platform for operations. These functions are conducted behind the scenes, therefore, most of the good efforts made by the Chair usually go unnoticed, or are even considered performance by the CEO.

It is for this reason that the 25 keenly identified astute leaders have been dubbed ‘The Unsung Heroes’, many-a-time steering their companies to great heights whilst staying out of the limelight. More often than not, they are called to steady the ship, as need be.

Some are renowned for major accomplishments under their chairpersonship belts, like Vincent Rague who provided unrelenting guidance last year when UAP Old Mutual transitioned to Old Mutual EA, and Andrew Kairu of KCB, who has already acquired three additional banks under his chairmanship, with plans to increase that number under the Group’s acquisition and mergers expansion strategy.

Others are featured for their impeccable stewardship in the complete restructuring of their companies, with a view of leading them back to profitability and increased growth. Three names that come to mind are the legendary Michael Joseph of Kenya Airways, Kiprono Kittony formerly of KNCCI and now NSE, and Shaka Kariuki of TransCentury.

A few are being celebrated on account of being inaugural chairpersons, which, to be frank, is no mean feat, when one is expected to lead with close to no guidance from someone who has done it before. John Ngumi is one. He was the first to sit on the KoTDA board, and shares the valuable lessons gained over the past decade.

Some are celebrated for mentoring women and helping to increase the number of women on boards. Rita Kavashe of BAT fits this bill.

Others are celebrated for the sheer numbers of the boards they chair, and the diversity of the industries they play in: Amb. Dennis Awori. From motor, to healthcare, to banking, to manufacturing, to state-owned enterprises, to agribusiness.

One outstanding Chair is Mike Eldon, who also dubs as a columnist in the Business Daily newspaper, corporate trainer of high repute, and management consultant on the latest concepts in management such as performance, ESG, corporate governance and ethics in business, to list but a few.

Finally, the honours list also includes new kids on the block, taking the helm of nationally strategic boards, such as Adil Khawaja at Safaricom and Sally Mahihu at KenInvest, critically illustrating what they bring to the table from their past experiences. 

As you will tell from their stories, these Chairs are real, humble, accessible, respectful, down-to-earth, emotionally intelligent, ethical, intellectual and ready to serve, all attributes of true leadership.

If you are not on this list, pull up your socks, and perhaps you’ll make the cut in 2024.

Indulge yourselves in this special issue, and an early Happy 60th Madaraka Day to you all.  


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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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