Chris Zacca: A Career of Leadership

January 10, 2022

via Jamaica Observer

Christopher Zacca has built for himself an incredible reputation as leader. He has given over 30 combined years of service to several organisations within both the private and public sector. He currently serves the Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited as CEO, coming into the position in May 2017.

He identifies a few essentials qualities, as a leader, that have helped him throughout the years and continue to be very valuable today. First, the importance in believing in the value of the team is highlighted; believing in their ability and allowing them to carry out designated duties without being micromanaged. He notes, however, that at he ensures that he maintains firm control over the organisation and its activities. Additionally, he believes in promoting a motivating culture within the organisation; one of cohesiveness within the team in which all members share the same overall values and vision.

Looking back to when he first started his journey at Sagicor, the CEO recalls that before taking on the position the Sagicor brand appealed to him. The “perceptions of quality, of integrity, of giving back, of being rounded in terms of not just profit, but to all stakeholders — employees, the communities the organisation serves, etc”, he says — encouraged him think of the company as one that he would not just like to be a part of, but would be honoured to lead.

He reveals that he saw it as the ultimate progression in his career, having served in almost all, if not all the industries, either as an executive or member of the board. This industry is his last checkbox.

He also makes mention of the guiding factors that have influenced his leadership over the years, placing an emphasis on the morality which was instilled in him by his parents. With his father serving as a former chief of justice of Jamaica, he notes that his morals are deeply rooted, and he appreciates and embodies transparency within the organisations he has served. This, he recognises, “works very well when you're leading people and organisations”.

Zacca acknowledges that throughout his years of leadership he has had numerous highpoint; however, he makes note of one of the most recent successes he has enjoyed with the Sagicor Group. The advent of COVID-19 in Jamaica placed many businesses under significant pressure. He believes that there is great commendation in how his team was mobilised and how they stepped up to handle the pandemic and its repercussions. Under his leadership, the team was able to keep the business going, while ensuring the safety of clients and team members themselves.

He highlights a key piece of advice he received from Dr Jacqueline Coke Lloyd, CEO of Make Your Mark Consultants: “You need to get ahead of this curve.” This, he says, spurred the team into action to create a COVID-19 committee, which included leaders from right across the company and its subsidiaries. The action taken by Zacca and his team in combating the pandemic allowed the organisation to stay afloat and sustainable.

He highlights this, and all other progressions throughout his career, as a learning experience; one in which he is able to add to and build on his repertoire of skills. Each progression, he notes, has taken him higher in terms of responsibilities and authorities, yet he maintains that he is ever careful of the choices he makes and has made along the path.

Identifying the key factors in his success, Zacca makes note of the excellent foundation he received at the secondary and tertiary level; a foundation that instilled within him the willingness to work hard and “to roll up the sleeves and study things and understand how they work”.

He also recalls his grounding in morality and his belief in the value that others can bring to a team. At the same time there are lessons to be learned along the way. He reveals that he has come to realise and accept that he does not know everything, recalling that there have been multiple occasions in which he was proven wrong. He admits, also, that as a leader, that can sometimes be a difficult skill to master; however, he believes that throughout his many years of leadership he has been able to hone this skill.

Looking towards the future, Zacca reveals that he sees this position as the final stage in his leadership career, as it relates to being a day-to-day manager at the executive level. He hopes to leave Sagicor in an even stronger position than it is now, setting his expectations at “at least 50 per cent bigger, in terms of revenues and profits and geographical positioning”. He also states that, after leaving Sagicor, he hopes to continuously contribute, possibly at the board level, as well as continue to serve the country in various capacities, citing his current role as chairman of the National Private Sector Vaccine Initiative as an example.

For all aspiring and current leaders, Zacca advises that it is important to take risks in life; even more important is managing those risks. He cautions against taking risks that include deceit and not being transparent, as these will have significant repercussions. It is not always the best decision, he says, to take the easy route, as sometimes the harder path will yield more rewards. Finally, he highlighted the importance of having a good mentor within one's organisation, or any organisation for that matter, noting that one of his own mentors was the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart. This mentorship, he concludes, was an important part of his career progression and played a key part in his development as a leader.