Leading the change

President of the Southern and East Africa Business Unit at The Coca‑Cola Company, Matrona Filippou walks the talk when it comes to leading the change and creating a future that embraces diversity and innovation in the workplace


For the past two decades, Filippou has built, grown, and inspired diverse, world-class teams to drive a high-performance culture at The Coca‑Cola Company. Her climb through progressively challenging positions has allowed her to develop and hone her ability to take a strategic vision from the drawing board to an effective, actionable reality. It also enabled her to successfully apply her skills as a game changer and thought leader in many roles.  She shares five learnings about being a female leader during this challenging, yet exciting time. 

1.       Lead the change, create the future

Making your voice heard, producing a vision and staying the course despite the naysayers makes all the difference.  When you enable and empower people to deliver on your vision and trust in their ability to do so, that’s when the magic happens.    

2.       Learn from others

My father taught me three invaluable lessons that have shaped my approach to work and life – resilience, courage and decisiveness. Resilience is an ongoing attitude - looking at unexpected issues as challenges rather than obstacles. Courage is leading with principles – your true North – admitting when persistence and determination are excuses for being stubborn and not shrinking to bold actions for fear of failure. Finally, decisiveness is critical to our success as leaders. I believe inertia or indecisiveness is crippling for the individual and the company. Make the call: right or wrong, you can always course correct later.

3.       Put the team first

I do believe that exceptional leaders are people who put their team first. Most of us know what sort of people we want on our teams, those who tick the boxes of integrity, commitment, and high energy. Most team members would probably say they look for the same triumvirate in their leaders.

As women we need to continuously build and develop our professional skills. It is one thing to create a strategic vision on paper, but it is an entirely different thing to make that a practical, actionable reality. This only happens when you offer a learning environment for others to continue their professional development and enhance their skills while exploring new ideas and solutions – we must all become perpetual learners and as leaders we must foster an environment that excites our teams to do that.

4.       Self-belief

For many women, the real challenge is self-belief, being comfortable and confident in yourself. Most women I know have experienced that moment when their comments during a meeting are ignored, they are overlooked for assignments or put their hand down far too quickly when they are not asked to share their views.  It requires enormous resilience in the face of these microaggressions to speak up and stay strong.

5.       Stop worrying

Worrying is, I believe, counter-productive, and women are especially prone to it. Perhaps due to our management styles, which are more about collaboration and empathy than confrontation, more about asking questions and listening, rather than barking orders and shutting down debate. Of course, I am generalising, but women do manage differently and the answer to being a better leader is not merely imitating male leaders, but developing our own style of leadership.