In the competitive insurance world, where risk management and forecasts define daily life's chorus, finding light-hearted moments could become indispensable. Gudisa Legesse, the CEO of Awash Insurance, was a beacon of such moments.

Known for his lively spirit, Gudisa's enthusiasm for cultural songs and dance made him the life of any gathering. His favourite performer, Tadele Gemechu, could always inspire him to demonstrate his dance skills, sometimes even leading him to sing. This blend of passion for music and approachable personality was symbolic of his leadership style in the corporate world, which balanced firmness with nurturing care, encouraging a positive atmosphere at Awash Insurance, where he had served as the second CEO since the company's founding in the mid-1990s.

Gudisa's strategic mindset was not confined to the boardroom; it extended to his other interests, including a love for chess. That was how he met Bekalu Tilahun, Awash Insurance’s chief governance officer. Bekalu was drawn to Gudisa's calm demeanour, marking the beginning of a close professional and personal relationship.

His warm personality radiated positivity, often by his infectious smile and distinctive gap teeth. Gudisa esteemed hard work and encouraged an open environment where employees felt heard and valued. His philosophy of leadership, according to Bekalu, made Gudisa not just a boss but a mentor who led by example, always ready to offer a second chance, reflecting his deep-seated belief in compassion and fairness.

Bayissa Hirko, a friend for close to 30 years, recalled the enduring friendship with Gudisa, a mark of his loyalty and supportive nature. Bayisa feels indebted for the unwavering support his friend provided after he had a severe car accident. The incident, leaving Bayisa with a faded scar on the right side of his face as a reminder, shows the depth of their bond.

If there were any prominent person he wished to have dined with, he was asked by this newspaper four years ago; it would be no one but Bayissa.

Gudisa's philosophy of life echoed the Platinum Rule, focusing on treating others with consideration of their wishes and needs. As a father of six, he was motivated by a desire to offer his family a better life than his modest upbringing in the small town of Meti, near Ambo, 117Km southwest of Addis Abeba, in Oromia Regional State. His initial aspirations of academia led him to Addis Abeba University, where he studied business administration and marketing for his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, but his path veered towards teaching. He found fulfilment as a teacher at Tepi and Fitche High schools, where he crossed paths with his future wife, Almaz Solomon.

Eventually, he made a significant mark in the insurance sector, running the largest private insurance firm for nearly five years. He once told this newspaper that one of his regrets was not being a university lecturer.

Almaz cherishes their relationship with gratitude, recalling the deep mutual respect and love that defined their time together. From teaching to a prominent career in insurance, culminating in his role at Awash Insurance, Gudisa's journey was marked by a proactive approach to his company's growth and the advancement of the industry. He began his career 28 years ago with United Insurance, before joining Awash Insurance.

"He was like an insurance policy himself," Bayissa said.

His dedication to the sector's progress was evident in his efforts to initiate research projects and propose fair policy rates, aiming to sustain the industry's health. His passing on February 25, 2024, represented a significant loss to the sector, a sentiment echoed by Yared Mola, president of the Association of Ethiopian Insurers, who admired Gudisa's commitment to the broader industry concerns. He remembered Gudisa's efforts in collaborating with actuaries to propose a minimum rate for insurance companies to charge policyholders.

Many attended the funeral held on February 27, 2024, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, remembering his composure and lightening tense moments with his humour, and perspective. His trademark phrase was "Let's take things easy."

Tadesse Roba, an advisor to the CEO, fondly remembered Gudisa not just as a leader but also as a compassionate friend and mentor.

Said Tadesse: "He was a true source of inspiration."

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1246]

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