Service-Oriented Leadership and Advocacy: Essential Keys to Career Growth

Banke, head of legal for EMEA and APAC regions, shares some of the key elements that helped her meteoric career trajectory.

May 15, 2023 3 Minute Read


Tell us about your journey here at CBRE

I am Head of Legal for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) and APAC (Asia Pacific) for our Advisory business segment. To say my career growth accelerated within the past two years would be a gross understatement!

I started my career at CBRE in 2017 as a Senior Director for Legal in the EMEA region. I worked closely with the previous Head of Legal, Elizabeth, often deputizing for her and together working on key matters for the business and innovative initiatives to improve the operational efficiencies of the legal function.

Those who know Elizabeth know that she doesn’t suffer fools gladly but is also one of the most compassionate and driven leaders.  She trusted my work, created opportunities for me to grow and inspired me to be and do more. I made the most of every opportunity (and still do!), invested time in connecting with stakeholders in understanding the goals, priorities and challenges of each service line so our team could provide the best counsel.

I was determined to be a holistic business partner, not singularly focused on legal matters, yet my nomination for a promotion to Executive Director in 2019 came as a total surprise!  As I’m sure many can attest, getting through the interview process was no small feat. I was very thorough in my preparation and sought feedback from mentors and colleagues who were already at ED level.

The following year, January 2020, I assumed the role of Head of Legal in EMEA. Did you note the date? Yes, it was right at the start of the pandemic! A short film about my first 100 days in the role would be an absolute blockbuster—I was often out of my comfort zone as I navigated a plethora of unprecedented issues. I chose to focus predominantly on the learnings I received from the experience. I’m very fortunate to have exemplary leaders to learn from. I am thankful for the continued support of senior leadership and my manager, Nancy, who promoted me to my current role. As of January 2023, the scope of my role now includes the APAC region.

With such a trajectory, what do you credit your growth to?

For me, career progression boils down to 3 things:

  1. Having a manager who can differentiate between management and leadership, opting for the latter. A leader understands that their primary role is service to those they lead. Their success is ultimately measured by your success. 
  2. Having a sponsor or ally. This is the person who will be your advocate behind closed doors. Their purpose is not just to include you but to ensure you feel like you belong.
  3. Grit!

What do you love about working for CBRE?

The people and the culture. We are a global team of hardworking, collaborative, competitive, ambitious, empathetic, reliable and cheerful individuals. What’s not to love?! 

You’re an advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. Can you tell us more about your involvement?

As a Black woman of African origin, matters of DE&I have always been of personal interest. I enjoy seeing and being a part of CBRE’s growth in this space. I am so proud to be a part of the steady drive to create a more equitable working environment where everyone belongs. It’s so inspiring to see the consistent commitment of senior leadership in this space.

It is with that backdrop that I had the courage to establish CBRE’s UK Legal DE&I Taskforce in 2020—a team who saw us become foundation signatory to the UK Model Diversity Survey in 2021 (a supplier diversity questionnaire which corporate and financial institutions use to monitor their panel firms/legal service suppliers on diversity, inclusion, and culture). I have also engaged with a variety of initiatives run by our Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) and was appointed Executive Sponsor for the REACH Network.

Why DE&I?

In a conversation I once had with my daughter, I asked why a rainbow was so beautiful? She responded by saying it was because it had “lots and lots of colors in it”.  I’m not convinced a rainbow could enjoy the same levels of attention, awe and popularity if it were monotone.   It’s the same with business, workplace and societal relationships.  The more diverse the better.  It’s a no brainer.  Wouldn’t you want to be a part of something so remarkably positive? We all have something unique to bring to the table and should work together to secure a future where DE&I is no longer the subject matter but simply the norm.


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