·Drills youth in over 100 countries how to get ahead
•Says volatile, unstable, complex, and ambiguous environment needs agility in leadership to remain in control
By Ignatius Chukwu
Chief/Dr Emi Membere-Otaji has stepped into the ring of knowledge once again to dissect a concept in leadership called ‘Velocity in Leadership’. It is aimed at finding a way leaders and CEOs can grapple with fast-changing situations that threaten to torpedo their companies and establishments. Details…..
Selected youths in over 100 countries of the world sat glued to their laptops and other devices for hours on a day last month (March, 2023) to listen to how to remain in control even in a volatile, unstable, complex, or ambiguous environment. They were introduced to a new concept in top management known as ‘velocity in leadership’.
The Nigerian resource person who held the world spell-bound is Kalabari-born (Rivers State) Chief/Dr Emi Membere-Otaji. He is founder and chairman, Princess Medical Centre (including a world-class medical high-tech facility in the Garden City, The Princess Signature) as well as founder and chairman of Elschon Nigeria Limited, a marine services company that is into shipping and maritime services.
Chief/Dr Membere-Otaji, a Unilag-trained medical doctor who twice was chairman, West Africa Glass Industry (WAGI), special adviser on investments to the then governor of Rivers State and a commissioner of health, talked to the global but virtual audience of the 9th edition of the ‘Global Leadership Excellence Attainment Programme (LEAP) conference mounted for global and social impact by the Redeem Christian Church of God. Audience was youths and young adults around the globe.
The globe-trotting former president of the PH City Chamber, (PHCCIMA), commended the Redeem Christian Church for recognizing that leadership is applicable to every form of human endeavours; family, community, organizations, battles, etc, but that it involves the head of a team to provide direction, implement plans, motivate and constantly make team members be improved versions of themselves, all in the bid of achieving desirable common goals.
He said due to volatility and instability in every sphere life especially in business, investment, and political order, this is the best time to drill upcoming leaders to be prepared by institutions in every given society or nation to weather storms and get ahead.
Criticality of ‘Velocity in Leadership’
The multiple award-winning National Vice President of NACCIMA said ‘Velocity in Leadership’ is the ability to learn fast, adapt and respond to changes and uncertainties thus always adding value no matter what comes along. “More so, it is leadership that will encompass speed, agility and also timely processing and execution of ideas. Turbulent times call for correspondingly dynamic change in strategy plans.”
The father of six pointed to different leadership styles in existence such as democratic, autocratic, delegative, transformational, transactional, visionary, strategic, bureaucratic, but cautioned that a leadership style that works best in certain situations may not so do at other times.
He used major personalities familiar to the youth of the world such as Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote, Enoch Adeboye, Jose Mourinho, the late Benson Idahosa and one-time British Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill to illustrate characters such as calm, introverts, extroverts, boisterous.
Key leadership behaviours
Dr Membere-Otaji drilled the youth on leadership behaviours saying leaders relentlessly organize and upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self- confidence of team members. “They also recruit the right people into the system, while getting the wrong and untrainable people out. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it. Leaders always strike a balance of realism and optimism when in dire situation by brutally confronting the reality of a challenge on hand while also maintaining strong faith that the situation will be conquered triumphantly successfully (the Stockdale Paradox.)
He made it clear that leaders establish trust with candor and transparency; and also have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.” The youth of the world thus were made to understand why CEOs, executives and political leaders appear to be unpopular some times.
“Leaders delegate with care but probe and push with curiosity that borders on skepticism. Leaders inspire calculated risk taking. They credit and celebrate positive outcomes of team members. Leaders build a culture of agility in their system. They are themselves, visible and agile especially in time of crisis.”
Saying thinking through decisions is important for leaders, the member of the first set of the now famous Lagos Business School said the brain is not a depository but a producer of ideas. “Good leaders often reflect to look inwards to pick lessons before starting new projects. Successful leaders seem to get into everyone’s skin to push through what is regarded as to ‘pass through the wall’ or ‘no excuse’ strategy, till desired outcome is achieved.’
He however admitted that successful leaders also have their own mentors to improve. They keep eagle eyes to pick ideas and work on. “Leaders see every mistake as stepping stones to later successes, with no blame-game and bearing no hurt.
“High velocity leaders always keep all together, with speed and agility to navigate through turbulent times always innovating and timely adapting to changes in their operating environment.”
He harped on a critical factor on group work motivation, saying, if a leader is not motivated enough and involved with his work, the team members will not be very productive. “A leader who is always striving to be better, to improve the quality of their work, will impress their team and encourage them to set higher goals.
“Occasional humor tends to lighten the mood in a group thus increasing productivity. Also, occasional non-workplace interactions of team members increase bonding and staff productivity. Leaders motivate their teams by setting good examples by being committed to a task. Commitment doesn’t just include doing actual work – it also means keeping your word about anything and everything else. Thus, when a leader rolls up his sleeves, team members will likely take off their shirts.”
He also said a good leader at any point in time put in razor focus in the organization he/she leads, its external and internal operating environment, developing competitive edge and noting the associated risks and the ways to hedge or navigate through them. “Leaders grow in their job by adopting constructive feedback mechanisms from team members to shore up his or her blind spots and weaknesses, shunning ego swells.
“Above all, good leaders make integrity and other positive values, define them.”
The Membere-Otaji models:
The resource person used scenarios and situations in his almost 65-years to illustrate most the principles he enumerated to show how he handled some of the stones nature hauled at him. He told them how he still made Grade One in his West African School Certificate Examination in 1976 despite falling severely ill and loss of his father, function still as the school prefect. “Lesson: Challenges are yours to surmount as there is no mountain high enough.”
He said despite many distractions at the University of Lagos especially to a young medical student leaving home for first time ever, he still remained focused and determined for success. “I kept my eyes on the crown to achieve my ultimate goal graduating as one of the less than 10 per cent of the class that had no re-sit in the medical school examinations. Lesson: Leaders remain focused on the goal no matter the distractions, to achieve desirable result.”
He told them how he always went to mentors in any new area of challenge to seek upfront counsel, saying it helped him when he was attracted to stay back in Lagos after national youth service but rather agreed to go to Port Harcourt, a step opened new vistas and opportunities to him beyond medical practice.
He also disclosed how he became a highly sought-after public speaker worldwide. He caused laughter by telling his audience he lost an election for the post of public relations officer of the students’ union government because of stage fright, a defeat he said spurred him to fight back to kill what wanted to kill him.
“Resigning from the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital in 1990 was a risk. By the grace of God, I became a multidimensional leader. Lesson: Calculated risk is a positive attribute of a leader.
“Not made Commissioner in 1993 but a “lower” Board Chairman of WAGI Plc, even after the state Governor’s promise. I bore no hard feeling, but used it as stepping stone to the corporate world and knowledge beyond medical practice. There was clear lesson learnt.”
His reappointment at WAGI from 1995 to 1999 showed him that indeed a dancer does not see his back, which means that others were taking note of his performance. He said he exhibited positive energy (can-do spirit) and virtue of integrity, thus attracting the Rivers State Government attestation of ‘Exemplary Tour of Duty’ in 2003. “Lessons learnt from then Rivers State Government Exemplary Tour of Duty attestation were: Again, no challenge is insurmountable. No amount of immediate gains should sway one away positive virtues. That integrity is everything.”
The important point then was stated thus: “Today, WAGI Plc has re-commenced production of bottles etc, and your contribution has been invaluable especially in the Shareholders Agreement you facilitated with the core investor. Your protection of the interest of Rivers State Government in the Agreement is exemplary.” He said the lesson is that leaders see opportunities in every situation, good or bad, to make a positive statement for themselves.
He told the youth of the world to note that there is always a solution to every challenge, if only, one would remain persistently focused on the goal.
He told them his experience as the Rivers State Commissioner of Health and Chairman Committee of Commissioners of Heath Nigeria (1999 – 2003) with barely enough annual budgetary allocations to his ministry. “This gave me the opportunity to prove that the ‘Hood Does Not Make a Monk’, with ‘Pass Through the Wall, ‘No Excuse’ strategy, with many achievements, and accolades, to match. “Lesson: Leaders try to make lemonade out of every lemon.”
He explained how he left the public sector as Special Advisor on Investments and Privatization after two years to rejuvenate his then struggling businesses. Again, new vistas and opportunities exploded that brought him to where he is today. “Lesson: Every mistake in life is a stepping stone to your success tomorrow. In life, it is not how many times you fall, but how many times you rise up, to persistently go for the crown.
“Moreover, in life, don’t deviate from your focus, values and dreams, sooner or later, the rewards will flow in – two National honours and the highest State honour Awards was bestowed on me in one-year 2022.”