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‘If we can fix effective leadership practices across spheres of life, we will have a prosperous nation’



Kemi Ogunkoya is a leadership development strategist, author and management consultant with a rich experience across industries including Oil & Gas (Downstream), Aviation, Financial Services, Educational Sector, SMEs and the public sectors. A Certified Management Consultant, and Masters Neuro-Linguistics Programming Practitioner certified by the INLP Centre in California, USA, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Economics from the University of Ibadan and has an MBA in Management Consultancy from the University of Wales, Cardiff UK.

For close to a decade, she has conducted and facilitated high impact leadership development workshops across Africa, North America and Asia. Founder of Rellies Works, a leadership consultancy firm, she also founded The PowerWoman Network and Co-founder of SpeakersHQ. She has helped individuals and organisations nationally and internationally, equipping businesses with the appropriate technology driven leadership skills to effectively perform on their jobs and businesses.


In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, Ogunkoya, who is the convener of the Business Edge Workshop and the Aspire with Kemi Conference spoke on her desire to see leadership work in the home and workplace.

What’s the motivation behind embracing leadership as your core?
My motivation to embrace leadership is multidimensional. Growing up, I saw just how homes were destroyed because of lack of great leadership at the helms of affairs. As a management consultant and executive coach, I have seen organisations at the verge of total collapse because of poor and deficient leadership. Even when you look at the tapestry of nations, you see how terrible deficient leadership could hinder the progress and prosperity of nations. I knew truly that it all starts and falls on leadership.

From the organisational standpoint, in my engagement as a management consultant, I have seen even the greatest strategies being floored by poor organisational leadership. Therefore, I knew that, if we can fix and integrate effective leadership practices across the major spheres of life — home, workplace and nations — we will certainly have happier homes, more sustainable businesses and prosperous Nations; raising visionary leaders across these lines that will help preserve the future of humanity. This is what endears me to the subject of leadership


What drives you on this path?
I am driven by impact; that process of taking people from what they never thought possible towards achieving the greatest and grandest vision of themselves gets me out of bed every day. I always say that you cannot become better at what you do unless you become better at who you are. So, getting people to that point, where they understand the place of self, appreciate who they are, realise what their purpose is… getting them to that point of 360 degrees transformation in the personal lives, career or business, gives me great fulfillment.

Your new book, The Leadership Guardian, what berthed this idea?
I am passionate about raising leaders who understand the true essence of leadership and are custodians of the same. Looking at our current world, there is an impending crisis of deficient leadership idea on the national scenes, in the business world and even in families. You find national leadership almost becoming a mockery of acrobatic displays and a lack of focus on what really matters; you find business leaders who will do anything to get ahead and parents/guardians who have failed to be the example that their wards need. All these I term an impending crisis.

Without taking away from the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may have an even great leadership crisis, with consequences that could be greater than any pandemic the world has ever seen. For this reason, it was important to sound the warning alarm, but beyond mere talks, establish a blueprint for raising visionary leaders that would preserve the future, birth happier homes, build sustainable businesses and ensure, through a personal sense of duty and responsibility, prosperous nations. That’s what we have been able to achieve through The Leadership Guardian.

As a professional, what activities have you been involved in?
I have been involved in quite a couple of activities, ranging from coaching, training and mentoring individuals and business leaders nationally and internationally to help them build competence for smart visionary and adaptive leadership skills. Also, I’ve been mentoring women through my Power Woman Network and organising free seminars for Youth and small business owners. I also manage The Lead Africa Now Initiative, where we raise visionary leaders across the African continent, through capacity building, mentorship, fellowship and much more. I also engage in philanthropic activities by partnering with missions like Vida Ninos to provide education and put joy and the faces of children from less privileged rooms.

Your recent summit on preserving the future of humanity through leadership, what necessitated the initiative?
The Leadership Guardian virtual summit was one of the pre-launch activities for my new book The Leadership Guardian, and just as I have chronicled through the book, the event was to raise a higher level of consciousness, on the need for visionary leadership across board. We have had enough accidental, incidental and theoretical leaders, who have failed to deliver on their promise of transformation. We brought together model leaders to share experiential knowledge, insights and nudges. As a people, if we want change, we need to go beyond talks to actions and that is what we were able to achieve through the summit.


As a management consultant, what do you think is the challenge small businesses face?
The challenge for each business is quite unique and peculiar to the nature and circumstances of operations. However, there are some common denominators, which include finance, poor infrastructure, fluid government policies, unstable economy, poor business knowledge, and unpredictable political terrains. However, beyond the external factors, which majority has no control over, the biggest obstacle SMEs face is lack of business knowledge and resourcefulness.

Let me use a relatable analogy to explain this, if you go to the swimming pool for the first time, I am sure you will not dive into the deep end of the pool without assistive swimming devices. Unfortunately, I see so many entrepreneurs in Nigeria dive into setting up businesses without acquiring the requisite skills and knowledge on managing and growing a business. I was also a victim of this, too in the early days of my business and I have worked with a lot of SMEs who get caught right in their tracks for this reason.

I will say that entrepreneurs need to move beyond passion towards understanding the fundamentals of business development and sustainability. Entrepreneurs should learn and invest in the development of crucial aspects of business development; sales, structure, planning, financials, marketing, leadership, technology, and so on. Entrepreneurs should also get mentors who can help them navigate the journey of entrepreneurship.

What do you consider as effective leadership in these changing times especially post COVID?
Effective leadership in this VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous) world is leadership with vision, understanding clarity and agility. It is important that leaders who want to sustain their businesses do not hold on to traditional ways of running businesses. We have seen in the past how businesses disappeared almost overnight because of what I term dinosaur leadership – leadership that is static and unable to adapt to change easily. For businesses to remain sustainable and profitable, there is need for leadership that is conversant with the situation of today but sees way beyond today. Leadership that is flexible in the mind that is quick to learn, unlearn and relearn.

How can businesses, especially women-owned, build smart, visionary and adaptive skills to gain impact in society?
One of the key areas of discussion in my book – The Leadership Guardian – talked about leadership as a shapeless phenomenal, which means that leadership takes the shape of whatever container that you put it in whether man or woman, white or black, tall or not so tall. So, when we talk about leadership and female-owned businesses, it will all boil down to women seeing what is possible through them and going for it without the permission or validation from anyone.


As women, we need to get comfortable with change or step up to it and embrace technology. Gone are the days where everything technical was seen as a male forte. I, for example, I am able to design basic graphics, build and update my website (when the need arises), learn to use new applications and software very quickly and constantly seeking out new information on technology and how we can impact my business. Did I have to go to a computer school? Or do I have a background in science at all? No, is really much about having the basic idea so that when push comes to shove you are very much ahead of conversations and you can drive the necessary changes to create and develop more technologically enabled businesses.

With the many hats you wear, how do you combine them effectively with family life?
I always see life from the position of integration. For me, I am very clear as to what my values are, and clarity on my values help me reassign what I spend my time and energy on. Family comes first for me and that is not negotiable. Also, I have a family support system that is always there for me. I have a spouse who understands the nature of my job and he is always willing to stand in for me and support me at every time, but beyond that, I feel that people will get to make time for what they think is important.

What in your opinion do Nigerian women require to gain fulfillment and live their dreams.
I think the Nigerian woman needs to believe more in herself, let go of the snags of patriarchy and give herself permission to fly knowing that there is no height that is above her.


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