• Saturday, June 15, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

My way of making impact is to develop the leaders – Asuelimen

My way of making impact is to develop the leaders – Asuelimen

Maria Asuelimen is an entrepreneur, author and leadership development consultant. Over a decade ago, she founded AMA Consulting, a professional services firm that provides solutions to federal programs. Prior to that, she worked in Academia, Real estate, Industry and government. Asuelimen’s 20 year career centers around developing people to achieve great things and solving complex problems within organizations.

In her recently released book, ‘The First One’, she invites trailblazers, pioneers and firsts to be seen, acknowledged and celebrated for their bravery to step forward and lead and also provides tips and resources for them to further grow and develop in their leadership journey.

In this interview with Lehlé Baldé and Ifeoma Okeke-Korieocha, she speaks on gaps she hopes to address through the book and why she is so passionate about growing leaders.

What informed the choice of the name, ‘The First One’ for your new book?

Being a first in many respects like the first child in my family, the first to move to the US, the first in my family to run a government contracting firm, I found out the journeys of the firsts, trail blazers and pioneers are usually challenging because there is no blueprint for them so I wanted to highlight that.

What major challenges or gaps do you hope to address through the book?

The major gap I hope my book addresses is the lack of a basic leadership manal that anyone can read, relate to and follow.

Another gap my book addresses is to give readers a perspective of leadership from someone that is another in every sense and so unlikely to be seen as a leader by society. As a woman of African descent, wife and mother in the US who is even from a minority tribe in my home country, my perspective on leadership is unique and relatable to regular average people who once thought leadership is only for a select few.

‘The First One’ promises to be an essential guide for pioneers in leadership, offering insights to foster authentic leadership styles. How does this book differ from other leadership books published in the past?

During my MBA program and throughout my career, I’ve studied many books on leadership. Most of the books on the market on leadership are often complex and sometimes may seem out of reach for an emerging leader with no leadership experience yet. In my book, I take very complex psychological and technical methodologies on leadership and make it simple for the reader.

Why the focus on leadership ?

I believe most of the challenges we go through in our private lives, families, communities, organizations and countries are as a result of a lack of effective leadership. If you tell the average person to name the 10 most influential people in the world today, they’ll probably name someone on the forbes list, a celebrity or star athlete. We live in a time where the populous is focused on material gains, fame and conquest and therefore we have a leadership crisis. Growing up, we had elders in our families and communities that people respected, looked up to and modelled after. People whose influence carried weight – leaders. They surrounded us in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, workplaces but that has eroded and everything is about celebrity culture and personal ambition, so we see more young people battling addiction and mental health issues, families in crisis like never before, countries battling severe economic hardship and crisis as a result of a lack of leadership on all levels and different spheres of society.

We are long overdue for a real conversation about leadership beyond political positions, titles, boardrooms, pulpits, mosques and stages. Most people are not influenced by the President of their country or Governor of their state. They are influenced by a parent that devotes the time to teach them core values and help them build their self-esteem. They are influenced by a teacher that challenges them to reach their full academic potential or a religious leader that helps them navigate a challenging experience. These are the leaders we need to start talking about, highlighting their stories and developing/cultivating more of them at all levels and spheres of society to bring about positive change.

What were the major challenges you faced in writing the book and how long did it take to write it?

The major challenge I faced was self-doubt. I didn’t feel qualified or worthy. It took me 10 years to develop the courage to put pen to paper. I had to first see that I am my audience and I didn’t need to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company to write about leadership. I had to appreciate my unique journey as a first in order to share it. I had to know for myself that as a mother of 4 human beings depending on me to help shape them into responsible adults, I was a leader; that as a CEO of a small business, I was a leader and I am making an impact. That took time. In my career as an executive coach for US federal government leaders I had a front row view to challenges ‘firsts’ were encountering that were not addressed in traditional leadership development programs so I always wondered why didn’t anyone teach us that. It is the same way I feel about childbirth and motherhood. I always wondered why anyone didn’t tell me how difficult it is. So once I saw these gaps in the stories of the firsts, I decided to write about them.

Can you briefly speak on the themes of the book?

Leading yourself: You are the instrument and you already have all the tools you need to lead a great life and it is up to you to steward the tools well and be in the driver’s seat of your life.

Leading People: People are complex and will cause you pain but you need them to achieve your vision as a leader and you can develop the skills to build a team, ecosystem and lead effectively

Leading in an Organization: When you are in a system created by you or someone else, large or small, regardless of the industry, there are rules of engagement and you must master the rules and play to win for the good of all not just for you.

Did your experience and journey in leadership influence the content of the book and intent to write the book?

It certainly did. Everything I write about is what I’ve studied, experienced personally throughout my career or observed my clients/colleagues experience. The content of this book is timeless leadership methodologies expressed in real stories. I bring to this a 20 year career in Academia, Public Service and Entrepreneurship. I’ve worked as a consultant, clinical case manager, program analyst and now CEO of my own government contracting firm for the last 12 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, MBA and Executive Coaching. I’ve been in the people development business from my earliest recollection of childhood. So my whole life journey is represented in the content.

Is this your first book? If not, what other books have you written?

This is my first book. It took me 10 years to write this one and the response to it has been great so far.

Over a decade ago, you founded AMA Consulting, a professional services firm that provides solutions to federal programs. Tell us more about AMA Consulting.

AMA Consulting is a professional services and IT consulting firm. We provide US federal agencies with Organizational development services, Program Support and Information Management services. The firm currently has 24 employees and a cadre of over 100 trainers, consultants and coaches that help federal agencies develop strategy, train their leaders and workforce, execute public health and social programs and manage information/content within offices of Chief Information officers.

Your 20 year career is centered on developing people to achieve great things and solving complex problems within organizations. Why the passion to grow leaders and people development?

My passion is really born out of the desire to make an impact for good. I’m very purpose driven and I am a change agent. I dislike the status quo and business as usual. My way of making an impact is to develop the leaders, the change agents and the radicals that go out and make good trouble – in reference to the legendary John Lewis. People that do great things.

What is the next big thing for Maria Asuelimen?

I am open to anything new and big God has in store for me. I am a child of the most high God. I completely yielded to him. Wherever he sends me I will go. For now, I’m going to continue carrying on this message about leadership as a speaker, continue growing my company and taking on my team and above all raise my children and enjoy life.

Did growing up influence your career path? Kindly explain.

My upbringing certainly influenced my career path. My drive and enterprising nature comes from my mom and my quest for knowledge and use of dialogue to drive change comes from my dad. I grew up in a small town called Warri. Dad was a physician and fierce advocate of education and mom is a retired dental hygienist and avid business woman. My values of faith in Christ, Excellence, diligence, Integrity and Compassion come from my upbringing. I am one of 5 children, 4 women and one man. We grew up with a lot of love, structure and abundance mentality. So it reflects in everything I do and who I am today.

Can you share success stories on how you have helped people develop and become better leaders?

I’ve been told by clients, colleagues and people in my network that I’ve inspired them and challenged them at the same time. I truly believe that every human being is whole, resourceful and capable of great good and I help leaders see that for themselves. I always say I’m not a coach for a walk along the shores; I’m the coach for the deep part of the ocean. The common theme around the success stories of the leaders I’ve been privileged to work with is I’ve helped them turn on their inner light or increase the brightness so that they can excel.