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Fit to lead: The 2020 difference

Congratulations for making it to the year 2020 and for reading the first edition of fit to lead series. I am optimistic as you are for the year 2020 but will start with a question and an analogy that might make me look like a pessimist. No, I’m not a pessimist but a leadership coach carrying out fitness and reality checks on leaders. The question is: where is Nigeria’s vision 2020? Where is the slogan “housing for all by the year 2000”?

Vision 2020 was Nigeria’s economic transformation blueprint released in December 2009 with three key pillars and multi-dimensional strategic objectives to make Nigeria great. According to the document and the promise of the political leadership of Nigeria, “By 2020, Nigeria will have a large, strong diversified, sustainable and competitive economy that effectively harnesses the talents and energies of its people and responsibly exploits its natural endowments to guarantee a high standard of living and quality of life to its citizens”.

If you check the reality on the ground, the three pillars of guaranteeing the productivity and wellbeing of people, optimising the critical sources of economic growth and fostering sustainable social and economic development are far from been achieved. The most pathetic aspect of the vision is that it has been abandoned as there are no measurable milestones released for the euphoria project that expended enormous resources and human efforts to develop. We all know that some of the objectives are now in the current focus, and the song is now the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The possibility of having no quantifiable measures of the impacts and outcome for the SDGs in Nigeria is high if the United Nations develops another ‘good to use’ project or slogan for our leaders.

The problem is therefore not resources or human capacity, nor is it religion or multiple ethnicities. I have unrepentantly positioned that the problem we have is leadership. At the root of our misplaced priorities, cultural misalignment and imbalance political structures is a defective leadership, with which no massive progress can be seen until the paradigms are changed.

The problem is therefore not resources or human capacity, nor is it religion or multiple ethnicities. I have unrepentantly positioned that the problem we have is leadership

A country with considerable resources to achieve the SDGs or a business with the potential to dominate the market or a team with high-efficiency quotient will fail to live up to expectations if there are defects in the way leaders are selected, positioned and engraved to deliver the desired outcome.

As leaders or aspiring leaders in 2020, the difference we will make is in our approach to leadership. The same paradigm that failed to achieve Nigeria’s vision 2020 outcome cannot meet the SDGs even if we teach them in schools as curriculums.

Your 2020 leadership difference is to start with a new mindset leveraging on past successes and failures. The knowledge of the essence of being a leader, which is to advance others and the organisations through positive and purposeful engagement, the expected outcome to be achieved together with your willingness to put your team first is the starting point. That’s the knowledge and responsibility question you must answer vividly.

The next is your priorities as a leader. What’s the essence of achieving the team’s objectives? If it is to benefit you, and not others, then you will destroy the world to get what you want. Setting the right priority will align you with your posterity. If your vision creates a system where only the leaders benefit from the outcome and not the followers, then something is wrong with the leaders or the system. Setting the priority that rewards people outside you is an essential element of an institutional leader. Having an outcome that will leave the system a better one than you met it will answer the vision and priority question succinctly.

There is nothing that lasts forever. There is a timeline for your leadership exploits in 2020. What will happen when you are out of the leadership position? Having people who have been developed to take extreme ownership of your team’s objectives and with a blended mindset of leadership beyond self will answer the legacy and continuity question of the leadership litmus test.

Are you making the journey more comfortable for your team to achieve the stakeholders’ objectives? There are linkages among all the resources required to see a positive outcome in a process. The work of a leader is to create and improve the system of interaction among resources continuously. This function is hinged on the effectiveness of the leader’s decision making and ability to embrace changes. The process question must be answered for you to make the 2020 difference this year.

An important question that will enable your team to sustain the result of the past years and improve on them is the development question. Your leadership personality requires continuous development to be effective. I recently visited a friend who is a level C leader in a bank. He had been travelling on the job across multiple territories for the past four months. As we settle to discuss his team performance which was 98% of the budgeted profit and in some of the key performance indicators, I focused on testing his leadership personality with a question. How will you ensure this performance continues even if you are to be redeployed to other division of the bank?

His response was a sort of development to a level 9 out of 10 on the leadership litmus test. He said, though I travelled to represent the team, these are the people doing the work (pointing to his team on the shop floor). I have been identifying and empowering them to function without my input. I have ensured that every little improvement is rewarded and celebrated. I have minimum unhealthy inter-team competition which is not improving the corporate bottom-line of the entire business.  You mean you are establishing a culture of collectivism among your teams, I interjected.

Your development as a leader is the focus of this column Positive Growth with Babs and my fit to lead series. We will be sharing thoughts on different elements of institutional leadership and mastermind on how to be useful in our leadership journey.

One thing is clear. The success of your rating and growth on all the fitness test questions-knowledge and responsibility, vision and priority, legacy and continuity, process and development are based on the culture you entrenched among your teams. culture is the decisively indicative test of your leadership efficiency, effectiveness and legacy. If you want to be a good and effective leader with a legacy that outlives your time, reward behaviours that will create a culture of extreme ownership and develop every member of your team to think like the owner of the team, the business and the organisation.

I, Babs Olugbemi pledge to be your friend and partner in the journey leading to developing your team and making you an effective leader in 2020. Happy new year to all my readers as I look forward to more of your responses to the articles on this column.


Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on or 08025489396.

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