• Monday, February 26, 2024
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Ronke Onadeko, tried and tested business leader in theory and practice


Ronke Onadeko brings to an international board her 23 years of board experience across 3 continents. As a serial entrepreneur and a multi sectoral professional in the private, public and not for profit sector and a Financial times Non-Executive Director diploma holder, she has the tried and tested skill set and experience both in theory and practice.

Her board experience covers impact related not for profit organisations, government, entrepreneurial ventures, large privately owned corporates, international ventures, publicly quoted corporates and educational institutions and her accomplishments in governance, strategy, remuneration, coaching c-suite executives and bringing together high-performance cross border and skilled teams.

With over 30 years of multi sectoral expertise and one of the go-to persons nationally in the oil and gas sector, her experience spans across international financial institutions and conglomerates, and independent businesses and government.

She has been a volunteer, associate and council member of the largest African women’s network for professional Women in Management, Business and Public Service. She currently serves as the chairperson of their advocacy committee.

Her involvement with girl education, female empowerment and youth coaching has driven her to fortuitously support financial literacy, personality consciousness and development, and helping girls find and unleash the powers within them.

What memories and impact of your youth would you want to share?

I grew up in a middle-class home with two civil servant parents. I was one of 6 children, a typical family of children, the station wagon and dogs. The early years were in the government residential area in Lagos where everyone’s parent(s) were government employees, so it was all about profession, education and family.

23 years of board experience across 3 continents, what have you learnt?

You keep learning, the constitution of boards can grow or kill the company. The most important thing I have learnt is that saying the right thing is always great and helpful, but it must be timed right, and the tone must be inclusive. If the combination is wrong, you fail, and the stakeholders suffer.

You have seamlessly moved between public, private and not for profit roles, what distinguishes each sector from the other in terms of the goals, objectives and efficiency? What were your roles and how did you carry it out?

They have all been very different. The stakeholders and their objectives have shaped the experiences. My career trajectory hasn’t been planned, it has just morphed and flown the way it has, and each segment and role has differed significantly, but I have been able to clearly map out the objectives for both myself and the organisation, and found areas where their win is mine and vice versa. In all the sectors, I’ve always had the privilege of visioning the objectives and focus, this allows me to a great degree have some input in strategy and executing, so I have cultivated my out-of-the-box thinking, and the can-do-it attitude, to influence superiors to achieve the goals. No goal is too audacious for me to take a stab at, and with the right mindset and resources, much is always accomplished.

On being a board coach, what does this entail? What is the effect of having women on boards?

Being a board coach is about building up individual board members and the team allowing persons to understand that they bring a personal flavour, experiences and insights to the board that no other person can bring, teaching them how to appreciate their talents and how to express this gift to the team. It is also about how to prepare a board member for war in times of peace and for peace in war times – it is a battlefield of minds and egos too. Board duties affect many stakeholders and so care must be given to the far-reaching implications of every decision made.

Women on boards are great ingredients to boards, we are intuitive and passionate, I don’t believe we need to come on boards to duplicate the male flavour, but to tease out aspects of company building that will draw stakeholders closer to the mission and vision of the company, and invariably its success. We work harder, see deeper and express far more in many instances.

With decades of experience in the oil and gas sector, what is it about that sector that everyone needs to know?

As Nigerian gas and oil are our family asset, so we need to understand it, appreciate it and be a part of it. It is interesting to know that many Nigerians don’t know much about its history, its potential and how it affects their day to day lives. If my father owned a gold mine and my generations are to exist off the asset, I will know everything about gold, so why haven’t we taken this same stance with gas and oil? It should be taught as a necessary class as part of our curriculum. I call it gas and oil because we are more gas rich than oil. Another point to note.

If you were given a chance to effect changes in that sector, what will you do and how will you go about it?

I will ensure government have minimal participation in the sector, perhaps only be involved in regulatory duties. Furthermore, I will explore the gas potential for everything it can do to improve industrialisation, transportation, agriculture, and power generation and also have government monetise their assets to inject cash into the treasury while improving efficiency, transparency and accountability in the sector.

You were top choice to act as country director for a top 5 global bank and a top European financial institution, managing their formal entry into Nigeria, covering corporate and investment banking and asset management. What were the distinct qualities that qualified you for this?

I had been diligent in my assignments, and this had been noticed, it opened up the door of the opportunity, and I worked hard and built myself up to ensure that I was able to surpass the expectations of my employers. I tapped into every resource – courses, people, networks that I knew to ensure I accomplished tasks.

The results over the years were the many Nigerian oil and gas companies and financial institutions that were able to access forex and expertise to develop their business in the sector, and even more so the deals that were accomplished because of the local eyes and context I was able to build around deals that made them bankable. The alliances and teamwork the international bank adopted with local institutions help build local capacity and these alliances paid off for both parties.

Tell us in detail your involvement with girl education, female empowerment and youth coaching and why the passion for it?

Education is an important part of who I am. I believe education is emancipation and knowledge sets people free to become who they were created to be. Educating girls is educating families and once a girl child comes into her person, her generations are secure.

The girl is the single unit building block of a great nation and girls have been left behind and disadvantaged in many ways. I desire to bridge the gap in many ways. In the area of women empowerment, I am careful to say we need to balance the scale.

It is amazing that we have a good chunk of women that are super accomplished at the top, but there are many management level woes that are in the pipelines, in the same breath, there are those that have fallen through the cracks that need to be reintegrated, and then there are the young girls that need to be exposed to the freedom and power that comes with education, enlightenment and opportunities waiting for them.

Youth coaching is a gap I identified in my mentoring sessions. We need to give hope to young people that there is a space and place for them in the nation and that many like them have made it, so I use the platform of my books – To My Younger Self, Books 1 And 2 to showcase authentic Nigerian success stories that will encourage them and ensure that they imbibe the right values for lasting success.

What is the role of mentorship? Secondly, how important is it for women to have a guiding hand and an enabling environment to help them navigate the path to their individual version of successes?

The value of mentorship is understated in a country like Nigeria where there is so much of getting into places and positions because of who you know, and circumventing merit and skill. Mentors are meant to be the link between where you are and who you are, and your next level and future.

Mentors will fast track one’s journey and will act as coaches, sponsor and sometimes seers getting you ready for positions you don’t even know exists, and they will also highlight areas in one’s blind spot. They are invaluable.

Share your view on fair remuneration practices which leads to attracting and retaining the best employees that build positive relationships with stakeholders of any organisation

My view on remuneration radically differs from the usual. I use a pie chart divided into 3 parts to help my mentees for example see how they should be compensated.

First is the cash and benefits package that should take up not less than 60percent of the pie and then there is the personal growth opportunities and how it will be enhanced, and what it will be valued at in a period that one determines.

These are the trainings, who will mentor you, opportunities to work on deals, say over a 4 year period. Lastly, another portion should be the ecosystem you will be exposed to, that in my view is cash for tomorrow, who will the organisation put you in front of for you to show off your potentials, talent and credentials? That is the way I look at remuneration. Drawing you into a power network and a network that will influence your future prospects.

Relationships are reported to be enhanced significantly under your leadership, how were you able to build this? Secondly, who is a leader? What must leaders do?

I believe in sharing information and building people in my sphere. If I’ve met you, there must be some value and virtue that should be passed on during the course of our meeting. I am intentional and intense and unfortunately this doesn’t go down well with many people, but I still keep on keeping on. I have been blessed with great teachers and mentors over the years.

They have allowed me explore my leadership style and helped me look at what’s working and what’s not, and what I can do about it to get more out of it without changing the fundamentals of who I am. A leader is a person that has followers. A leader must understand what it means to be a follower and must be a good follower of someone and something.

I would like to see a God-follower as a potentially good leader. That way, you understand the rigors and sacrifices that followers make and as such you can appreciate your own followers.

Unforgettable day

There are too many unforgettable days for me, looking back, they are the days that I took major decisions and didn’t know it at that time that they were destiny movements that have impacted my life and lives of many other in ways that are immeasurable.

When I look back, I remember clearly the places, time and contexts and that is powerful. I try to replicate them as often as I can if they were positive and try to identify the red flags I missed if they were negative. I believe in patterns and cycles in life. I teach a course called the bridge that encompasses these principles.

What are your personal and professional challenges?

They are what keeps me going and growing. Challenges fuel me. I want to be a better and more efficient version of myself and to impact any space I occupy. I believe I am not an accident in this time and season and that my presence and position is secured to excel, so nothing is daunting for me.

What are you looking forward to individually, and as a nation?

I believe in Nigeria. I know we have all it takes to be a great nation, but the socialisation of the people and what has become our normal is where the problem lies. We need a covid type of rest for us as a people where mediocrity and corruption become intolerable to our person and institutions. I look forward to a nation where we put our best men and women forward for whatever we try to do, God help us.

Concluding words

I know who God has called me to be, I am boldly walking in line with His plan and purpose for my life and I trust Him 100%. My every step is guided and ordained, so I am always in the right place at the right time and being seen and heard by the right people and spoken of by the right people in context.