Embracing Effective and Strategic Leadership: A Path to Nigeria’s Progress

Dr Alim Abubakre

As Nigeria celebrates its 63rd independence anniversary, it is a moment of reflection and an opportunity to chart a brighter future for the nation. I have an individual social responsibility to share insights on effective and strategic leadership informed by my privilege of engaging over 4,000 leaders globally. Every time I speak with leaders, I observe that they agree that executives in government and business play pivotal roles in shaping Nigeria’s destiny.

The billion-dollar question is, what values do Strategic leaders in Nigeria need to succeed in this fast-paced, increasingly volatile and competitive world?

Peter Drucker, a management guru, once asked, “What needs to be done?” This question, along with another critical inquiry, “What is right for the enterprise?” should guide the decisions and actions of our leaders. These two questions encapsulate the essence of effective and strategic leadership.

Successful leaders from emerging countries have demonstrated the below-listed qualities, providing valuable examples for Nigeria.

SMART action plans

Leaders in countries like India, China, and Brazil have excelled by developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) action plans. For instance, leaders in UAE (tax-free income initiative has made it a hub for global talent) and Estonia (e-residency programme stimulating start-up growth and innovation) have leveraged global and local talent to boost employment generation and national renewal.

Taking responsibility

When Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore to independence, he took full responsibility for the decisions made. His commitment to good governance and economic development transformed Singapore into a global economic powerhouse. Furthermore, Strategic leaders take responsibility for their decisions, a trait exhibited by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first African female DG of WTO. Dr Ngozi’s new focus on sustainability and commendable efforts to inspire the WTO to focus on its core values and strive to update the WTO rulebook to address 21st-century challenges should inspire leaders in Nigeria to take responsibility.

Effective communication

China’s leaders have understood the importance of effective communication in conveying their vision for the country’s growth. Their consistent messaging has rallied the nation behind their goals. On the home front, leaders like MKO Abiola and Tony Elumelu are known for their effective communication skills, rallying stakeholders around a shared vision for entrepreneurship, economic empowerment and political liberation in the case of MKO.

Turning challenges to vitamins

Leaders in South Korea, faced with adversity after the Korean War, turned challenges into opportunities by investing in education and technology. Today, South Korea is known for its innovation and economic strength. I observed that effective and strategic leaders embrace what we say at TEXEM and what Albert Einstein said: “Failure is success in progress.”

Productive meetings

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, is renowned for running productive meetings. His ability to facilitate discussions and encourage collaboration has contributed to his company’s success. For those who prefer a Nigerian example, I share the nation’s icon, Amina J. Mohammed, Nigeria’s Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Ms. Amina is adept at running productive meetings and fostering international cooperation despite the diverse interests of the UN’s five veto-wielding countries.

Emphasising “we” over “I”

In Malaysia, leaders like Tun Abdul Razak emphasised collective efforts over personal gain, fostering unity and inclusivity in the nation’s development. I asked the top leadership of Oracle during some work with this organisation what makes you so successful in database technology. Their resounding response “is always have a strong team better than you.” If Oracle could embrace this mantra, so could Nigerian leaders.

Stakeholder engagement

Brazil’s leaders, especially during the Lula da Silva era, effectively engaged stakeholders to address issues like poverty and inequality, leading to improved social and economic conditions. Also, one of Aliko Dangote’s unique selling points that is valuable, difficult to imitate and rare is his ability to engage with various stakeholders to build a successful enterprise, employing tens of thousands, providing revenue for thousands of suppliers, generating revenue through tax for government and contributing to national growth.

Building strong teams

China’s tech giant Tencent, led by leaders like Pony Ma, empowers its teams to innovate and take ownership of projects, resulting in continuous growth and innovation. Also, the founders of Nigeria, such as Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Anthony Ehahoro and Ahmadu Bello, set aside their differences to collaborate to negotiate independence for Nigeria, which is now celebrating its 63rd anniversary this October 1.

Upholding a moral compass

John D. Rockefeller, a titan in the oil industry, believed that “good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” His commitment to ethical business practices set a standard for corporate responsibility.

Embracing the values of effective and strategic leadership articulated in this article is not just a choice but imperative for Nigeria’s progress in the 21st century. My experience with diverse, successful global leaders has revealed that if Nigerians incorporate these qualities into their leadership practice, they will succeed in championing good governance and nation-building in Nigeria. It requires leaders to look beyond personal interests and focus on the nation’s collective well-being. Sun Tzu wisely noted, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” Effective and strategic leaders grasp opportunities to create a better future for all that will endure.

As Nigeria marks its 63rd independence anniversary, let us heed the wisdom of these leaders and commit ourselves to embracing effective and strategic leadership. In the words of Alfred Sloan, former CEO of General Motors, “The job of a leader is not to create greatness in people, but to create the conditions under which greatness is possible.” It is time for our leaders in government and business to create these conditions for a prosperous and united Nigeria.

•Dr Alim Abubakre is the Founder of TEXEM, UK, is on the London Business School Africa Club advisory board and is a Sheffield Business School Senior Lecturer.

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