Leadership Thought

It’s still a beautiful world

The happenings in my home country some days ago left me numb for several hours. Though it is difficult, I have learnt to find peace and beauty from a place of introspection. It’s in moments like these that I turn into my journal for things I want to remember.

I found one of those letters that reaffirmed what I want to remind myself and those I love; I don’t remember how long it’s been here, but I found peace reading it, over and again.

“I hope you find the kind of love that makes you a softer person. The kind of love that makes you want to be a better man or woman, the kind of love that believes in you and supports you, that stands by your side… I hope you find someone who shows you just how deeply you can feel, just how deeply you can love. I hope you find something real, because nothing is more beautiful than loving someone who loves you back. Nothing is more beautiful than loving someone who builds you a home in their heart.

I hope you find acceptance. The kind that rings through your bones, the kind that quiets the voice inside of you that tells you that you are not good enough, or that you are falling behind. I hope you forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, for the past you keep alive inside of you. I hope you learn to let go — of the things you had to do in order to heal, or to grow, or to survive. You are doing your best. You are human. Please don’t ever forget that.

But most of all, I hope you find yourself out there. I hope you figure out your heart, I hope you figure out your mind. I hope you learn how to be kind to yourself, how to embrace the journey you are on. I hope you learn how to be proud of the person you are becoming, I hope you learn how to be proud of where you are — even if it isn’t exactly where you want to be. I hope you learn to fall in love with the process, with the messiness of life and the confusion of it all.

At the end of the day, I hope you find what you’re looking for out there. I hope your life inspires you.”

In the face of despair, it is easy to grow numb and weary. But you shouldn’t. You can nurture your spirit to shield you in time of distress.

“Whatever your labours and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life”, a favourite poem titled Desiderata admonishes, “keep peace in your soul.”

It is still a beautiful world.

I first shared this on The Daily Vulnerable on October 23, 2020.

Leadership Thought

Human-Centric Development

I just finished reading the address of the Pope for the 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting starting tomorrow at Davos.
Somehow, his speech resonate with my thoughts – and the crux of my ‘being’ – to collaborate with society to transform the future of humanity. The essence of societal transformation, growth and development is people – for people to become better versions of their truest selves, living values-based authentic lives and living in exponential abundance.
I find this theme re-occurring in most of my adventures; from family, to AllforDevelopment, to Studership, to contributing to growing innovation spaces, my learning stint at Harvard, the essence of strategy building for initiatives at MoreX, to conversations (and diverse initiatives) around the future of society anchored on people, platforms and policies, and one of my latest adventures – connecting all that to ensure we all stay happy, and true.
People. Learning. Adventure. Those three (3) are paramount to me.
What are your three (3)?
image credit: Time Magazine
Education Growth Innovation Leadership Strategy Thought

The Future of Mentorship – [My TEDx talk]

The themes of growth, values, mentorship and leadership are some of my most endeared themes. I started life learning to embrace learning and growth, sharing what I have learnt with others willing to ‘sip’ and taking lessons from the lives of others – people i regard as ‘illuminares’.

On November 11, 2017, I gave a TEDx talk on “The Future of Mentorship – and what we can do about it” at TEDxIsaleGeneral. Beyond sharing some thoughts on this theme – which is off the beaten track, according to a mentor – I savoured the moments i had learning from other speakers and attendees. Everyone is a story worth sharing!

Sharing at TEDx IsaleGeneral

As requested, below is a -rough- transcript of the talk on The Future of Mentorship. I’ll include the link to the video when I get it from the TEDx team. I will love to read your thoughts either in the comments, via mail or on Twitter.

Future of Mentorship and What to do about it

December 12, 2012, with the help of a few friends, I started an annual leadership programme that grew from accommodating less than 30 emerging young leaders from Nigeria to over 200 young leaders from more than 35 countries. About five years into building Studership from a project to some sort of community, it struck us that we failed in one of our responsibilities.

While we succeeded in connecting and promoting drive for development in the hearts of these young people, we felt that we failed. We felt we failed because we didn’t provide a structured mentorship system for each and everyone of them.

After a couple of conversations with some fellows, I observed a pattern; though we didn’t make the mentorship component visible, mentoring happened nonetheless. Among participants. Within leadership learning teams. Within the community. In subtle and fluid manner.

Mentorship is an individual and corporate investment in hope. One of the best mentoring relationships I have had is with someone, who strives daily to be dispensable; He strives to make himself increasingly unnecessary – though available. True mentorship evolves from the diminishing dependence of the mentee on the mentor.

One of the things my experiences with mentors and mentees have taught me, is how to study and understand elements of the future. The fast changes in technological advancement and human desires will also influence what we (and generations after us) know as true mentorship.

Mentorship of the future will be influenced by what I refer to as the koinoina effect. The koinoina effect is that state of wholeness caused by deeply unique fellowship, communion and partnership in a relationship.

Briefly, let us analyse what trends to expect about about the future of mentorship: [here are three things that will characterize mentorship of the future].

1. Mentorship in the future will be characterized by a mix of high human touch and high-tech. Like we do today, we’ll continue to leverage technology to make communication, learning and collaboration easier, while holding on to – and ‘incentivising’ the – values of love, trust and compassion. Societies, clusters, organisations and individuals that thrive will be those who encourage the tradition of honesty, vulnerability and openness.

2. The line distinguishing roles of mentors and mentees will be diminished, making it easy for both parties to switch roles fluidly, at interval.

3. In few years, there will be the emergence of an artificial intelligent (AI) mind – one that has access to several other algorithmic systems and data – capable of delivering personalized advises, guidance and mentoring to individuals based on data-symmetry of individuals we admire and long to learn from. Through meta-learning – this AI will learn about our most preferred role models and can advise me based on knowledge about them.

With a very subtle presence, this AI will work like other algorithms that help us with search or recommend friends we should connect with, but with more sophisticated abilities. Using surveillance and sousveillance technologies, it will be capable of making knowledge of and from the greatest minds alive (that can be your dad, mum, the richest individual in the world, your most adored political/business figure – whoever you want). This AI will be capable of advising you based on the knowledge of whoever you admire all at once – using on available data about each of them, and their up-to-date individual online experiences. The company(ies) that control this AI will be rich in data, and the users of these AI will ‘always’ get correct, predictive responses.

Will you take advice from an AI mentor?

With the exciting revelations and experiences awaiting us in future, we must remind ourselves of the roles we need to play to enhance our humanity.

First, more than before, there is the need for deeper connection with people and greater investments in people. Mentorship involves the peddling of hope.

Second, we need to increase our awareness of the ethics of the technology we make use of, and request that we – as a people – are at the center of our data. We need to request and ensure that while interacting with any technology, our values are recognised and honoured.

Third, we need to do some soul-searching, ask and find novel answers to some questions. How do we reconcile what technology does with the need to incentivise character values that make life worth living? How can we make that merge? How can we individually and collectively promote deeper connection within ourselves, among our communities and the generality of mankind?

Finally, we need to value our collective culture beyond race, ethnic background, sexual orientation and political inclination. I refer to the culture of being human  Over the course of the future, we need to allow our relationships reflect our humanity- our abilities to be helpful, loving, trustworthy, compassionate and human.

In the end, all we have is one another.
Thank you.

What future of mentorship do you see?

Leadership Strategy Thought

Your Leadership Brand

Sometimes ago, I was approached to speak with a group of young entrepreneurs during one of their online masterclass sessions. I decided to discuss ‘leadership brand’.

One of the key reasons I accepted to do this is the belief that businesses have a role in influencing change within communities. When individuals are clear about how they want to be remembered, conscious efforts will be made to create real time value for all.

Enjoy excerpts of the conversation below.

Good evening,
What a lovely evening this will be. We are going to share knowledge on building your leadership brand, solve some of the challenges you may have in that regard, and answer your questions.

I am Damola Morenikeji.

For several years, I have committed myself to creating value by inspiring excellence in leadership and governance through education and human capital development.

Let’s get started.

Earlier today, I requested you think about your expectations of this session. What are they?
My expectation is how to make use of leadership brand in building a better business that create value, solves problems and promotes happiness.

I need us to reflect on this. On seeing the brand logo, what’s the first feeling of thing that comes to mind?

We can make this interactive.
Let’s think about this?

I have seen people tell me they want to buy gala (while pointing to Bigi or other brands of sausages).

I had seen people tell me to buy ‘another type of Omo’ while referring to other detergents.

What makes these brands different? Why do they stick? Why do they lead?

And what can we do about that?
True! While most of these brands may be long standing and recognized, emerging businesses always have advantages being underdogs in fields operated by giants.

From our conversations, we all agree that people feel comfortable with these brands not just because they’ve existed for long, but because they’ve portrayed their brands as secure, trusted and produce REMARKABLE VALUE!
Whenever we see cows, we don’t get fascinated, because we see them almost everywhere.

But a Purple Cow will always call our attention. So, how do you use this in establishing your leadership, and projecting your brand?

First, Start with an IDEA.

I’ve been told that ideas rule the world. I actually think that ideas that are well thought out, and implemented actually rule the world. Ideas are capital.

One thing I like about ideas is that they are mystical creatures that need a bodily host to function. Fortunately, the human body and mind are valuable incubators. On ideas, Leke is quick to remind you that ideas tend to appeal to two or more people at the same time. Once they take control of you, it colonies you and drives you to sleeplessness until you effectively birth it, nurture it and make it stand.

Diligently, these ideas show gratitude by rewarding you with wealth, fame, and other things that diligence attracts.
Don’t rush out when you have an idea. Meditate on the idea. Develop conviction. Seek help when needed.

Ask yourself critical questions, ranging from the ease of use, who your potential customers are, the positives and negatives associated with your idea, among others.

Think about the packaging of your idea.

More importantly, ask yourself if you will buy your own idea (product or service)?

Will you buy your own product or service?

Once that is set, work on the four pillars of your / the business.

The business model
The business vision
The business mission
And the business values.

All these are critical in personal and business leadership.
So, let’s start with your vision.

Shall we?

Write your VISION

Craft your vision statement [both for yourself and your business].

When you craft a business statement, you unconsciously tell the world that you are serious about what you do and you are going somewhere.

It shows that you are not in this for a short while. Little wonder the ancient prophet, author and adventurer, Habakkuk, was instructed to “Write down the vision. Make it plain. That he may run that reads it”. Vision statements are propellants of achievements. They must be expressed in simple languages. We must set out basic steps to achieve your vision and attach a timetable.

These steps are referred to as the Business Objectives.

Put the timetable where you can see it everyday, and work on it.

While you read this chat, can you think about your business vision?

Can you write it plainly?

Your vision statement answers the question ‘what do you want to become?’.

Your mission statement, however gives a proposition of what you have for your customers.

To excel in life and business, your business must be people-oriented. It has to be customer-focused.

Once those are cast in stone (or on paper – or typed :)), work on your value proposition. Your value proposition explains what you do. It backs up your mission. You can’t channel your accomplishments into a purpose, without a mission.

Let’s get that, from inception.
So, what exactly does your business do?
Let me make this simple.

A simple mode is this: I help [a] with [b] so that they can achieve [c].

Where [a] is your unique audience, [b] is your solution, and [c] is the outcome.
I believe we are on the same page?

As an example, my value proposition for this training is to provide young entrepreneurs with leadership and branding knowledge, so that they can project their brands, make their customers happy and create more wealth.

Remember that your business is hinged on four pillars: your business model, business vision, business mission and business values.

These four pillars should guide your value proposition and help your brand stand out.

Work on each.
Your path to thought leadership in your area of business requires you have and diligently build a platform.


Your creative abilities are enormous. As young entrepreneurs, your creative leadership speaks much of your leadership brand.

We were taught to believe most things around us from childhood before we learnt how to question them.

See your business beyond buying and selling stuffs; rather, see your business as an idea.

This idea is what sticks to the mind of your customers after a contact with you.

For example, most of us stick to some brands because of the idea of satisfaction we derive; the happiness we have from our interaction with their products.

The same can be replicable for your leadership brand.

While I plan to conclude this session, it’s important to note this: please GET DIGITIZED.

That word may not be used in the English dictionary, but I hope you know what I meant.
Get DIGITIZED. Get online. Embrace the use of digital technology to aid productivity.

What do I see when I do a Google search of your name or your business name?
Take some seconds away from this chat and do a search of your name on Google.

Can you proudly share the screenshot?

[You can, if you are proud of what you see.]

You need to curate both your home-base and your embassies.

Your embassies are your social media accounts. They are your representatives in ‘foreign’ lands.
Do you know how funny people might take your brand, when you say you are into clothing and all we see when we check your social media timelines are news of something entirely different?

For those with a good online presence, create a different brand for your business.
There is the possibility that your business will grow to a stage where you will have to hand it over to someone else to run.

Start planning for that, from now.
You CANNOT AFFORD to run a ONE-MAN business.

As starters, we can. However, let’s start planning towards expanding your businesses.

Start a blog, or website.

In this age, it is important for all serious businesses to have an online presence. It is your ‘defacto’ home-base.

Once you have a platform, create credible contents.

Contents can range from blog posts, images, videos. They reflect what your businesses stands for.

Don’t just SELL your products via your platforms. Rather, enlighten people on the essence of embracing what you do.

People seek enlightenment. Provide it and you become valuable.
There are two types of content. Contents that get you attraction and contents that get you sales.

The key thing in being an authority of repute is to share these types of content.

You can make it 80% attraction and 20% of sales.
And finally, be true to what you do. Be a reflection of the value your business offers.
Establishing your leadership brand requires time. It requires credibility and integrity.

I know you can. Let’s get to work!

I’m here to answer possible questions. Let’s get practical.

As we go to bed, let’s take down these challenges.

1. Write down your brand statement. Make it clear. You may get in touch if you need help with that.

2. Work on your brand. Get online. Work hard in creating quality contents. Practice. Practice. Practice.

3. Share your testimonies.

Good night.

Leadership Thought

On Perseverance and Little Big Things

Keep doing what you do, as long as it makes positive sense!

Over the last few weeks, I have been having conversations about  perseverance, failure and excellence. I heard humbling experiences of friends and colleagues as we all shared moments where we learned from failure and not-too-good moments. When some of these people talk about the successes of what they do, it seems they had never ‘down’ moments.

Tonight, Wisdom and I were checking my cabinet, when we came across the raw hand-written manuscript of a book I wrote in 2006. Ten years ago! Wisdom did some calculations and we both screamed ‘Wow!’. I laid on the bed and smiled as my 14-year old brother read and pointed out some mistakes in the manuscript. He was equally challenged.

Have you been bothered about the mistakes you’ve made (or are making), just breathe. Breathe and breathe. Take out time to review and learn from your actions and the experiences of others.

Lessons: Keep records of the little / big things you do. Take time to review and reexamine what you do. Learn good lessons. When though time comes, remember why you set out, seek relevant lessons from others and quit not.

It works; in business and life.

July 22, 2016. Ng.

Leadership Thought

Growing with Young African Leaders

If there is one thing i crave insatiably, it is growth.

Damola Morenikeji and Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Few weeks ago, I joined other young African leaders / professionals selected (out of over 14,000 applications) for the US President’s Young African Leaders Initiative RLC Fellowship. I grew. I am still growing – daily.

Our individual commitment to growth is paramount; it influences our leadership, actions and results. The daily actions by friends and partners (even you and others on this platform) to drive positive change around the world is equally commendable. I see you – like I had, before now.

Let’s keep growing, doing and being. We can #BeMore.

[Photo: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US Assistant Secretary of States for Africa) and Damola Morenikeji at the US Ambassador’s Office in Ghana]

Other images, courtesy the US Embassy in Ghana are below.

Damola Morenikeji, US Ambassador to Ghana Robert Porter Jackson and Amewuda Getrude

Some of the Young African Leaders hosted by the US Ambassador to Ghana


Leadership Thought

More than a Million Pounds

Over one million thoughts engaged one another in my head, after seeing the premiere of ‘One Million Pounds’ along with some other Young African Leaders.
For us to sustain the ‘Africa Rising’ reality, Africans must place further value on values, honour and integrity instead of money and cheer materialism. We are worth more than these things. More. We need to build institutions, not only strong individuals.
Our commitment to excellence shouldn’t be second place; that’s one of the basic things that can make us lead our place well. Whatever we do, as Africans is our message to the rest of the world. Let’s make our message worthwhile.
Bring it on, no matter how much we may tend to fall, let’s keep rising.‪#‎AfricaRising‬.
Leadership Thought

Of Flipping Calendars, Leadership and Gratitude

What other way may one flip over the calendar than being in a state of happiness, humility and genuine gratitude, encouraged by the realization that one’s actions are still serving as blessings to several other young people and societies in Africa and across the world. It is indeed humbling and ‘graceful’.
The last three days – till now – have been filled with severely intensive growth and learning experiences as we engaged the fourth cohort of our annual youth leadership programme, Studership. Each day has been unique both for participants – numbering about a hundred from nine countries – and our faculty. Considering the quality of discuss and daily feedback from the young leaders participating in the ‪#‎Studership‬ 4.0 Leadership Programme, I remain optimistic that it is possible to enhance our world with young people being empowered and committed to consistently creating value by solving most of the biggest challenges we face, without comprising on integrity and other values.
Going forward, few hours ago, I got informed of my emergence as the Winner of the 2015 African Youth Awards for Excellence in Leadership. Another graceful experience. This honour is made possible because of people like you who believed in possibilities. People like you whom truly are passionate about making systems work and encouraging responsible and value-based leadership. People like you who showed love and responsibility, through your thoughts and actions. Thank you.
Today, as we plan towards the next eighteen-score and few days, I come forward, with a humble heart to celebrate you. Our team at AllforDevelopment celebrates you. Do not let us relent; let’s live through this year consistently valuing personal integrity and responsibility, principle of love and perseverance, practicing genuine humility, consistently learning and valuing people / relationships.
We can all make Nigeria, Africa and the world a better place. Accept my felicitations on your great endeavours this ‘new’ year, as you work towards it! I look forward to your ‘testimonies’ soon!
God bless you, indeed!
Damola Morenikeji
Growth Leadership Thought

What leadership is (and isn’t)

Leadership is everything. Leadership is open-ended. I love conversations that deal with talking and walking ‘leadership’ because it is the nucleus of development in every society – it is the central and seemingly most important of human development. It can be defined in contextual and general terms; regardless, it always conveys the message of responsibility with a result that beats the status quo. I may decide put a spotlight on a definition by John Agno which states that ‘leadership is applicable to all facets of life: a competency that you can learn to expand your perspective, set the context of a goal, understand the dynamics of human behaviour and take the initiative to get to where you want to be’ – emphasis on the italicized words are purely mine. Leadership involves leaders – individuals like you and I – bringing people together around a shared purpose and empowering them to step up and lead authentically in order to create change and value for all.

Before I proceed, I’ll love to stress a caveat; my understanding of leadership may seem ‘off-the-wall’ compared to what is practiced in several societies – I seek an indulgence. However, I uphold the strong belief that a deviation from the ideal is not enough reason for the status quo to thrive; we must embrace personal responsibility and play the part of enlightening ourselves on what can be and take actions into making it work. Ideal leadership, based on value-based principles of integrity, ‘servanthood’ and love is possible. If well practiced, it guarantees the development of any nation and the prosperity of her greatest resource – her people.

Foremost, leadership is about leading. With all modesty, I meant what you have just read – leadership is about leading; so is following. One topical myth of leadership I have encountered is one that attaches leadership only to official titles and positions. That myth encourages only those answering titles to their name or those ‘serving’ on one exalted position to be seen or referred to as leaders. I bliss in my heretic deference; leadership is not position, it is responsibility!

Leadership involves the art of leading oneself effectively while allowing others to do the same with our gazes focused on the collective destination. It involves not only the art but the act of personal responsibility and growth; making growth the center of our being and creating the right environment to enable others to become more. It involves leading others, through love – as one leads oneself. Maybe it wouldn’t be out of place for us to consider asking ourselves how we lead ourselves. Do we invest enough in resources that aid our growth? Are we committed to upholding our values even in the face of the worse turmoil ever imagined? Beyond equipping ourselves and others for excellence – or exploits – do we commit ourselves to ‘walking the talk’ or do we talk and walk in divergent lanes?

While some definition of leadership stresses that leaders have, maintain, or increase the number of their followers, I rather see the importance of leaders building several others to be leaders. One of the greatest perks of true leadership is when your mentees are helping other younger leaders grow. That is what I call leading – that is one of my aspirations. 

Leadership is about everything, but more about people. Economic development, through political leadership decision, is possible when leaders concentrate not on things (material and mineral resources) but on the greatest resource of each nation – man. A concentration on the development of the people, guided by the principles of vision and values, will translate into further development of the nation. I subscribe to the school of thought that no nation can grow beyond the capacity of its people. Look at several countries from across the world; have you observed a proportional relationship between her human capital development and the country’s economic development? Singapore’s success in the nineties under its Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew emits lessons that go beyond economics and politics, it teaches a height of possibilities that could occur when the overriding factor in development is the people first. No nation can rise beyond the vision and capacities of its leaders and people. There are enormous lessons we can learn as a nation from this and several other nations, about leadership.

Leadership is not a rare skill. While genuinely great leaders may be rare, leadership – in itself – is not a rare skill. It can be learned and earned. It starts from the realization that leadership has been entrusted on us; we have a responsibility to lead ourselves – each of us leading himself/herself – through a sense of purpose built on the right foundations. It involves growing, thinking, living, and building ourselves through creativity. Describing creativity, Ken Rowat once opined that “creative activity, agonizing though it may be at times, is essentially life-enhancing, often joyful, and this can be judged not from the fixed smiles worn by models advertising power tools but by the extent to which the individual is seriously engrossed in his activity. Outside making love, men and women never feel better than when they are totally engaged in exploration or construction, especially when the motivation is simply: ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’” In a similar way, I not only wonder what will happen if we dedicate ourselves to growing, helping others grow and achieve purpose in creative ways, I also wonder what will happen if we stop wandering in the wilderness of vague thoughts, start taking responsibility and leading positive change.

Leadership is not ambition. I want to stress this because I have come across several acclaimed leaders that communicate ambition rather than communicating a vision. While I am not worthy of judging others, I have to state that there is a huge difference between vision and ambition. Vision is the essence of leadership; it has to be clear enough for the leader to articulate it with radiance. Little wonder it has been said that there is nothing more demoralizing than a leader who cannot tell us why we are doing what we are doing. Instead of differentiating, I’ll note what vision is not; vision is not a conception of your private view of the future, it is not personal, private, or selfish ambition. This may sound controversial – remember my earlier caveat – vision is not a goal, but it produces goals, it is not a complicated list of programs but it produces programs. It is not mere physical sight, but the perception of the unseen future. True vision is not for self-promotion, but it promotes others; it never destroys humanity but builds and preserves human value and dignity. True vision may never be fulfilled in a lifetime, but it extends to generations. True vision, like leadership, is not ambition, but it inspires self-service.

Leadership is not assumption, it is feedback. One of the greatest challenges in leadership is that of communication. Often times, failure to communicate effectively pose danger both to the process and the result. I have observed several worthwhile initiatives fail due to basic assumptions laid on erroneous foundations. Let’s not assume, rather let us ask questions. I remember a conversation I had sometimes ago with my friend and partner, Joshua Peter where we laughed about and stressed the need to ‘kill’ assumptions and ask questions. If you do not understand something about someone, don’t assume you do, ask questions. If you feel offended by someone else’ response or reaction, don’t assume the person knows (or wants to injure you intentionally), rather be courageous enough to seek clarifications.

One way to overcome assumptions, and develop our curiosity is to begin to ask more questions courageously, both when we are talking with others and when we are talking in our minds to ourselves. Questioning, or feedback, when carefully done, helps us distinguish between what is known and what is unknown. It further helps us in understanding the context at which we are understood. It enables us to further understand the cultural context at which our messages are decoded, as we strengthen the medium used in communication. One thing is unchangeable; the qualities of questions we ask mostly determine the quality of answers or solutions we get. Stop assuming, start asking, courageously.

Leadership isn’t only about equipping. Imagine this: A group of turkeys attended a two-day training program to learn how to fly. They learned the principles of aerodynamics, and they practiced morning, afternoon, and evening. They learned how to fly using the wind as thrust and how to fly against the wind; together and individually, they learned how to navigate mountains and valleys. It seems great! At the end of the training, they all walked home. This is often what I see in our society; several people intentionally want to grow, learn principles but fail to practice those principles. Growth through equipping is best achieved when principles ‘consumed’ are well ingested, digested – sometimes regurgitated – and displayed in further actions. A secret of growth and personal accomplishment is repetition. Beyond training, repeat and review your values and human relations prowess among other skills.

Leadership is not fenceless: The highest form of leadership is ‘self-leadership’. This is one of the parts of leadership I cherish; the part where we talk about the self-imposed fences put in place by individuals, for them to achieve their visions. These fences are put in place to strike warning signals when we are about climbing over them. If you wish, you may call the fence limits, barriers, but I prefer to call it ‘discipline’. Discipline is the fence that beautifies our personal gardens – it prevents us from pursuing personal indulgence and provides a runway for fulfilling our purposes. It provides a barricade to nurture our character, focusing on our values and taking actions, not only based on convenience but based on necessity. Self-discipline – when fully embraced by individuals – helps in making ‘pleasing results’ a preference over ‘pleasing methods’. My younger brothers and I have been used to reminding ourselves of a mantra, especially when any of us derail from what we ought to do. This mantra is ‘do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do’. 

Self-discipline helps in recognizing and differentiating between what is important and urgent, what is urgent but not important, what is important but not urgent, and what is neither important nor urgent. The fence guiding our leadership garden – self-discipline – is doing the right thing rightly, simply because it is the right thing to be done. It involves resolving to behave in such a manner as if your every act were to become universal law for all people under similar circumstances. Self-discipline involves waiting patiently, when needed, refusing to rush the process in the search for a shortcut. It involves delaying gratification, shunning mediocrity, and managing time and other resources well.

Leadership is not fenceless; it has the beautiful and strong fence of self-discipline. The strength and height of your fence depend on how often you build your fence – it depends on the depth of the foundations of values you embrace. It depends on how often you decide not to compromise on your values in exchange for fame or riches. It further depends on the quality of decisions you make and how persistent you are to follow through with those decisions. If you are to measure your fence, how tall or strong will it be? Start now, be consistently consistent.

Leadership is not playing the game: I have witnessed the game being played. It is – if a statistic is available to back it up – one of the most played games in the world. Though it does not follow the rules of sports, it is mostly enjoyed by individual players often without support from fans. It is a game called the blame game. Almost everyone blames someone for something no one did or did not do. We grew up playing the blame game without been taught the rules; we blame our parents for birthing us in a particular environment, blame nature for our waking from sleep late. We blame the traffic for our lateness; blame the government for the dirty waste bins. I see several cases where we just pass the ‘ball’ to someone else, failing to face the truth and take responsibility. Let’s face it. Though blame-trading may have a soothing feeling, however, it is distorting your reality. It is high time we woke up and started taking responsibility. It is your life, live it responsibly. If some things have occurred because of the nonchalance of others, forgive them for it, and move on. Forgive them, not only because that is what leadership requires, forgive them because you deserve better. Leadership involves taking responsibility, beyond playing the blame game. 

Leadership is not just having values, it is living it. Values are important in leadership and human relations. Either individual or cultural, it influences what each of us – or our community – defines as being right or wrong. Our values influence our behaviours and understanding of various concepts. Depending on the cultural balance each of us falls into globally, our individual values are intrinsic and essential part of our makeup as humans and leaders. Values are not just sets of principles or standards we chant, rather they are principles that are so important that we cannot afford to live outside them. They shape our decisions, thoughts, priorities, and character.

A Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) study on values or attributes that characterize an outstanding leader, based on a 7-point scale and the “world mean” of each scale (i.e., the average of 61 country means) revealed that irrespective of cultural differences witnessed in several countries, the most desirable traits are Integrity (6.07), Inspirational (6.07), Visionary (6.02), Performance-oriented (6.02), Team-integrator (5.88), Decisive (5.80), Administratively competent (5.76), Diplomatic (5.49), Collaborative team orientation (5.46), Self-sacrificial (5.0), Modesty (4.98). Value-based leadership stresses each of us identifying our core values and living out high standards, decisiveness, and innovation. Value-based leadership seeks to inspire people around a vision, creates a passion among them to perform and does so by holding firmly unto core values.

Leadership is not overstaying. It involves knowing when to leave. This is a key lesson that needs to be re-echoed, especially in our political, academic, and religious communities. Persons in leadership positions often protect their turfs and prevent a replacement from occurring – especially when it involves them. I have learnt over time that one of the true measures of leadership is the ability to leave. It is the ability to make oneself less necessary, through quality mentorship. I had once been instilled with the notion that as a leader you should be irreplaceably important – without you, nothing moves. However, I have fortunately grown beyond this. I have come to understand the essence of the measure of growth, interdependence, and independence that should thrive in teams and communities. I now believe that it is a sign of effective leadership if your team can survive without you – because you have created an enabling environment for each of your teammates to grow and become independent. 

One typical example of this quality of leadership was displayed by respected African leader – Nelson Mandela, who stepped down from the most exalted office in his country after serving his first term of four years as President of South Africa. Nelson Mandela had every opportunity to continue his stay in office – including the mandate of the people, but he decided to tow the honourable path of leaving for others to emerge. Learn from Madiba; never miss an opportunity to make others grow; never miss an opportunity to shut up and listen. Never miss the right opportunity to leave.

Leadership is not duplicating you. I earlier talked about the need for leaders to help others grow and become more effective leaders. Yes, leadership involves preparing others to become leaders and take forward a vision, but more importantly, it involves – in a simple but complex sense – proper mentorship. Mentorship is not the process of building others to be like you, rather it is building others – through hard work, consistently conscientious partnership, and diligence – to be more than you. It is not duplicating you. The world already has you. The world needs your help in the growth of someone else to be better than you are. That’s one of the essences of leadership; even the greatest leader ever also displayed it. This is one of the enormous tasks associated with leadership; true mentorship requires patience from the mentor. It requires the mentor to provide opportunities for growth, allowing the mentee to make mistakes/error and learn from them. It requires the mentor not to feel threatened by the successes of the mentee. Mentorship is one of the reasons for leadership.

Finally, while I have the conviction that we have been placed here to tend this modern Eden, with the utmost conditional divine assurance of our status of ‘headship’, I want us to note with every diligence that leadership is not a divine right. It is earned or attained by a dedication to clear vision, a sense of purpose, honorably exemplary character, credible track records, patriotism, and commitment to values among other commonly agreed parameters.

This little insight into what leadership is and isn’t portrays the dire need for us to encourage exemplary civil leadership education from within the family. As I had documented elsewhere, “there is an adept need for individuals to be growth-driven, goal-driven, vision-directed and committed to personal and leadership development of young people” and other members of our global community.

We owe it to ourselves to guard our hearts, lead, and live in the true sense of leadership.

We were born for that – leading and living positively, for exploits.

This piece was sent for publication on April 7, 2015. Syndicating it on this page for future reference.

Leadership Thought

Beyond the Idea; making entrepreneurship work

Some thirteen weeks ago, I led a team of young innovative entrepreneurs – all undergraduates – to the a national contest for ideas; it was the National Idea’s contest organised by the Nigerian Universities Commission for all Nigerian universities, as part of the Annual National Entrepreneurship Week, in commemoration of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Our 6-human team shared an innovative idea, which if thoroughly implemented will reduce hidden hunger, while building human capacity / productivity, strengthening mental prowess/energy, increasing academic and managerial excellence, reducing maternal and infant mortality, indirectly reducing crime/violence and at the long run, increasing the average life expectancy. The effect of the idea cuts across health, education and human development sectors. The project was a result of a deep ‘ideation’ process – facilitated by our protem social innovation lab –, well thought-out research and deeply informed consultations, across board.
Image courtesy: FUNAAB

The competition was huge; but alas! We emerged finalists, and was rated one of the best teams – along with a sister team, in the country. Better put – everyone won :). Ideas always win, regardless of human ratings. Several weeks after that experience, I was reviewing – again – one of the lessons I re-learnt during and after the entrepreneurship week.
All ideas are important, but the people are more important. I imagine what might have become of us, if at the ‘ideate’ stage, we had focused more on carving out and refining our idea BY OURSELVES, without bringing a right set of people in – the beneficiaries. When we were brainstorming and getting clarity on what we want to achieve through the project, we had to involve representatives of clusters of affected communities; this made and still makes human-centered innovation efficient, the decisions inclusive and gives ownership across board.
Transforming ideas into reality requires clarity; it requires thinking from our goals, not only of it. It requires building a network, community or team of committed minds, who though divergent in thought are convergent in the collective mission. A team bonded in trust and other values, prepared to give their honest quota in realizing the shared vision. Beyond the ideas, we need to understand the system that influences our sphere of work. Understanding the system helps heretics like you and I to modify / create a better pattern within the system.
As we step out of our ideation corners, with lofty ideas on our hearts, head and palms, let us create time to build relationships that can drive the change we seek. Relationships help me learn, take risks and grow. Take precious moments to build trust-based relationship with your team and innovative community. That idea you cherish will generate solutions to at least a problem. Some people will immensely benefit from that idea. Have you thought about them? Have you brought them in?
Your idea counts, so do they!
Let’s connect and continue our conversation on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.
Education Leadership Thought

Of Productivity and Growth; lessons from the Productivity Award

My phone rang. I had just received a call from the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta who also is the President, Association of African Universities. He sounded delighted to have spoken with me, and eager to see me. The phone welcomed several other calls, most from within the university intimating a pleasant urgency and some intuitive actions.
That morning, I was concluding plans to help facilitate a two-day training with some young professionals before returning to my ‘location’ for the community-based farming program. ‘Multitaskingly’, we were hosting an #OpenEd twitter discussion in commemoration of the 2014 Day of the African Child, with a focus on education of the African Child, the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno state, demanding that strategies be renewed to #BringBackOurGirls and make schools, across Nigeria, safe for learning. Meeting the Vice Chancellor, he broke the news; I had been painstakingly selected for the Vice Chancellor’s Productivity Award by the World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence in Agriculture – the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, as part of activities for the 21st and 22nd Convocation ceremonies. Values and benchmarks for the nomination, recommendation and selection were service to the university, courage, excellence, dedication, truthfulness, new initiatives, innovation, punctuality, selfless services and academic contribution. It was indeed honour and grace!

Damola Morenikeji and Professor Bamidele Oyewole; President, Association of African Universities

On the D-day, I joined other eminently distinguished personalities at the University’s Heroes Day of Recognition and Excellence. I was elated as some academics and prodigies were called to step forward for honour as their citations gave convincing glimpses of their outstandingly remarkable contributions to humanity. I was fortunate to be one. That evening, I returned home more humbled with honour and thanksgiving – as the youngest awardee and only undergraduate among the honoured prodigies –, with a plaque which I must admit sparkles amidst other plaques on my shelve and an adjoining cash of a tenth of a million naira which was duly invested into getting more resources that will aid the growth of other young people and mine – especially as the non-profit organization I founded, All for Development Foundation hosted the Youth Roundtable on Education and Democratic Governance seven days after the Heroes day. The day and activities surrounding it taught and reminded of some lessons. In it, I learnt, unlearnt and re-learnt. Some of the lessons include:
Consistency Pays!
Among several other lessons, the award attested and still attests to a long term belief that consistency pays. It reminds that even when what you do is seemingly invincible to everyone, keep doing it. Keep keeping on. When faced with challenges and you don’t know what to do, just keep breathing, keep believing, don’t let go, don’t give in. The towel is always there, we may decide to throw it in or use it to clean our sweats and proceed more intelligently and passionately, after deep reflective thoughts. It may be surprising to note that most of the projects I and our organization have embarked on for the last five years (since year 2009) are self-financed. However, two major things that kept us going were the strong conviction that what we did/do made/makes a difference and the people we are focused on are capable of making positive differences. The same principle may apply to whatever you are into, either as an academic or social entrepreneur, a musician or comedian, an artist or skills professional. Be consistent in what you do. You may learn from another long-term mission of mine, which is the conscious commitment to the consistent creation of value. Wherever you are, be there indeed!

Damola Morenikeji recieving the Productivity Award

Uphold Integrity
Integrity is more than just an attribute we mention when describing the type of leaders we want – within the students’ union, university senate, local, state and federal government and the entire society – Integrity is a key value which other values of accountability, empathy inter alia is dependent. Integrity is the reflection of morality of character in any and every situation. I once learnt from a wise man that integrity commits itself to character over personal gains, to people over things, to principles over conscience and to long-term view over immediate gratification.
Give recognition and show appreciation
Appreciation and genuine recognition matters. That, as I heard and later read is one of the reasons for the rebirth of the award; ‘the University believes that there is always a reward for outstanding performance and such reward will serve to encourage others to emulate those who have previously been recognized’. Taking it beyond official recognition, we can admit, after a deep reflective thought that others have contributed to our current success. The time to show appreciation is ripe. Appreciation begets more. As you walk through the crowd, walk slowly,recognize people’s efforts. Smile, shake hands, listen and truly appreciate the contributions of others on your growth. No man is self made. Everyone is a product of interactions with divinity and others. Robert McNamara, a former President of the World Bank, once said ‘Brains are like hearts – they go where they are appreciated’. Imagine a community where everyone is appreciated, celebrated – not just tolerated – for who they really are. The existence of this community – even within our immediate environment – is achievable.
Build quality networks and bridges
The Heroes day provided another platform to meet, interact and build bridges with others. Have you ever heard that our network is a determinant of our net worth? If we are assessed in terms of social capital – and not financial riches – how wealthy will you be? Everyday presents opportunities to build quality networks with people. Build an effective relationship with God, yourself and others. Don’t call God your father and live like an orphan. Though we may not be influential enough to choose our family – parents and siblings – however, we have the ability to choose our friends. Another wise man once challenged people to evaluate those they spend/invest their time with and decipher those that add more value to them and those that diminish their self esteem. This is not only applicable in business relationships, but also in platonic and other relationships. Decide who your friends are. Don’t be parasitic; invest positively in them too.
Discern the call and step up to the challenge

I would have made a very big mistake if I had taken the recognition and award as an unending call for celebration. Of course, it was, but also more than just a cherished recognition, it is also a call. It is a call to service; a call to stand tall in the face of adversity. For all young people reading this,

it is a call to dream more, think more, grow more and do much more. Don’t emulate the past, be the future. It is a call to build more capacity and positively influence the world within and around us. It is a call to pursue excellence through diligence; to work towards greatness, not just success. It is a call to ask ourselves pertinent questions and give honest answers. The choice is ours to heed this call.

Regardless of anything, be thankful for everything.
This is self explanatory; worry about nothing, be thankful for everything. I have never – and with grace, will never – fall prey of believing that a certain thing is not enough to be thankful for. As I mentioned earlier, appreciation is key. Permit me to set this balls rolling; I appreciate everyone that have been instrumental to my growth, everyone that I have been a blessing to, everyone that heeded to an advise I gave and got positive results. I am also appreciative of you for reading this thus far! Do the same. Love indeed!
Conclusively, productivity may not be a function of acceptance. Continue doing what is right. As young people, we have several responsibilities and rights, the future of our nation – soon – lies on our shoulders. We have to be committed to act as if our every of our action becomes a universal principle, living in respect to our values. The productivity award is a reminder to all young people that we can achieve what has been set out to achieve. Work in accordance to God’s plans for you, act diligently, seek knowledge of who you are and who you can become. In addendum to all we had discussed earlier, I urge you to treat each day with utmost commitment and sincerity. Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and always remember this: for excellence and growth, do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do.
I believe in you!
Leadership Thought

Our Responsibility as Humans

One of our responsibilities as concerned humans is to stir ourselves up to the knowledge of the truth, and stimulate one another to love, helpful deeds and noble activities.
I quite agree that this world doesn’t need more people who are doing what they think they should be doing and staying where they are out of a false sense of obligation. What this world needs is more people who are stepping into their truth, showing up fully in their relationships and work in the world, and people who are joyful, passionate and on purpose’
We can all contribute more to (personal/ #leadership / community / national / global) development by embracing this responsibility.
Let’s unite and take action. We can do MORE!
Growth Leadership Thought

Growth Galley – Be Careful of Your Thoughts [Podcast]

Great day!

It is delighting to welcome you to the Growth Galley. The Growth Galley is a periodic podcast aimed at enriching our collective growth; for us to grow right, lead right and live right.

In this episode, we are exploring the creative and destructive power of thought – depending on which you choose to explore. 

Click HERE to listen.

I will love to read / hear your view. You may comment below, send me a mail or let’s connect via Facebook / Twitter.

Much love,

Damola (@DamolaMore)
Growth Leadership Strategy Thought

Building Productive Habits as an Entrepreneur

Productivity is key as a leader and entrepreneur. I consciously remind myself that it is not just enough to get busy, but to get busy fulfilling purpose – being productive. 
Thoughts on my most productive habit as a social entrepreneur was published, along with that of other ‘successful’ entrepreneurs on IdeaMensch, under the fifth habit in the ‘35 Habits That Successful Entrepreneurs UseTo Get Shit Done.
I agree that to be excellent as an entrepreneur, you need to prioritize your daily activities, make a to-do / not-to-do list, get up early,  read, learn and grow, find your most productive time and focus. The quality of your thought is an important factor is making positive and effective impact on yourself and your environment.
As I shared ‘weaving thoughts, contrasting it with resources at hand, and continually envisioning the effect of its realization though may be tasking, but is much fun’.
Read and learn (and digest) the 35 Habits That Successful Entrepreneurs Use To Get Shit Done’ (
I’ll implore you read, digest and share this post with others within your network. It is worth the time!
Stay productive!
image credit
Leadership Thought

Defining Success as a Leader [Photo]

I agree that #success is not just about what you accomplish / achieve solely in your life, it is also about what you inspire others to do.

One of the best instruments to inspire / influence others positively is your ears and deeds, not only your tongue.

How do you define success?

Let us connect on Twitter and Facebook.