The worst time anyone should prepare for an opportunity is when the opportunity is available.
The closer opportunities are to your preparedness the farther your chances of mastering its leadership. When you show expertise on anything, it is because you have spent a significant amount of time on growing your skill and refining your talent in that thing.
Being rich is not the issue, being valuable is the real problem. Value is not determined by the person giving it. It is the person receiving it that determines whether the value is valuable. That is where the problem lies. Getting to solve this problem lies in the dynamism of value provider. This surely comes with experience and unique sellable skills. Value do not jump on the value giver when it is needed, it comes from the place of preparedness and overflow.
Just after the 9/11 historic event in 2001, the US army sent a team of 12 called the Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA) 595 who worked closely with anti-Taliban groups in Afghanistan to deliver a phenomenal victory for the US and most importantly, Afghanistan.
The Captain of the team, Mark Nutsch, was never informed earlier that he would be leading a team to fight a war on horseback. Mark Nutsch never expected he would use horseback riding in battle. Horseback riding was a skill he learned growing up on a Kansas cattle ranch. Most of his team members were novices on horseback but were all experienced soldiers. They had to learn to use the gear and the gun. They were to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban without tanks or trucks. All they had were horses.
In the end, the team recorded a stunning victory that a book was written about the operation – Task Force Dagger – and a movie was released – 12 Strong – in 2018 to further visualise the victory. It is on record that Military planners predicted the victory would take two years. Task Force Dagger did it in three weeks. And the best part? None of the 12-man ODA 595 team members was lost nor seriously injured. According to a narrator, even Al Qaeda considers that as their worse defeat.
Imagine Mark Nutsch, the ODA 595 Commander didn’t know how to fight on horseback. How would he have been a support system for his team? Imagine Mark didn’t grow interest in learning horseback riding while growing up thinking he didn’t need it at that time. If the team would have won – by the slightest fluke and or on the strength of combat experience – they would have lost some of their men.
Business leaders, senior professionals, those ahead of us are willing and making themselves available to help those who are willing to grow.
No matter your age, as long as you are willing to grow, to get better, you will find help. Help can come from anyone, younger or older.
Knowledge is a commodity that you do not have because of your age, you get knowledge because of your state of mind. It is your state of mind that determines the actions you take. Your choices and decisions determine your actions. Your actions create the reality of whom you are to the world.
I once lived in denial thinking my actions didn’t really portray whom I truly was. I thought I was better in my heart and intentions than I, in reality, expressed through my actions.
In one of his leadership development training sessions, Leslie George, the Lead Consultant at Orizon Boon, a leadership development and management consultancy organisation, said,
‘You cannot perform better than you know.’
Taking responsibility for your actions and receiving feedback as a personal development mechanism than an attack on your person, you will expedite your progress by almost 70%.
When you see genuine feedback as a way to grow, your growth will be verifiable and genuine. It will bring about an inside-out transformation that will be felt by those around you. Each of your step in growth will mean a step higher in value. The more people see you as value in any way or at any level, the more they naturally gravitate towards you.
You have no enduring value until you have grown your person. It is the person you are that holds the knowledge you have and helps you transform it into any form of value desired. Whether perceived or real.
It is also great to note that part of what validates your growth is knowing what is good for you per time. Usually, especially in this age and time, we are loaded with information everywhere we turn. The truth is, it is not all you read that is valuable to you. You must grow enough to know the difference between entertainment and education.
Spend more time educating yourself than entertaining yourself. When you find this balance, your life will balance. Your growth will be steady and meaningful.
Choose your learning wisely. Grow strategically and favour order of importance. Do not embrace a zigzag progression. It will cost you unnecessary time, efforts and money.
As a fresh graduate, I made some wrong course decisions for growth and positioning which greatly impacted negatively on my career as a Communication/PR, Relationship Management and Leadership Development professional. My choice of certificate courses then was triggered by my desire to get a job after graduating from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). My experiences after graduation exposed my mindset. I realised I had to make a change.
That was after about 7 years into my career. During this experience, I realised one great truth.
Survival instinct has the potential of stripping an individual of destiny.
As much as there is information overload on the internet, you must also have a metering system to measure what is important to you per time. There are very garmain skills and knowledge any growing professional must have. To get this straightened out, you have to check the industry or profession within which you practice and look for courses that will increase your value, speed up your growth and take you higher up the corporate or industry ladder.
As a case in point, you might want to consider taking a Mini-MBA – an abridged, carefully curated version of the regular professional MBA programme that is highly affordable. A great place to get that is at Tekedia Institute, coordinated by Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe. I am presently taking the course at Tekedia Institute and so far, it has been really educative and helpful especially in having a good understanding of the market matrices and have what it takes to navigate the entrepreneurial journey to the finish line of success and continuity. It is not enough to call your company a Start-up. Your ability to grow that Start-up into a category-king is the differentiating factor.
There’s one tool that every professional must have in the toolkit. That is leadership capability. Professionals must grow and learn to first lead themselves and then grow others around them. Without leadership capability, no professional can get to the peak of his/her career.
You know why? A leader is a combination of these three things –
- Soft Skills
- Hard or Technical Skills
Whoever masters these three will end up a successful leader either as an employee or entrepreneur. Do not be deceived, employees too are great and successful leaders. Do not buy the lie that you must be an entrepreneur before you can be called a leader. This is another reason professionals must learn leadership.
You can never lead better than you know how to lead. This is an undeniable truth. Straight forward and very simple at that.
I sat under Leslie George for six months learning leadership through his quarterly online Leadership Development Programme where I learnt so much that I was able to train a set of Senior Civil Servants, gathered from across many states of Nigeria. The feedback from my training sessions was such that was not common in the history of the Ibadan Business School where the training took place.
For the purpose of quick interjection with a sharp consciousness of the subject matter in focus, let me kindly remind you that nobody succeeds in isolation. Do not forget that for a second. I made this infix because it has a lot to do with this subject as I do not want to break this article into Part 1 and 2. So enjoy!
Many business owners and professionals think that they are self-made successes or as often touted, self-made millionaires. It is a big lie and nothing can be higher than that highest degree of corporate or professional deception. No single person becomes a success in isolation. True leaders know this fact. They live by it too and this helps them drop their egos and acknowledge the inputs of everyone that contributed to their successes.
Niyi Adesanya favours this bias as he firmly states that the people you move with or ‘glue’ yourself to determine how far you achieve success in life.
No marverick underdog succeeds alone. There are solid relationships backing the underdog up. There is usually somewhat impenetrable volunteer system holding the person up and sponsoring his/her cause. Sometimes, sponsors or senior solicitors or volunteers gift you their Networks, time and support regardless of what you do or don’t do.
That is the power of learning and growing a very strong relationship building and management system. This is a signature of true leaders. Relationship Management skills do not jump on anyone. It takes time, patience, conscious commitment to increasing your own value, becoming a person of strong and verifiable trustworthiness etc.
A Yoruba proverb accurately cements my point.
Ori nii mu ni joba, iwa nii yo ni loye’ (Destiny or fate bestows on one kingship or leadership. It is character that strips one of honour)
It is your duty as a beneficiary to find ways of adding value to those who would do anything honourable and legitimate to see you succeed. Being result-oriented, technically savvy, committed to a legitimate cause or a person of integrity is a value to those you desire to meet. Always remember that. Being technically savvy simply means you know how to do what you claim you can do very well.
Now, the question is How do you create these relationships?
How do you lead yourself first so you can attract these ‘eyes’ as Olakunle Soriyan, the Connector and Futurist, would call them?
To blend the flow of where I started from with the interjection, let me tell you a short story about my personal experience which happened in June 2021.
If anyone had told me in January 2021 that I would be facilitating a group of Senior Civil Servants, gathered from across Nigeria at the Ibadan Business School, I would have doubted it. Not because I did not have the potential to do so, it was because I wasn’t prepared for it knowledge-wise.
I sat under Leslie George’s mentorship on Leadership Development for 6 months and the Taofik Sanni of January was no longer the Taofik Sanni of June 2021. I enrolled for the course not because I had a job that required that knowledge to succeed at hand but because I was preparing myself for opportunities to come. I did not even have a clue that I would be training a set of mixed-age group of Senior Civil Servants.
In June, I got a referral for a leadership training opportunity and I saw an avenue to unleash the Giant in me. To express in the public the leadership skills I had developed in the secret. There are things I have been learning and molding myself to become.
That platform was my opportunity for expression. And at the end of the first day of the training, the learners, remember, they were all Senior Civil Servants, Directors etc, unanimously requested that I come again the next day to continue my session with them.
This feedback was a pleasant surprise for the Deputy Chief Consultant of the Ibadan Business School, who told me that such requests almost do not come to them so I should consider their request.
I agreed at my own sacrifice. The next morning, we went for almost another 2 hours discussing leadership development for achieving results.
The truth is, if I had not developed myself before that opportunity came, I wouldn’t have been qualified, by competence, to perform excellently well the way I did.
The story didn’t end there.
A quintessential academic cum professional, Dr. Dotun Moses Jegede, had had series of online encounters with me so much that he trusted me with that opportunity that he recommended me to facilitate that training to another Dr. friend and colleague of his who had the direct contact with the Ibadan Business School. Can you see where relationship is playing its own part in accelerating the growth of a professional before competence can be proven?
To further seal the point in your memory dear friend, on the 24th day of June 2021, the DCC of IBS called me to help her with a referral to facilitate a leadership development training session who would train participants in a far location from where I was because they needed to cut the cost of long distance travel.
The lesson here is that, if I hadn’t done exceptionally well when I had my training in Ibadan, she wouldn’t have had me in mind for further discussions.
Dear friends, do not wait until an opportunity for growth comes before you grow your capacity through learning a new skill or upgrading your knowledge.