How Entrepreneurial Leadership Has Changed My Mindset

By Gloria Iyke
Leadership for me, can be broken down into two words; LEADER and SHIP. A leader is someone who is designed and appointed to direct a group of people to achieve a set goal. In a particular context, I would want to say a ship can be described as a structure carrying opinions and ideas of people. Combining these two terms, I have come to the conclusion that leadership is an act of collating visions and ideas from a group of people to achieve a set goal. This definition ultimately boils down to the knowledge I have gotten from the Entrepreneurial Leadership programme. My definition of leadership before Elizade University was simply an act of guiding a particular group of people. I did not necessarily take into consideration that a leader gathers information from his or her subordinates. I mean, I was of the opinion that a leader dictates and directs rather than have a sit down with whoever he or she works with and rub minds to succeed.

The position of a leader has always been a path I have treaded on for as long as I can remember. Starting off when I was in my final year of primary school, Jelly-Las Nursery/Primary School, I was appointed the Head Girl. But, I mean, at the age of 9, I never really understood what that position entailed. It was more of a ‘go and represent the school in this competition’ kind of role I played. I barely understood the depth of the position I was assigned. Getting into high school, Eyes On The Future High School, I started gaining more knowledge on what the role requires. I was made a prefect twice during my course of study. One being the position of the Library prefect in Year 10 and the other being the position of the Assistant Sports prefect in Year 11. I had just started to get acquainted with my duty as a leader.  I had to get used to being able to respond to my school authorities when I am called upon to represent the school in sports, arts and educational competitions. The only difference between my primary and secondary leadership skill would be the unique fact that there was a certain level of maturity I had attained. Fast forward to my final year in High school, Year 12, it was totally a whole new dimension. I was appointed the position of the President of the Junior Engineering Technical Society’s (JETS) club. I started to learn how to take responsibility, to be able to gather my fellow members to weekly meetings, plan projects and experiments, follow up and monitor the work rate of other heads (like Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer etc.) within the club, meet up and brainstorm with my tutors on how to improve the club. Then, my first year in the

University really helped me in discovering and opening my mind to certain knowledge which I had never come across before. Taking the Entrepreneurial Leadership course has been totally helpful. I mean, I have been able to understand that successful leaders are not self-centered, bullish, proud or boastful because of their position, rather, they are humble, selfless and always ready to learn. They choose excellence in all they do. I have been privileged to be placed in the position of a leader during my time here. I have been appointed course representative for quite a number of courses. Also, during the course of my Entrepreneurial Leadership programme, I have been assigned to lead my peer group by my group members. The experience has been a great learning curve. From gathering everyone for group meetings, having to deal with the ones who are not totally technology inclined, learning to have patience as a virtue, knowing that I may not be totally and 100% right and that I need to gain facts from my group members, learning to apply critical thinking in all we are designated to do and finally, accepting the fact that failure is all part of the process. I would point out two important mental models which have shaped the leader I am today. One would be my drive to chase excellence at all costs and the second, having empathy for others. I have grown to be able to put myself in the shoes of others. I imagine I am passing through the circumstances that they are going through. I have learnt to stop jumping into conclusions and also not letting the perception of people towards others define my perception about them. I have various passions but I am going to list the ones that matter most to me at this point in my life.

They are:

  • To create the first submarine automobile.
  • Track and field events.
  • Attending Church services.
  • Travelling the world.

My utmost passion is to create the first submarine automobile. This is because I have recently witnessed some bad effects of flooding. In short, I have actually been affected by it. I have seen all the problems floods have caused in my environment and I definitely want to offer a helping hand to limit its dangers. I am currently studying Automotive Engineering and I am certain it would provide me with the necessary knowledge to achieve this goal. I have started making rough sketches, constructing a prototype of what I actually want the automobile to look like and as I am advancing in my course, I would learn and research more on the structure and possibility of my sketches coming to life. I have had a thorough assessment of my life and currently I have discovered important values in myself. Integrity, honesty, humility, productivity, respect, encouragement, dedication, determination and control; just to name a few really. But why these values?

I chose these values because they are the first characteristics you notice in me. I would call them my “CORE VALUES” and core because they are very important to me. Starting with integrity. I would describe it as a state of having really strong moral principles. It is so important to me because there is a mindset I have that if I do not possess it, I am an automatic turn-off. Now, I want to relate integrity with honesty. I have learnt overtime that if I say I have integrity, I must be honest. There are literally no two ways about it. Honesty is simply being completely truthful. In all I do, my friends even know this for a fact; I hate to lie. The truth hurts many times and as the scholars say, it is bitter, but lying is a thousand times worse. I have learnt that honesty breeds trust and for me to succeed, gaining the trust of my subordinates is top priority. Who would sanely want to work with someone untrustworthy? Talking about humility, it is a state of taking up the position of a servant when ultimately you are to be treated as a master. I have discovered that to be a successful leader, I must detest pride because its dead end is a massive fall. I mean, I have the mindset that we humans are all equal so why should I treat my fellow human like trash because I have been assigned a position of power? It is illogical. I believe respect is a very crucial ingredient to succeeding as a leader. It is giving honor and regard to something or someone. Respect is earned. I have learnt that it is how I carry myself that would influence my members to respect me. First, I must lead by example. I have thought about it and come to a conclusion that the following categories of people deserve my respect:

  • Those that are in a higher position of authority than I am.
  • Those who are on the same level of authority as myself.
  • Those who I am in a higher position than.

In summary, it is paramount I respect everybody without discrimination or favoritism. Encouragement now is an act of giving someone hope, confidence, support. It yields belief. That is the meaning of the “B” in the “BUILD” model. To succeed, I must always show I believe in the project. The truth is, I know there would be challenging and trying times when working, I may get some “Would this still work?”, “Am I really sure about carrying on with this?” This is the moment I would sit up and encourage my team members. I always say it and I stand by it, I am an optimist. I do not believe anything is impossible. I believe there is always a way. The factors in my environment can be overwhelming at times but I like to see the good in everything so I always give my team a 101% support and I am always happy to inspire them. I have this saying I coined while in my darkest moment and it is: “Life is a race, there would be hurdles but it is up to me to see those hurdles as barriers and give up or rather see them as structures I can jump over and keep going.” Finally, productivity. Productivity simply put is being efficient. It is me putting total effort in the project. I mean I can be over demanding sometimes in order to achieve success. My friends literally say “I over do.” and that is just me really. Putting in maximum labour in everything I am doing. I am a go go-hard-or-go-home kind of person. Maximum efforts or nothing. A go-getter. If I have to make practical decisions, these values are going to be applied in my life because I believe they can attract a positive perception of me from my audience. I mean no one wants to listen to a dishonest, unproductive, proud, divided, disrespectful person speak talk more of trying to work with them.

I learnt to lead myself basically by picking up my faults, taking the criticism I get and trying to work on my bad habits to become a better version of myself. Yes, we humans are not all perfect but I feel I should be principled. I constantly ask my friends questions like “What do you think I am doing wrong?” “What characteristic do I possess that you do not sit well with?” I mean I even conduct surveys with google forms for my friends just to find ways to work on myself. I came to that approach to leading because I discovered that successful leaders look for ways to improve themselves and their leadership patterns daily. Change they say is constant. Overtime, I have also learnt to be selfless. My ability to deny myself and focus on others to make sure everyone around me is comfortable first before I seek to satisfy myself. That for me is the main characteristic of my leadership approach. This is solely because of the virtues I have seen my mentors display; Dr Ben Carson and Nelson Mandela, their selfless service towards humanity. Ben Carson, had a passion. Despite coming from a broken home, being an object of mockery, he made up his mind to succeed no matter the cost. Upon succeeding, he became one of the best neurosurgeons to exist and then used that knowledge to travel worldwide to separate Siamese twins. Reading his books have really helped in shaping my leadership approach. Nelson Mandela, for me, is one of the greatest servant leaders the world has ever witnessed. He fought for South Africa so selflessly. I mean he went to prison for his country! Such empathy. This is primarily why I have come to terms that my unique leadership style is the combination of a Transformational and Servant Leadership. I would say it is the willingness to serve my people and at the same time work together with them to inspire change. I plan to utilise it by applying features of both leadership styles to shape up the ultimate leader I am becoming.

My core purpose applies to my field of study, Automotive Engineering. I want to improve the automotive industry in Nigeria through the creation of the first Submarine automobile using construction and drawing. This is a mission I am desperate to achieve because every day I want to provide a lasting solution to the problem of restriction of movement caused by flooding in Nigeria. Lagos where I reside, is a water logged state. I know for a fact that during the wet season, a lot of places here get affected by floods because some places are still developing. This has become quite an alarming issue because day-to-day set goals cannot be achieved. Floods generally, damages properties, restricts movements and in extreme situations can cause loss of lives. It would be my top priority in life to create a structure that conveys citizens during these times. I want to inspire change.

My next step is to be that Engineer I have always dreamed of and the only way that would happen would be by hard work, God’s grace and more hard work. I need to work extremely hard, burn my midnight candles and aim for the top. Yes, it may seem overwhelming sometimes but every gold has to go through fire. I can do it if I set my mind to achieve it. Success is not a day’s job. I want to study to attain a doctorate degree in the field. It is my dream to become the first female automotive engineer to own an automobile manufacturing company in Nigeria. I want to leave a lasting legacy for the future generation to come.

I am challenging myself to determine if this plan is right by weighing my options. Reviewing the costs of starting up a manufacturing company, relating my ideas with citizens affected by these situations on how I plan to solve this problem, listening to their opinions on the possibility of achieving success with this plan, understanding that there may contrary opinions which I have to take into consideration before I come to a final conclusion. I am generally going to be using the BUILD model to determine if my plan is right and ready for the general public. I will definitely revisit this Leadership Map yearly to see how much progress I have made. This map would be a motivation for me to PUSH. I would hold myself accountable to it by having a review at the end of the year, reflecting on how far I have come and criticizing myself where I have defaulted. I would also come to it in my low moments when I am feeling overwhelmed or exasperated by some life situations. After praying and leaving it to God, I would come back to this to say, really “What do I want?”, “Should I let this situation overwhelm me or should I keep going?” It would be a constant guide and inspiration for me to succeed and strive for excellence if I want to be what I have always set my mind to be from the start.

This reflection was written by Gloria Iyke, a student at Elizade University as part of the requirements for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program delivered by The Afara Initiative

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