One of my very first assignments as a Masters Student was to (from my own perspective) critically review what it takes to be a good leader. It was quite interesting especially as my view and that of most of my classmates were in the same vein as similar as much they were different. Since then, I’ve been curious to know what exactly is the best leadership style for a businessman in Nigeria and who may just be the right role model. One mogul that I find fascinating by his leaderships style is Mike Adenuga.
Mike Adenuga is by far one of the Riches business men in Africa. Named amongst forbes richest men in the world, his businesses span various sectors of our economy. Telecoms, Oil and Gas, Banking just to name a few. It’s difficult to accurately estimate his worth as is companies are mostly unquoted, but Forbes recently named him amongst the worlds richest and estimated his worth at about $2b.Basically his success as a business man is unquestionable. But can we say that of his leadership style?
From what I hear, he expects the best from his employees, often pushing them to extreme heights just to get maximum results. But then, thats pretty normal as every boss demands that. What then makes him different I asked? For a man who controls investments worth billions of dollars and mostly unquoted, there has got to be something different about him.
Maybe some stories can help put this into better perspective. There was once this story about Mike Adenuga driving past Adeola Odeku very late one night. As he drove by he noticed one of the halogen lamps that illuminates one of the premises of his bank was off. Chairman as he is popularly called doesn’t take lapses like that likely and so the bank manager who was fast asleep at the time was given “a wake up call”. According to the story, it was about 2am in the night, when the call from Chairman hit him. The boss simply told him he was driving past the bank and observed the light bulbs were off. He informed the beleaguered manager that he was likely to drive past the bank at about 5am and would be pleased to see the lights back on. The manager was now clearly awake and considering securing his job more important than his own personal security that promptly got up and scampered in search for a light bulb. As expected Chairman did call at 5am and noted his obedience amidst sacrifice. That’s a man who knows how to make his staff know just how important keeping their job is.
There was this other story of a presentation to the Chairman by a team in one of his numerous departments. Amongst the group was this young man who was one of the few or is it many with a foreign degree. An enthusiastic young fellow buzzing with so much ideas his colleagues envied him. Alas he was presented with an opportunity to impress the Chairman. It was a presentation that involved proffering solutions to a lingering problem. Sometime during the meeting, he suddenly saw an opportunity to impress. As a sharp guy, he couldn’t let that opportunity blow past him as he promptly told the Chairman he had a ‘brilliant idea’ that could earn the company more revenues. Chairman’s reply was gentle but yet astute. ‘Please sir, keep your ideas to yourself. Your job is not to give me ideas. May I remind you sir, that you were hired to proffer solutions and not ideas to drive my business. If you have ideas Sir, you wouldn’t be working for me. You should be in your own business’. The young man had over estimated his prowess. That’s chairman for you. He humbles you and reminds you you must crawl before you start walking.
You know how stories go when they get retold. Its usually not exactly as it happened but then you still can figure out a pattern of truth in them. Another such story was some guys who had worked day and night to ensure one of the most prestigious and popular sports award show was taking place. It was the first time Glo was assuming sponsorship of the awards. As such, the guys worked extra had to make sure things went well. All hands was on deck as they say. Hospitality, warmness and pride was on display. The hardworking and beautiful girls who ushered at the show didn’t relent either. They stood for the length of the show and ensured everyone had a smile on their face. Such was their beauty. At the end of the show they danced to the lovely sounds of the guest DJ. The other guys off course kept working hard long after the awards had been won and presented. Chairman was impressed with everyone. The show was a huge success and even his guest acknowledged it. The girls kept dancing and only stopped when they were informed that they had a message from the Chairman. He had given the girls N1m each for their outstanding display of hospitality and entertainment. Some said they were 10 some 8 some12 in number. Whatever number you choose, some girls just earned N1m. Chairman rewards the under dogs. Just when you think you aren’t been noticed wham! He surprises you. What other motivating factor does one need from a leader? Mike Adenuga is also well known for his generosity. One day he recognised an employee of his who had been with one of his companies for about a decade. From a salary of N6m he automatically got it doubled. He never forgets you, NEVER!
There are also stories about late night meetings. Senior Managers, General Managers all had to justify their fat salaries. Presentations were a norm especially at night. Some have appointments deep into the early morning hours of the night after waiting for between5 to 10hours. He teaches you to patient.
Mike Adenuga is also known for his knack to keep his best staff. Ex employees who know their onions always talk about how difficult it is to leave. In most occasions he calls them back offering even more money. He wont allow his best brains go to a rival company. The determination to get them back is such that most who don’t come back end up with a whole new set of contact details just to avoid picking his calls. People also talk about the disparity and imbalance in the payroll structure of his companies. Two staffs on the same level within the organisation can atimes end up earning salaries that are glaringly wide apart. One might be earning N5m per annum whilst the other N10m per annum. Yet they are both on the same level. Doesn’t all this portray a man who values his human capital?
There are stories of how he groomed his kids to become apparent heirs to his vast investments. In fact his stories are too numerous to mention and are stuffs made for legend. People view leadership in various forms mostly theoretically or from the perspective of an American or European. This is one of our own who has been at the top Of management for over 3 decades. For me his leadership style may just be the right recipe or isn’t it?