The journey begins
In 2017, I decided to switch from managing projects that impacted business operations for nearly five years to working on projects and programmes that directly foster socio-economic development in Nigeria. By this, I applied to a position that necessitated my transfer from the Information Technology Department to Development Finance Department of the apex financial regulatory body of Nigeria. This would be the beginning of my journey in the development sector. Driven by the desire to be more knowledgeable, relevant and effective in my new role, I started scouting for an advanced programme that could help me achieve learning my goals. Through a colleague of mine who was enrolled in a certificate programme with Frankfurt School, I discovered the Master of Leadership in Development Finance programme. Upon review of the well-designed curriculum, I realized it would address my knowledge gap. What’s more, the flexibility of the programme schedule fitted into my work schedule and family commitments, so I immediately applied.
From where I stand today, I am happy with my decision. Recently, I moved up into the international development space – working for a multilateral development bank and will be managing projects across countries – bigger portfolio and responsibility. In summary, I know the future looks even brighter.
Because leadership has become a hot topic in the business world, we are experiencing an avalanche of opinions and writings on its meaning, aspects and application. Overwhelmed by the information overload, I simply relied on some ideas I had harvested from a couple of books I read and my gut feelings.
Participating in the ELWA (Extended Leadership Winter Academy) programme was a life-transforming experience. It shook the foundation of what I perceived leadership to mean, broadened my thinking and helped me gain a better appreciation of the role, challenges and demands from a person in a leadership position. Guided by seasoned faculty members, we dived deep into the various theories and thinking that shaped the body of knowledge on leadership. Also, we explored the different styles, discussed real-life cases and worked in groups to analyze or experiment our key learnings. Then we touched on other reinforcing skills like negotiation, presentation and EQ. From the school environment, the programme planning, teaching methods, skill development exercises/games to extracurricular activities, I would summarize that the ELWA programme was impactful.
For me, the key takeaways were the ideas on improving on my self-leadership and the Full Range of Leadership Model – a framework for calibrating the best-fit leadership style based on key factors like the situation, maturity and diversity of the followers and the personality of the leader. I found this model very relevant as a project manager who relies heavily on people temporarily being pulled together to get work accomplished within a stipulated timeframe. Also, we were provided with a range of tools and resources we could use to continuously develop and assess our capabilities e.g. Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ).
Finally, participating in the ELWA programme was a great opportunity to interact in-person with my interesting classmates. Prior to the programme, we barely knew each other’s name and almost never interacted in the virtual chat room. Today, we have become part of each other’s network and keep up with one another. It is also worthy to note that we are from different countries, covering four continents.