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We caught up with Esosa Aihie the passionate and engaging founder of Nigeria magazine who says that "where there is challenge, there is opportunity". You cannot fail to be as inspired as we were by her focus and drive.
WHAT IS YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE ESOSA?
It's situational. I wouldn’t say it’s something I developed overnight, rather it’s something that I have had to work on & still do. I have had to learn from past mistakes, I have had to learn from people I admire: how they engage with people, how they get good outcomes, how they relate to others. I’ve had to work on who I am as person, accept who I am, my characteristics strengths and weaknesses. I am passionate about what I believe in and I want that passion to come out in what I am doing. So that’s my leadership style.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU WERE A LEADER?
Well I wouldn’t say that I came out and said ‘I am a leader', I have had to work on my short comings and continue to do so. I’ve had to deal with the issues of perception that I observed, such as the challenge of being negatively perceived as a Nigerian and as a woman…I have had to stand up and say: This is me, this is who I am. If I’ve got the skills and the capabilities why not? If I have the reasoning, why can’t I influence or inspire or give advice to make the situation better, rather than just deciding to sit down, give up and accept the status quo, because I am a woman.
HAVE YOU FOUND IT CHALLENGING? IS IT SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK ON EVERY SINGLE DAY LIKE MANY WOMEN IN BUSINESS?
I refuse to have a chip on my shoulder because I am a Nigerian or a woman. I work at ensuring that my leadership style ensures that society will see me as an individual, as a leader, rather than merely labelling me as this person’s daughter, wife or mother but will see that I have a God given purpose on earth. For me it’s about knowing how you can influence good outcomes, influence positivity and being able engage people. So I acknowledge who I am, I also acknowledge that I am unique.
WHICH BEHAVIOURS / QUALITY WOULD YOU LIKE TO DEVELOP OR SEE MORE OF GENERALLY?
We should make more effort to know others and I have been blessed with knowing a lot people from different cultures, different countries and different viewpoints. I have been open to different things. You get more with being open, seeing people for who they are and I believe that the world can be a better place if we do that as leaders, in whatever area we represent: we can get more and be more fulfilled just by looking at people the way they should be looked at. There is this idea of the ‘single story’ and the learning of it is not to look at people narrowly but look at them broadly and you will see the good, the not so good , the humanity… there is no single side to any story. There are different sides to every story and accepting that is how you can inspire, and influence change & if we haven’t got it right before, we need to be working collectively now.
ESOSA YOU RUN ‘NIGERIA MAGAZINE’ HOW DID IT GO FROM BEING A ONE OFF COMMEMORATIVE MAGAZINE TO WHAT IT IS NOW?
As you know Nigeria is a county made up of over 170 million and many of them are leaders, people who are impacting positively on the world: we found that there were people with global vision in every walk of life in the fields of Government, leadership, entertainment, sports, arts and culture We tried to capture all of this in the initial magazine, and our launch event at the Mayor’s office at City Hall London, was very inspiring: the attendees said that the event inspired them, they were inspired by positivity rather than same old negative rhetoric that often overshadows Nigeria. People liked that the focus was on looking at what have we achieved, individually and collectively as a people. So we realised that we had to continue and that is how Nigeria magazine came into existence, and we have been growing and engaging ever since.
YOUR PASSION FOR YOUR MAGAZINE IS VERY EVIDENT ESOSA
Yes, it’s an exciting time for us, we are growing, people are coming on board as contributors, who are ready to share ideas. Readers look at it and see that there is another side to our culture, we are telling our story: we are in a position to inspire, to engage, to convince people to say, yes, we are part and parcel of a very vibrant world, of a continent that is up and running.. Our strap line is "you are your own brand. If you don’t sell you, no one will." So the Magazine is about celebrating our achievements and acknowledging the areas where we could do better, after all every county in the world has challenges..but where there is challenge, there is opportunity.
TELL ME. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ROLE MODELS, AND IF SO WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?
First and foremost God, and I have parents who have instilled in me ‘a can do attitude’... an attitude that says ‘the world is your oyster, and you can do whatever you want to do, as long as you put your mind to it and you work towards it. My father, a very successful businessman, was my mentor. He always saw the potential in people. He empowered his family in his businesses; he was good at delegating and developing people He also empowered people around the community and helped them and their families. So you can imagine some of the business and leadership models I am seeing today, I saw them in the 1970’s & 1980’s,it's easy to take things learnt in this way for granted: But as I reflect on it now, I am who I am today because of the legacy I've had from my parents. I am using the legacy in the way that I drive the business forward. My husband and I run the business together and from the start we knew that we had to seek out expertise whenever we had issues to deal with that are outside our skill set.
DOES ANYTHING ELSE INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS?
Yes, I look at those who are change makers in the world today, people who are navigating successfully the course of business and I am inspired. I am also in a position to inspire that in others so a lot of our contributors, a lot of the people who work with us, learn from us. The kind of model we have is, for them to benefit from our knowledge, we share it . I don’t believe knowledge is something you should try to hold, after all no one can take your knowledge away from you. So….why not share it? If you are able to impart knowledge it’s worthwhile, and it gives you that boost when you realise that you’re contributing to change, and are making a difference to people lives. Ultimately what we don’t know we should try and get from other people because it will make our businesses, our initiatives, our goals, and our vision richer if we are more inclusive. Because there is beauty in diversity, there is success in pulling together rather than acting as one...this is our message to business leaders.
The magazine aims to do the same thing on a larger scale by highlighting things that people would not have thought about. We follow what is trending, we do our story lines, our features are things that will inspire entrepreneurs, students, leaders, and businesses. We are getting feedback from people who are being motivated to think differently, in all sectors and at all levels. .
WITH THE EVENTS THAT HAVE OCCURRED OVER THE PAST 5 YEARS GLOBALLY, WHETHER IT’S POLITICAL UNREST, OR BUSINESSES COLLAPSING WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING LEADERS TODAY ?
For every challenge there is an opportunity. Some leaders will seek opportunities out of challenges, others will only see challenges and nothing else, as a world we have a lot to do, we are not at peace today because leaders don’t have a vision. The bible says ‘when there is no vision people perish’. If leaders could just look beyond themselves and their little agendas and look at the big picture, they would be doing a lot of good for the collective world.... But unfortunately it doesn’t happen because too many leaders focus on ‘I want to be the boss, Now ‘me myself and I’ brings a lot of danger...It’s not just your world, it’s Billions of people’s world as well. So I think that if we know that, then whatever area that we are responsible for we can in small ways make a little change to things.
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN TERMS OF THE GLOBAL CHALLENGES THAT HAVE EMERGED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, WHERE ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES?
Our latest issue, issue 9, one of our headlines is “Nigeria, Africa’s greatest opportunity”. Why? Because Over 60% of the population in Nigeria are young people, the leaders of tomorrow. They are the people who will create wealth, create jobs, who will create advances that will improve the future. Young people are coming out as innovators and creative thinkers, as well as business people who are into enterprise.. all you have to do, is to see where to fit your talent, globally, as there are so many opportunities. I am very optimistic about the future. It’s a good time to be an African.