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Leaders Talk Leadership



Editor:            Meredith Ashby and Stephen Miles

Publisher:        Oxford University Press, Inc

Reviewer:        Goke Ilesanmi

Leadership, they say, is key to everything. That is why we are reviewing this book entitled ‘Leaders Talk Leadership’ with the subtitle ‘Top Executives Speak Their Mind’ this week. It is edited by Meredith Ashby and Stephen Miles, business analysts at Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc, the world’s premier executive search and leadership services consulting firm.

Ashby and Miles work with the firm’s Vice Chairman of board services to deliver cutting-edge thought leadership on topics such as governance and human capital to clients worldwide.

Additionally, Ashby is a business development specialist in the firm’s office of the Chairmen and Miles is involved in the firm’s leadership services practice.

These editors ask the questions of what gives companies the competitive advantage? How do CEOs lead in times of crisis or instability? Why do some companies identify, attract, develop and retain their best and brightest talent? Ashby and Miles illuminate that these are some of the questions that they wanted to answer as they conducted interviews with hundreds of CEOs, senior managers, financiers, academics and leadership and management experts.

These editors submit that production of this text was as a result of their unprecedented efforts, adding that this text contains strategies of men and women who have proven credentials as leaders time and again. Some of these leaders are Ken Chenault of American Express; Steve Reinemund of PepsiCo; Ken Lewis of Bank of America; Michael Dell of Dell Computer, etc.

Ashby and Miles stress that all these corporate leaders make clear, some of the world’s most respected, value-driven companies deriving an ever-increasing part of their valuations from the collective power of their intangible assets: brands, partners, intellectual property and people.

These editors say an overarching theme that emerges again and again is that the greatest single asset of any organisation is its human capital, the people with a vested interest in the business, to whom the business must in turn show a similar commitment in order to remain competitive.

They educate that from innovative and aggressive recruiting to progressive executive development programmes to creating developmental opportunities for promoting executives and to the challenging task of retaining highly-talented, motivated and productive teams, chief executives today face the daunting task of creating an environment in which people want to, and can, perform at the highest levels of their potential.

Ashby and Miles illuminate that those CEOs that have not questioned whether their companies are attracting, developing and retaining good people simply are not doing their company and the stakeholders justice. They assert that creative and influential leadership is the foundation of all great companies. They say this text taps into the collective wisdom of an unparalleled group of highly accomplished leaders and distills this wisdom into succinct essays.

As far as structure is concerned, this text is segmented into five chapters. Chapter one entitled ‘Leadership’is contributed by John Thompson, Vice Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles International. According to Thompson here, “Part of the soft skill set for leaders today is agility. Decisions need to be made quickly, and teams have to be pulled together quickly. This requires extreme agility, and not many people are blessed with it. In fact, the reason that many CEOs and division Presidents fail is that they cannot respond quickly enough to changing market conditions. In addition to decisiveness and agility, there are basically three skills that are predictors for success. First, there is capacity. Capacity comes in many forms: innately, it is your knowledge and basic intellect…. Capacity also encompasses the experiences, both positive and negative, that teach and train you how to manage and how to handle the circumstances you encounter as a senior executive.”

This contributor says the second key soft skill that successful leaders possess is motivation. He stresses that successful leaders have a passion for building teams and organisations. Motivation is something you can help people with by giving incentives, but it is not a definitive skill that can be acquired through training, submits Thompson. He says unlike capacity, you either have motivation or not.

Thompson asserts that the final skill we probably look for most of all in leaders is authenticity. According to him, “Everyone talks about, but the fact is that an infinitesimally small percentage of the population are universally acknowledged to possess that quality…. An authentic, charismatic business leader is someone who is consistent and not a sort of chameleon, changing colours for certain groups.”

Chapter two is based on the subject matter of managing human capital and is written by John Hagel, a business consultant and author. Here, Hagel says the three trends converging that explain the abundant demand for qualified talent today are: performance demands on business are increasing; surplus is shifting from a structural advantage to a human capital advantage and shortages in key skill sets/experience become the bottleneck to value creation.

Chapter three is entitled ‘Establishing competitive advantage in today’s market environment’ and is contributed by Orit Gadiesh, chairman, Bain & Company. According to Gadiesh, “Establishing a competitive advantage is vital to every leader’s agenda. A competitive advantage is defined by a company’s unique offer to specific customer segments, based on its position or capabilities that are superior to its competitors’. In order to be successful, a firm needs to communicate that advantage very simply to all stakeholders.”

Chapter four focuses on strategic change and transformation is written by Elspeth Murray and Peter Richardson, professors of Strategic Management, School of Business, Queen’s University and Stephen Miles, a business analyst with Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc.

Chapter five is entitled ‘The stakeholder’s view’ and contributed by Stuart Francis, MD and head of global technology investment banking, Lehman Brothers.

Conceptually, this text is excellent. As regards style, it is an embodiment of success in that it maintains brilliant unification of stylistic variety. This is expected given that the chapters are written by different intelligent contributors and edited by Ashby and Miles, two brilliant editors.

What’s more, the title of this is short, simple, yet assertive.However, an error is noticed on page 11 thus, “Decisions need to made quickly, and teams have to be pulled together quickly” instead of “Decisions need to be made quickly, and teams have to be pulled together quickly.”

On the whole, the text is excellent. It is a must-read for those who want to be great leaders.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08056030424; 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: [email protected]


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NASENI lauds Gov. Idris for allocating land for Agric. Institute construction



The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, (NASENI), has commended Gov. Nasir Idris of Kebbi for donating 10 hectares of land to the agency for the construction of an Agricultural Machinery Development Institute in the state.
The Director of Procurement of the Agency, Dr Muhammad Aliyu, gave the commendation after formal allocation of the land to  NASENI by officials of state government on Sunday in Birnin Kebbi.
Aliyu, who thanked Idris for providing the land at a choice area, explained that the  project would commence within the next two weeks.
H e assured that all engineering, architectural, civil and electrical designs had been completed.
”We have the bill of quantity ready and every approval needed from the government for the project has been obtained,” he said.
The director affirmed that funding for the project had been captured in the 2024 appropriation bill already assented to by  President Bola Tinubu.
”We will start with what we can accommodate this year and we will continue next year.
“We have funds to begin the basic infrastructural construction,” he assured.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, Alhaji Dahiru Zaki, who led other state government officials to hand over the 10 hectares of land to NASENI, explained that the land was earmarked for the agency in 2022 for the construction of the agricultural machinery center.
”The machinery center is to serve as a Regional Office for the production of agricultural equipment and we are happy that today, we have handed over the land to NASENI.
“I believe that Kebbi was selected in the North-West region because of its huge potentials in agriculture, particularly rice production and other crops,” he said.
Zaki expressed appreciation for the governor’s  kind gesture to the agency, tailored to provide job opportunities to youths and further bolster agricultural production in the state.
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Lassa Fever outbreak at Army Hospital sparks response 



The recent outbreak of Lassa fever at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, prompted a collaborative response with Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) and Federal Ministry of Health.

Prof. Reuben Eifediyi, Chief Medical Director, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, and lead of the response team, said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), confirmed that Lassa Fever was responsible for the death of three health workers and one patient at the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, (44 NARHK).

Four of the six blood samples from suspected cases at the hospital sent to the Bayero University Teaching Hospital, Kano, were confirmed for Lassa Fever.

While 25 close contacts of all the cases were being monitored and were placed on prophylactics (preventive medication). 

Eifediyi said that the outbreak resulted in the deployment of a specialised emergency response team, which was made up of experts in Lassa fever management and infection prevention.

He said that though there were initial challenges, including inadequate resources and staffing, the response team successfully contained the outbreak through real-time laboratory testing, isolation, and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Real-time PCR testing was conducted, leading to the identification and treatment of confirmed cases.

“Three confirmed cases were successfully treated and discharged, with no further fatalities, “ he said.

He said that the incident underscored the importance of effective partnerships and rapid mobilisation of expertise in addressing public health emergencies.

He said that health workers at the hospital went through training on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), measures.

He recommended structural improvement, staffing, training, equipment provision, and hygienic measures.

He also made recommendations for capacity building and the establishment of a biosafety molecular laboratory at the hospital.

 Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated by infected rodents or contaminated persons.

Its symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, chest pain.

In severe case, there are unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and other body openings.

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Why some airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace – NAMA



Many airlines are avoiding Nigeria’s airspace because of difficulties encountered in communication with air traffic controllers, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) confirmed on Sunday in Lagos.

Its Managing Director, Mr Farouk Umar, told newsmen at Ikeja that the agency was consequently eyeing more investments to rejuvenate the communication systems to match emerging air traffic trends.

He explained that there was the need to improve the weak communication system, which had been demand-saturated as the industry grew and more routes were opened.

He said huge investments were required of the Federal Government as more routes opened needing more stations to have signals to cover the entire country.

He added that the presidency recently budgeted N40 billion to address some of the issues at the airports, but the money had not been accessed.

Umar assured that as soon as money was made available, the agency would tackle critical safety challenges at the various airports.

“The entire communication network has been re-designed to ensure that every blind spot is covered because if one system fails today, air traffic controllers would not notice.

“We realised also that our radios are working well and well-positioned and we have addressed the challenges we met on ground, but then, we are still having issues.

“The issues have nothing to do with our radios, but with electricity supply which had been a national challenge that government had been working assiduously to fix.

“We have decided to deploy solar energy to some of our facilities to complement electricity supply from the national grid and from generators so that they can function well,’’ he said.

Umar noted that the International Civil Aviation Organisation frowned at even a second’s blackout at any airport and Nigeria could not afford to flout the regulation.

“For an average electronic system, the lifespan is about 10 years. Most of the communications electronics at the airports have been working for the past 15 years to 20 years. Their performance would be below standard, expectedly.

“We are replacing some of the equipment and we have done almost 80 per cent. The contractors are still working, however,’’ he assured.

Umar also told newsmen that Terminal Control Centres (TRACON) were still having challenges because since 2014, there had not been enough spare parts to fix the obsolete equipment there.

“The Federal Government has approved the modernisation of the TRACON system. 15 per cent of the fund has been paid and we are hopeful that more installations will start soon.

“We are also hopeful that at the end of it all, the system will go back to optimal performance,’’ he said.

Umar lamented that NAMA had been charging airlines N11,000 as navigation fee per flight since 2008 when fares for local flights were N16,000, whereas airfares had risen to N150,000.

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