Elumelu: Leadership Principles That Took Me To The Top

Yesterday, I was at the National Defence College to speak on Strategic Leadership with Military Officers of the rank of Brigadier Generals and Colonels, senior participants from para-military organisations, and military officers from 16 friendly countries across Africa and Asia.

I shared my experience in applying strategic leadership in my journey so far as a business leader. The creation of Standard Trust Bank and subsequent merger with UBA, the creation of an integrated energy play through Heirs Oil and Gas, and Transcorp and lastly, how we empower young Africans through the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

I also shared the core leadership principles I have applied in our journey to success on these ventures:

1. Strategic leaders must start by setting a purpose and identifying what the goals are for an organisation or a project.

2. Leaders think of the HOW. How will this purpose be executed? How can it come to life?

3. They set clear timelines and milestones to be achieved along the journey to success. Milestones create short term wins and can be a source of encouragement.

4. Strategic leaders must learn to communicate with clarity the purpose of a company or a project. Everyone should be carried along.

Tony Elumelu

5. They know the importance of resources and know how to mobilise people to achieve their goals. This involves emotional intelligence, social intelligence and how to make their people feel like they can walk on water.

6. Strategic leaders create a merit-driven reward system to recognise their people and their results.

7. Strategic leaders think of culture, ethics, ethos, values, and principles – what guides our people and how should we behave as an organisation.

8. Strategic leadership is about replicating oneself as a leader – You must have others who are a better version of yourself. It’s about infusing your DNA in your organisation

9. Lastly, strategic leadership is about building to last, it’s about legacy and most importantly, sustainability. Leaders should identify and work towards the legacy they want to leave behind, keeping in mind that they will not occupy a position forever.

I concluded by speaking about a leader who inspires me, Steve Jobs. He lived a short and impactful life. Long after his death, his company became the first corporation in the world to cross the 1 trillion dollars & subsequently 3 trillion dollars in market capitalisation. That is building to last. This happened because he built with the end in mind, he put in place processes, cultures, people, and principles that stood the test of time. It is in the lack of this that companies have contributed to poverty, misery, and unemployment.


– Tony Elumelu is one of Nigeria’s richest men and chairman of Heirs Holdings

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