Niyi Adesanya Bridging Leadership Gap With the Gift of the Gab
A few days after the conclusion of the sixth edition of his signature leadership initiative, the Niyi Adesanya Leadership Bootcamp (NALB), founder Niyi Adesanya found himself at Eko Hotels and Suites. Here, one of his protégés hosted a leadership/business conference. Having addressed a cumulative audience of approximately three million, coached over 1,000 executives, and provided training for more than 37,000 corporate professionals spanning mid-level to senior managers, CEOs, and public servants in his career, the conference vividly attests to his impact on the lives of many.
Adesanya requires no formal introduction, being a highly sought-after performance strategist and consultant with an illustrious three-decade career. He has meticulously crafted a reputation that garners the utmost respect from prominent leaders in both government and the corporate sphere. Juggling multiple roles, he serves as a teacher, consultant, author, motivational speaker, and a seasoned business engineering expert. He is also the CEO of FifthGear Plus, a consulting, recruiting, and publishing firm with clients including at least one of the top three organisations in major sectors of the economy.
Through his business and life coaching platform, Adesanya has empowered business owners across diverse sectors to navigate the intricacies of today’s dynamic business landscape. His groundbreaking MACE procedure template, a product of years of leadership management practice, simplifies complexities. As a result, businesses engaging with this methodology have experienced remarkable boosts, with bottom-line increases ranging from 63% to an impressive 313%. Beyond the boardroom, his global influence is evident through captivating keynote addresses that inspire and empower audiences to drive impactful change in their domains.
Adesanya has received prestigious accolades including Nigeria’s Foremost Performance Strategist (Middle East Africa Business Award), and the African Prize for Leadership Excellence. Notably, he earned an Honourary Doctorate Degree in Transformational Leadership from Myles Leadership University, India, and a Professional Fellowship Doctorate from the Institute of Leadership Assessment and Development of Nigeria.
Born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Adesanya enjoyed a privileged childhood shielded from harsh realities. His father’s managerial role at a top auto company required frequent relocations, but circumstances shifted, leading them back to his father’s village, Sagamu in Ogun State. Financial constraints, particularly the inability to afford Adesanya’s WAEC fees, prevented him from attending university. Despite this, he proactively acquired essential knowledge through relevant courses, thoroughly preparing him for his true calling.
Adesanya’s gift of the gab was evinced during his young adulthood.
“I realised that I loved to talk and argue a lot,” he said on a recent afternoon, recalling some of his arguments with his peers in such a way that they doubt their own convictions.
This penchant for articulate discourse led him to embrace public speaking in 1993. Subsequently, he ventured into the religious realm, serving as a pastor under the guidance of Sam Adeyemi, the esteemed founder of Daystar Christian Centre, for eight years. He would later transition into full-time professional speaking, consulting, and coaching. Adesanya credits Prof. Pat Utomi and Azubuike Ishiekwene as some of the influential mentors in his career.
Significant emphasis is placed on transformational leadership in his teachings. His focus is on cultivating leaders who drive positive changes within their spheres of influence. The establishment of NALB stemmed from his commitment to fostering this transformative approach to leadership.
“There was a gap. We don’t have national leaders. We don’t have a Yoruba leader that an Igbo guy can look up to and vice versa. Secondly, we do not have leaders who have the skills. They may know what to do but before you get into the activities of doing, you must first get to that state of being. You must be before you do,” he said.
“Once you become, then it’s easier for you to do,” he continued. “Once you do not become, even if you do, you’ll get hired along the way. Don’t work hard on your job, work hard on yourself. Because if you work hard at your job and get better at your job, the day you leave that specific assignment, and move to somewhere else, you become very useless. But when you work hard on yourself, no matter where they put you in, you will thrive because you know what to look out for. That’s one of the reasons why we decided that we need to change the narrative when it comes to Nigeria.”
Focusing on political leadership within Nigeria, Adesanya highlighted the absence of a national leader since independence, noting that the country has primarily produced ethnic leaders. He emphasised a prevailing lack of clarity regarding the role of a leader and what it entails.
“A leader fixes the road, builds bridges, and is applauded. What do you mean? Fixes a road that has been there or even if he creates a new one, that is not his job. Your job as a leader is to look at where the country or the state or the organisation is going in the next 20 or 25 years. As far as I’m concerned — I think I wrote it in my book — one of the few people that stood out for me amongst all the political leaders in Nigeria is Donald Duke. Duke did not just build roads or bridges. He changed the orientation of a state and made it a tourist attraction. That is a cultural change, not an infrastructural change. Every leader knows that your first assignment is the mindset, the attitude and the culture of the people and that’s where you get the core values.”
For one to be a transformative leader, Adesanya emphasised that cultivating a mindset detached from biases and prejudices is imperative.
“There’s something I call the frame of reference. Everything everybody hears or sees is filtered through the frame of reference. And your frame of reference is your exposure, education, network and your knowledge base. And then your biases and prejudices.”
Adesanya’s aim is to transform NALB into a global pilgrimage for leaders, ensuring it meets international standards and leaves a significant impact. This year, he is planning a Growth Festival for individuals seeking a purpose-driven life.
As our conversation progressed, Adesanya’s passion for sharing knowledge shone through. Our dialogue was enriched with insightful nuggets, including the 1% theory, asserting that at least 1% of any community will thrive in the future, and the importance of prioritising values over materialism. Yet, there was more to it. Adesanya exhibited a subtle yet engaging sense of humour, often using popular colloquialisms to underscore key points. For instance, when questioned about the fear of loneliness, he playfully hummed Afrobeats star Asake’s ‘Lonely at the Top.’
Addressing a common misconception about him, Adesanya clarified that the perception of him being proud is unfounded.
“It depends on where you are coming from. I tell people that it’s only ignorance that mistakes confidence for arrogance. But people around me know that I’m very approachable and accessible. But for you to succeed in life, you will need a bit of arrogance.”
Another misperception is when people characterise him as a transformational speaker rather than a motivational speaker.
“I’m a motivational speaker because the word motivation means movement. So when you say you are a motivational speaker, you are moving people from point A to point B. In other words, there must be improvement in the lives of the people. If there’s not an improvement, then you are just an inspirational speaker because you are only inspiring them,” he clarified.
Reflecting on his three decades on stage, Adesanya attributed his enduring success to his deep love for people.
“I won’t say money because I’m not sure I’ve made that money even if money was the motivator. I will say the love of people, the love of seeing people get better. And then the push. The best news that I hear is when people come back to you and tell you what you said, they utilised it and this is the result. That has actually kept me going.”
Countless stories of success permeate his life, especially in the real estate and tech sectors, where those who benefited from his leadership coaching flood him with messages of appreciation and requests to join their companies. Yet, for Adesanya, true fulfillment lies in witnessing their success, a testament to his authenticity.