By Judith Ufford
THE 2013 Access Bank Conference which held in Lagos recently with theme ‘Embracing Sustainable Leadership’ focused on sustainable leadership practice with a view to capturing the essence of exceptional leadership as well as highlighting the expectations and challenges of leadership in today’s very dynamic world.
The conference was not only unique in its focus but a total departure from other such industry-defining conferences previously organised by the bank. Such previous conferences include the “International Conference on Debt and Equity Financing, Access Bank Financial Market Conference and Conference on Stress testing in the financial services sector.”
The 2013 conference which dwelt on leadership processes, practices and issues from a holistic perspective, presented outstanding case studies of exemplary leadership practices undertaken by some of the internationally recognised and accomplished individuals present at the conference.
Discussion on leadership
The conference which seemed like the much awaited opportunity for discussion on leadership in Nigeria, had in attendance accomplished and respectable leaders such as the 43rd President of the United States of America, Mr. George W. Bush, the 23rd President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, former Ghanaian President, John Agyekum Kufuor (2001-2009) and former President of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres (1994-1998).
The leadership reasoning at the gathering was that “with the diversity of the world, we need to understand what it takes to be leaders”.The world leaders also opined that much broader intervention would be required to drive sustainable leadership. This they believe would facilitate nation building initiatives, which is a tacit endorsement of Access Bank’s initiative.
The overriding message by these leaders is,“ government alone cannot succeed much without the support of the private sector for a country to attain sustainable life.
Thus, government and the private sector would need to jointly set a platform for sustainable leadership”. Interestingly, several conference participants were of the view that Access Bank already has an understanding of these salient principles and they guide the operation of the bank.
To this end, Habila Zuguragi, one of the participants from Kigali, Rwanda, noted thus:”Access Bank’s awareness about sustainable business practices, commitment to environment and social development is a demonstration of these defining principles.
The passionate discussion also became emotional when Gbenga Oyebode, said the gathering should acknowledge the transition of a reputable African leader and former President of South Africa, late President Nelson Mandela.
In a tribute to the late African leader, Oyebode said Mandela epitomised the concept of sustainable leadership which was evident in his fight for unity in diversity, resourcefulness and conservatism”. In addition to the attributes identified in late Mandela by Gbenga Oyebode, Sebastian Newbold Coe; British athlete and Olympic Champion and Chairman, London Organising Committee of Olympics and Paralympics, LOCOG, said “My concept of leadership is that people have to be brave and willing to challenge the orthodox; do things differently”.
The conference which was also Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede’s last official outing in the capacity of the Group Managing Director of Access Bank, created avenue for discussion on the effectiveness of leadership transition at the Bank. In the circle of leaders present, the seamlessness of the Bank’s succession planning was adjudged commendable.
Unlike previous practices on CEO appointment and succession in Nigeria, Access Bank’s transition agenda left adequate room for effective handover and assimilation of the institutional strategy.
In spite of the benefit of long years of working relationship between the Bank’s retired Chief Executive Officer, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and the newly appointed Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank did not downplay the need to implement the strategy to the least detail.