Abiola ‘Champ’ Salami is an internationally published author and motivational speaker. Recognized as a Global Young Leader, Salami has coached several young people and business executives across Nigeria, Africa & the United States. He speaks, in this interview, about his journey towards the ‘One Billion Champions Goal’ as well as the CHAMP Xceptional Leadership BootCamp scheduled to hold in December among others.
Abiola ‘Champ’ Salami is a gentleman with a passion to inspire people to rock their world like champions. I’m proudly Nigerian and African and I was raised, bred, buttered in Nigeria and then sold out to Africa and the world to inspire people to rock their world like champions. Everything started with a discovery. And it all started in my penultimate year in the university where I was searching for meaning in life. Prior to that time, I had read many books and had been exposed to many insights and philosophies about life and it all came to one thing for me, that every human being is created for a purpose. In those days, people described me as being multi-talented but I discovered that without a sense of personal leadership, an individual can be multi-talented and multi-confused at the same time. The discovery of purpose led me to understand that I can combine all my gifting towards inspiring other people to think better, do better and live better. That is the entire purpose of CHAMP.
The discovery, that time, led me to a further discovery that I didn’t have the requisite knowledge, skills and relationships for the delivery of the vision, so I had to go through a process. That’s what got me into working in four thriving industries – Non-Governmental Organization, Health Maintenance Organization, Banking and Consulting. And, finally, after nearly a decade of working in these industries, I resumed running full time with The CHAMP Vision on December 1, 2012.
How was starting like?
The beginning days were quite interesting. Most times when you start something new, people don’t pay attention to you. Some think you are wasting time; some don’t even want to hear you speak at all. In fact, someone I have a lot of admiration for at some point said I should go and bring my CV because he thought I was running CHAMP because I was jobless. Why?
There were many people who felt I didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning of the project. You have to choose the right peers and mentors and there is Dr. Christopher Kolade who has been a great source of inspiration for me even when things aren’t going well. Many were sceptical about this new thing that seems not to have a success path – there was no evidence. But these are the things I found: Firstly, you need passion as energy. It works for you when nothing else is working. It’s also what fuels your vision when you are seeing one thing and everyone is seeing something else. So with full passion to inspire and persuade people to rock their world like champions, I went head on into what looked uncertain. It is six years down the line and things are getting better by the day.
By your definition, who is a CHAMPION?
Our working definition of a Champion is any individual that is committed to using his or her competence, character, creativity, courage and compassion to make a positive difference anywhere in the world – family, industry, community. Our own commitment is working with anyone that shows this commitment to develop necessary skills while also providing opportunities for them to deliver the Champion in them to the world. So we fill the gap between desire and delivery of the vision of Champions. With the Champions message, we focus on Workforce Productivity, Women Empowerment and Youth Leadership. And our goal is to have inspired one billion Champions by November 2026.
My exposures abroad
Some years ago, I was invited by the administration of President Barack Obama to the US Consulate Program called IVLP. That exposed me to a lot of lessons in leadership from Educational, Business and Socio-Political Institutions. Two of the Educational institutions that made a huge impact on me were Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio and University of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida.
While I have been tutored closely by the likes of John C. Maxwell, Les Brown & Brian Tracy, I have enjoyed immense mentorship & support from the following people: Dr. Christopher Kolade (CON); Chief Oyekunle Alex-Duduyemi; Mrs. Mosun Belo-Olusoga; Dr. Herbert Wigwe; Mr. John Obaro; Mr. Jimi Awosika; Prof. Pat Utomi; Mr. & Mrs. Udezue and Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa. It is important to note that whatever dream you have, you are the first to step out to pursue it. Even when you have no proof of concept, your passion should be evident enough; and gradually the world will start opening up to embrace your dream. That is how we got here today.
As part of our commitment to inspire one billion Champions, we opened CHAMP City, an inspirational centre in 2017. CHAMP City is the place where, despite your gender, religion, ethnicity, race or political leanings, people can come and learn to rock their world like Champions. Champ City is growing fast and we have training facilities which people make use of and there are up to 15 programs available for those who desire to learn. We also have a free monthly business and career advancement series through which we build the capacity of professionals & entrepreneurs. We leverage our strong network of top professionals from different industries to share experiential knowledge and experience has been phenomenal. So far we have engaged five hundred plus people within a year. And our goal is to have inspired one billion Champions by Monday, November 30, 2026. We started counting in 2016 after we inspired 2.3million across 30 countries; last year we inspired 5million across those countries and, based on our 2018 interim reports, we have inspired 8.25million across 30 countries.
What is ‘You Too Can Be An Xceptional Leader’ about?
‘You Too Can Be An Xceptional Leader’ is my forthcoming book based on the philosophy that for any social entity to experience transformation, everyone that identifies with that entity, should develop competencies in Personal, Visionary & Sustainable Leadership. The foreword is being written by the His Excellency Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (GCON). Some people say leaders are born but we believe anybody can develop these competencies not just to be an ordinary leader but an exceptional leader. It is a book every forward-thinking organization should invest in, to empower their workforce to deliver consistent high performance.
This book will be presented at CHAMP International Business & Leadership BootCamp in December 2018. It is a high profile leadership development program with the theme Xceptional Leadership – Accelerating the Performance OF High Performing Champions. The target audience are high performers within organizations and we will be privileged to have in attendance His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Mrs. Mosun Bello Olusoga, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, MD, Access Bank, Mr. Jimi Awosika and many others that will be on the faculty. It is a two day-program with a lot of learning and fun activities. We will also be celebrating our 10million Champions milestone and 6 Years of CHAMP.
Youths are leaders
I prefer to call every young person an Emerging Leader. Every emerging leader need to have realistic expectations. Because statement like ‘I want to be my own boss’ is good to say but when it comes to the reality of it, it is good to know that everybody has a boss. Hunger can be your boss. At times, responsibilities can also be your boss. What you need to know is to discover what you are supposed to do and the purpose. Then, grow through, sowing seed to benefit other people and no leader should jump up saying ‘I want to start a business.’ First, in the place you are now, how faithful are you? Also know that the things you sow are what you will reap.