By Ebunoluwa Sessou

Professor Princess Halliday is a TV personality, professor of ethics, leadership ambassador, talk show host, trained petroleum engineer, communications expert, motivational speaker and occasional actress.

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She is the founder of the Empower Africa Initiative. She is also the host and executive producer of The Princess Halliday Show, which airs across 48 African countries including Nigeria.

She hails from Bonny Island in Rivers State, Nigeria; her mother is from the Halliday Awusa and quot; King Halliday and quot; House of the Kingdom of Bonny, making her a Princess by birth. She is a multi-lingual broadcaster and today, she has earned several degrees in leadership.

Her focus on addressing the seemingly increasing barriers to leadership, business and investment in Nigeria and proffering solutions through which these can be strengthened is palpable. In recognition of her work in diverse fields, she has received a number of laurels, including being recognized by the International Commonwealth platform in London for her exemplary leadership.

Her passion for showcasing the positive and her uncanny ability to lead authentically with emotional intelligence and communicate with empathy has solidified her as one of the young female authentic voices in the world. The Canadian federal government recently honored her with the Outstanding Leadership award to Africa in London, November 2016.

In this interview, she speaks on her outstanding expertise in demonstrating leadership principles embodied in nurturing the next generation of leaders.

Tell us about Halliday and the leadership philosophy

In 2017, I commenced work on the World African Women Leadership Conference, committed to ensuring women in leadership positions are strengthened to lead authentically while ensuring young girls receive educational opportunities, leadership development and mentoring support needed to be authentic leaders.

I am aware that people can hardly correlate a beautiful lady to leadership especially in our continent where young women are not believed to be carriers of great initiative. This has been a great challenge to me and so daily I endeavor to do the extraordinary. I strive to educate and empower men and women to identify their leadership parity and have young girls know that they have the capacity to be leaders. I am a leader with my own style.

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I have shared at different forum how authenticity affects business leaders in Africa, believing it is time for business leaders to begin to change their mindset from the conventional development mindset to a revolutionary and investment mindset.

Your book “Not to Afraid to Lead”…

It focuses on strengthening leaders as they work on the road map to being authentic leaders, and is one of the many concentrations which the book provides.

What is the motivation for what you are doing?

I strive to harness my skills and expertise the best way I can. Gone are the days when people can enforce only one skill or career path on others. I understand that Africans still struggle with accepting young people who are unmarried and doing things the right way, we still tend to place value on having a spouse or being a Mrs.”X” as one way of being relevant, thus some women live under their shadow.

Coming from West Africa, Nigeria, where women are not believed to be carriers of great initiatives, I believe this is revolutionary and should be a testament to every young girl who aspires to be a leader. Leadership positions in Africa have been known to be occupied only by men. Until Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first female president of Liberia in 2006, Africa had never had a female President. It is believed that leadership in Africa is deeply Patriarchal. I strive to educate leaders, men, women, boys and girls for a change in this narrative and a shift in paradigm. I advocate for leadership balance and the need to integrate leadership parity at the helm of every leadership.My work in leadership is driven by my desire to be taken seriously and most importantly to be respected. And this is a journey and a critical one. This is a drive for women, young women to be seen, heard and taken seriously and of course, respected.

When you say women should be taken seriously, what does that suggest?

That is a good question. You know that we live in a society where women are not respected and because we are cultured in a way that women are seen as not so important. But, we need to have our mindset changed towards that. Women should not be subjected to nothing either in conversation or otherwise or be belittled because she is a woman or maybe that would make you a genuine citizen. This is what is happening on daily basis. We see ourselves in the society where women are not valued. And I believe you understand what I am saying or probably you have experienced that as a woman. But, there is a global effort to change the narrative so that we can have a society where women cannot only be valuable but be respected when they talk.

As a lecturer at the California State University Northridge, it has been noted that I strive for women in Africa to get a sit at the table with a mission to develop ethical leaders and ability to think critically and act effectively. I have constantly liaised with the women in positions of authority, accentuating the need for embracing empowered parity.

You are based in the United States, and you are planning to visit home very soon?

I will be excited to come to Africa, Nigeria first, and then Ghana. I have not been to Nigeria for a very long time. I have commenced working on the World African Women Leadership Conference, committed to ensuring women in leadership positions are strengthened to lead authentically while ensuring young girls receive the educational opportunity, leadership development and mentoring support needed to be authentic leaders. Chief executives of fortune 500 corporations have also benefited from her teaching.

So what do you intend to achieve, coming back home?

I am actually coming back home for strict engagement and I am also looking forward to transportation with women in Nigeria and that we will be speaking on leadership because that is what I am working on at the moment. That  will be my goal to make sure that every person, young people, leaders will begin to learn how to be  good leaders. There is need to collaborate, educate them on what it takes to be authentic leaders. It is a good thing to be an educated leader and be apt in the area of leadership. One of the problems we face as a nation is about leadership. We have issues with our so called leaders and so it is important to make this a conversation where we understand what it takes to be a good leader.

If you ask lots of young people, one of the major challenges in Africa is mentor-mentee issues. Lack of mentorship has become a huge problem. So, the young people are also confused in the direction to go when it comes to leadership?

I agree with you. I think that most of the major problem is the cultural condition to accept things the way they are and not to change the status quo. I believe a revolutionary leader is the one who will not be authoritarian but will be ready to challenge the status quo. One of the major problems in Nigeria is the fact that people do not have the confidence to ask why. We no longer have the courage to ask questions because they are afraid.

One of the ways to solve problems is by finding out why. Look at the leaders in their faces and ask why, finding things they way they are. Look at the leaders in the face and ask then why and then, we can start the conversation. When you shy away from this challenge, it is not going to help anyone. There is no how to change the status quo. There is need to educate people on quality leadership so that people can be respected and taken seriously. We have to speak to our conscious and it is necessary that we start talking about that.

I have spoken to a couple of elderly persons. One of the points is the fact that those Nigerian youths or rather African youths are not ready for leadership. Do you agree with that based on their actions? They are saying that a lot of young people are not prepared for leadership. Is that a position you also want to take?

I do not totally agree with that. I think that great leaders are those to shape their circle of conference and duly engage the youths in a more robust way for them to take see qualitative leadership from a good perspective. I think that African leaders are not ready to become quality leaders and leave a legacy for others to follow. Every person born of a woman has the capacity to know how to be a good leader. It is our duty to make young people become good leaders. But the truth is great leaders extend the circle of influence so the most junior person feels like they belong.

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A lot of young Africans in Diaspora have better understanding of what should be. The complaint is that you cannot continue to stay abroad and be talking rhetoric. That time has come for Africans wherever they are to come home and fix these problems and also educate the ones back home on what should be done. Is there movement in this direction to change the narrative?

That is a good question. If you have the complete history of who I am, you will know that I have done so much when it comes to educating young people. Although, I am not based in Nigeria but while, I was in Nigeria, I have done quite a lot to help young people. Even the leaders themselves have to take this issue seriously. One of the things I will be doing as I have said earlier to continue to educate young people. It is not young people but it is a global outlook for men, women who are ready to change the narrative and say no more to poor leadership. We need to understand what it takes to be leaders.

Are you saying we do not have good leaders in Nigeria presently?

I am not saying we do not have good leaders in Nigeria. I am saying a lot needs to be done. We have broadened our horizon; we have to bride our mindset. We have to understand we are not the only ones who could be leaders. We have to extend our focus. Leaders should understand the need to create the next generation of leaders. We cannot be recycling leaders.

There has to be a chain for leaders. We have to begin to govern our nation based on meritocracy. What have you accomplished, what to do too know, how can you help our system? It is very important. You as young people are supposed to be evaluated and given a chance to lead. And that is what we are talking about. If we fail to acknowledge this, it will affect our children. Our generations will be affected. But, when we begin to speak and ensure that our voices are heard, and we are leading by example, we will be taken seriously.

It is important to lead by example and I have tried to live by example on a daily basis. Practical leadership is very paramount in our society if we are ready to move forward.

What is Nigerians’ image when it comes to leadership over there?

I cannot generalize that question but I know that as an individual whenever my name is mentioned, we have something to present at the table. At the moment, I was given an award on what was called Extra Ordinary Award in Leadership by the American. You must have been on top of your game before you are accorded such an award. As Nigerian, I try my best to portray the image of my country in a better position and that is what I do.

Have you been approached by any government official for any appointment?

If I am in any forum, I raise my hands all the time and I speak on what I think should be best for Nigeria in terms of leadership. I do not wait for anyone to negotiate for me, I negotiate for myself. We have to continue to negotiate for ourselves before anyone does that for us.

Are there some women in Africa who are your role models?

I think, any woman that paves the way for another woman to be at the table is a role model. Every woman that gives other woman the chance to explore herself to affect life positively is a role model. And there are plenty women who are role models in Africa.

Someone said the greatest gift that Nigeria is blessed with is human resources which we are not taking advantage of. Do you agree with such notion?

Our people are highly educated and we are qualified. But, we have to start believing in ourselves. We have to start understanding that we can be that leader the world wants to see. We can.

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What is your take on this year’s theme of the International Day of the Girl Child, “GirlForce: Unscripted and unstoppable”?

I will say, every young woman or young girl can be what she wants to be. You have the capacity to be whom wants to be and nothing will stop you. Women or girls should start asking the right question. Stop embracing the status quo.

A woman must first discover who she is, what she stands for, her values, and her core before embracing additional life into hers. Often times, leaders talk about growth and giving opportunity to the young generation but in reality very few leaders want growth. Power gets intoxicating and so it becomes hard for them to let go.


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