“Every little counts”: The day Sammie finally landed his dream job

Samuel ‘Jideofor’ Okonkwo

This is the very third piece on Samuel Jideofor Okonkwo ‘Sammie’ on this blog. Don’t bother wondering why, because I’m just about to let the cat out of the bag. Simply, Sammie ‘is’ my teacher, and he’s such an inspiration that the best I can do for God and the rest of the world is to share him, to talk about him. Heaven and earth, and even hell, know that what I’m doing is right and just. lol! And the choice of sharing him with friends and the virtual public has yielded much fruits: Sammie’s story has inspired many and challenged many more. He promises to inspire you, too. To catch up on our gist on Lagos Island, the very first of the ‘Sammie series,’ check here. To catch up on the longest day of Sammie’s life, his recruitment day, check here. The present piece is a sequel to his recruitment day story.

When on that faithful day, January 14, 2011, while a finalist in the Department of History and International Studies, University of Nigeria, he signed up with Blogger, and then did his first post on ‘Atiku,’ Sammie didn’t know, and how could he have known, that the decision to start blogging will make all the difference in his life three years away. Funnily enough, that first blog post only got published on the third attempt; what if he’d given up after the first or second attempt? And then Sammie has kept at blogging until tomorrow, which is to say that he has consistently blogged for more than five years; five years and eight months to be precise. However, there is something else about Sammie’s blogging that I’m up to in this piece.

The last story about Sammie, his recruitment day, ended on the joyful note that he succeeded in beating his stiffnecked competition. But I left a hint that there is more, and this is it: he didn’t land the job that day. Yes, three of six got eliminated, but none of the remaining three got an offer; the recruiters still wanted one more out, since they had the mandate go trim the 42,000+ qualified applicants down to just 2. There was no vacancy for three, it was just for two. However, something more happened there: the recruiters had exhausted all their recruitment strategies, and couldn’t afford to play unfair; they knew ethics. In addition, they were willing to stop at nothing to trim down three to two. It was a tall order. What they did next will shock you.

They flew the last three standing to the headquarters of the multinational, and turned them in to the MD, asking him to make his pick by whatever yardstick he chose, given that they’d exceeded their elastic limit and were already breaking. But the MD wasn’t willing to make such a crucial pick alone, and chose to do it in the company of his continental heads. The task was tough: the very best two had to be picked from the very best three. This is exactly where the story gets interesting…

They were to appear before the panel of bosses one after the other, and Sammie was the last in the order of calling in. After all, ladies first. And may it not shock you that the two others were ladies. These days ladies slay, you know. Each of the other two spent an average of 45mins answering all manner of questions, and you can trust that they were those sort of questions that the how of answering was more important than the what of answering. And then Sammie was up for his turn…

This is the highpoint of the story. Sammie had barely walked into the room when the MD called him by his name, “You’re Sammie, right?” Of course, you may want to think that he had his CV before him, but he went on to add, “I read your blog.” ‘Read’ is not past tense; it’s in the sense that he follows his blog. You may also want to think that the MD was playing smart, such that he only checked it out after he was handed Sammie’s CV. You’re wrong. Yes, because what followed next will shock you. The MD raised up for discuss with Sammie a post he’d done a long time ago – on a tennis player they fan in common. I remember that name: Djokovic. That lasted barely 2mins. Then the MD raised another blog title on Nigerian politics. Lasted barely 2mins again. And that was it! He then asked Sammie to be on his way already.

You can guess that Sammie was as shocked as he was afraid. He didn’t know what to make of that encounter. Given that he spent barely 5mins in there when others had spent about 45, and given that he got to answer next to no serious question, he didn’t know what to expect; his fears told him he was out. But not him, one of the ladies was. He got the job! Of course, there is no fair policy that says an employment of two must be male and female; in case you’re starting to think that one of those ladies inevitably gave way for Sammie. That would have happened on recruitment day already. They even got her back months later when an emergency opening surfaced.

The moral of the story: every little counts. Even amateur blogging can make all the difference on judgement day.

This is Sammie…

Lessons learnt from watching Rangers and Sunshine Stars tough it out for 90+3mins

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It was on a Sunday, the 18th day of September 2016 to be precise, and I went in the company of two incredible friends, Vivian the Great and Vingabby. Kickoff time was 4pm (GMT+1), and the battle line was drawn between Rangers International Football Club of Enugu and Sunshine Stars of Akure at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. The long and short of the game is that after toughing it out for 90+3mins, the game ended in favour of Rangers; 2:0 to be precise.

It was my very first live match, and I made sure nothing stood in my way of attendance that evening, not even the threatening rain. I actually thought I was too old not to have witnessed a live match off-screen, just as I had to storm Lagos earlier this year because I’d always thought it was such a shame that an above twenty-year-old Nigerian who claims to love Nigeria was yet to step his feet on the Main- and Island of Lagos.

I came to break that jinx, I came to have fun, but I ended up in a classroom. The bowl of the stadium had turned into a classroom, other spectators became my classmates, the pitch metamorphosed into the ‘smartboard,’ and the players and the reality of football, being the teacher, graciously dished out the following lessons.

Life is a game

Biblical parables often compared the kingdom of God to this or to that – merchant, king, sower, virgins, feasts, etc. On this occasion, observing the players and the field of play, I came to the realization that life can indeed be likened to a football game. Or, put differently, and better, football aptly showcases the dynamics of life: the goal, the timing, the fouling, the cards, the linesmen, the spectators, the applauding and boos, the fun, the referee, the etc. To merely say that the leather ball game mimics real life is to say it lightly.

The two kinds of people

It has always been about Actors Vs Spectators. That day, I inevitably found myself – and everyone else off pitch – occupying the spectator position. While the players did the sweating, the rest of us had fun watching them. While their hearts raged within them, while their muscles cramped and their legs ached, the rest of us made jokes of their pains, cheered them on when they impressed us, and jeered at them when they seemed not to get it right. From the spectators’ end everything was so easy; talk is cheap! That day, I got the gracious reminder that living truly can only happen at the ‘acting end’ and never at the ‘spectating end.’

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Unstoppability is a choice

And then the long awaiting rain started pouring down! It was hell. I got totally drenched in it. Guess what? While we the spectators were running helter-skelter in search of canopy, the actors (players) chose to be unstoppable. They played on under the rain as well as they were playing under the sun minutes earlier. Not even one of them stepped out of the pitch. And not even the referee.

Leverage on what you’ve got

Rangers is Enugu State football club. The match held in Nnamdi Azikiwe Statium, Enugu. 99% of spectators were 042 people. Rangers had all the additional advantages, and they did leverage on it. It was their pitch, their town, and their people. They weren’t lacking one bit in fan base, since next to everyone was their fan. The applause was for them and boos was for their opponent. They were in high spirits, and they capitalized on it.

Fight to the death!

This golden lesson came from the Sunshine Stars. Though they were at the disadvantaged end, they kept faith till the very final whistle. They pressed on, they persisted, they kept at it, and they fought on – to the death! Being down by 2 goals by injury time, they even pushed harder until the referee blew the final whistle on one of their men motioning towards Rangers’ goalpost with the ball.

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PS: Special thanks to Vingabby for being a constant reminder and a great company. Thanks, too, to Vivian the Great for giving the evening a touch of fun; she pushed us to dancing under the rain with Rangers fan club.

Leadership 2.0: Rediscovering Leadership

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Leadership is one of those words that can do without the dictionary, as only a handful of people are in want of its meaning. The word is so much in common usage that it ranks among the so-called household words. And the reason is not far-fetched: leadership is ubiquitous; leaders are everywhere. Yes, the father heads the family, the principal administers the school, the community head ensures order therein, the governor pilots the affairs of the state, the pastor pastures the flock of God, the president presides over matters of state, the Pope oversees the Holy See. What more could the dictionary say about leadership if not to restate the obvious.

Of course, the unintended consequence of the above thinking about leadership is that it causes one to identify leadership with headship, to equate leadership with administration, to restrict leadership to positions of authority, to domicile leadership in America’s White House, Nigeria’s Aso Rock, or Britain’s 10, Downing Street.

A sequel to the above is that one is forced to characterize leadership by the mannerisms in which those hitherto identified as leaders conduct their leadership business. Therefore, because the head of the family is wont to wielding the rod at the slightest provocation, the growing child gets socialized into thinking that rod wielding is integral to leadership; because the principal of a school lords it over his or her teachers and students, some students may begin to think that ‘lordship’ is a corollary of leadership; because the pastor of a church threatens to rain down fire from heaven at the slightest infraction of church rules, faithful followers begin to imagine that it is part and parcel of the leader’s job description to secure conformity through the issuance of threats and sanctions.

The preceding exposition aptly captures Leadership 1.0. In the Leadership 1.0 era, leadership was equal to headship; leadership was synonymous with lordship; leadership was resident in the head that bore the crown and the legs that wore the shoe. In that era, too, there was a clear-cut distinction between leadership and followership. Here, while the leader takes both the frontline and first position, the follower can at best be second; while the leader dishes out orders, the follower takes them and orders themselves accordingly; while the leader is blue-blooded, the follower has the usual red blood. For every groundbreaking feat, for instance, while the leader points to the ground, the follower breaks it.

However, gone are the days of Leadership 1.0. Welcome to the era of Leadership 2.0! Call it Advanced Leadership if you like. Mind you, it is not advanced for its sophisticatedness; it is advanced for its simplicity. It is advanced for its openness, making it possible, for the first time, for anyone who is interested in leadership to become one – blueblooded or red-blooded. As much as the father, a child can be a leader; as much as the CEO of a multibillion dollar company, a janitor can be a leader; as much as the Pope, a catechist can demonstrate leadership; as much as the master, a slave can have a bite of the leadership pie; as much as the ‘leader,’ a follower can have a taste of leadership.

Leadership 2.0 is a total rethink on leadership. In it, revolutionary thinking was brought to bear on the all-important enterprise of leadership. In fact, it is a revolt on Leadership 1.0. And the essence of Leadership 2.0 is to democratize leadership, to make it “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It essentially distils out the core of leadership, and goes on to strip it of all the addenda and paddings that make it heavy and complicated.

What, then, is Leadership 2.0? Inspired by the works of the likes of John Maxwell and Robin Sharma, Leadership 2.0 locates leadership in one word, INFLUENCE. And the choice of this one word is not far-fetched, as every manifestation of leadership, even in the Leadership 1.0 experience, is built on it. By the way, ‘influence’ simply means “the power to affect, control or manipulate someone or something. Although ‘influence’ is significantly wielded by those who occupy positions of authority (the leaders of the Leadership 1.0 era), it is not at all their exclusive preserve; Leadership 2.0 insists that anyone, just about anyone, can wield ‘influence.’ This, of course, is another way of restating the fact that anyone can be a leader.

A classic example of Leadership 1.0 Vs Leadership 2.0 is the discovery of the external installation of elevators. El Cortez Hotel is one of San Diego’s famous hotels. Once upon a time, the hotel management decided to install an additional elevator to better serve guests. While the contracted engineers came up with complicated designs that called for cutting holes through each floor of the hotel, which, of course, will cost the hotel a fortune, and pile up mess for the janitor to clean up, the eventual solution came from the janitor’s comment: “You could build the elevator on the outside of the hotel.” Here, we learn that even janitors are capable of thinking outside the engineering box; they mustn’t have bagged an engineering degree, or registered with the engineering council.

A more ad rem example of Leadership 1.0 Vs Leadership 2.0 can be gleaned from Thomas Edison’s laboratory, in J.P. Morgan’s words, “where genius resides.” At 31, Edison already had about 400 patents to his credit, and had become one of the greatest scientists ever. The zenith of Edison’s scientific feats was the perfection of electricity. But it was the Direct Current, inferior to the later Alternating Current. Guess what? Both electricity current designs were developed in the same laboratory: Edison’s. However, while the boss (Edison) was responsible for the inferior one, D.C., the apprentice (Nicola Tesla) was responsible for the superior one, A.C. And when apprentice reported his development to boss, apprentice’s noble development was talked down on; Edison told Tesla his A.C. design couldn’t amount to much. The long and short of it is that Tesla’s A.C. later edged Edison’s D.C. out of the market, went on to crash the party on Edison Electric Company, and remains the electricity standard till date. In Leadership 2.0, as already stated, apprentice can do as much as, and even better than, boss.

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