It was in the year 2002 if my memory serves me accurately, I was running late for my flight to Abuja from the local wing of the Muritala Mohammed Airport Lagos but on arrival at the departure lounge was a ladies voice from an almost broken public address system announcing a delay of 35 minutes due to operational reasons, to be honest, I was very glad that I had some time to catch my breath, at that time I suffered “acute air sickness” and had to prep myself up before every flight. I was lowered into a sit after buying a bottle of fanta, then he walked in and sat right beside me, I have heard a lot about him, his humble nature, no security escort, still living in his personal home even as a governor, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande was seated right beside me at the general departure lounge… I greeted him and he replied in a most kind manner.

As I was still wondering why he didn’t use one of the VIP lounges, a man in suit, looking very sharp walked up to him and greeted him, he then asked if he could sit beside him, forgive me, but I overheard their conversation, it was something like he was grateful for the things he did during his administration as a governor of Lagos between 1979 and 1983, he was grateful for free primary and secondary education particularly. My imagination started running the movie of a gifted child born into a poor family in my head, they could feel the intelligence of this child as he grew daily but were too poor to give him a good education, then I stopped to take a second and more intense look at the man, he must have been in his 40’s, I stopped the line of thought and just tried ignoring…

By the way, this was the governor that introduced housing and educational programs targeted at the poor, he built lots of neighborhood primary and secondary schools that children could attend for free. He established the Lagos State University and constructed over 30,000 housing unit all over Lagos, he constructed general hospitals in Gbagada and Ikorodu and also built a health centers in almost all the local governments. To fund the project, he increased tenement rate in the rich people’s neighbourhood like Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula, he also increased the processing fee for the luxury pools, lottery and gaming licenses, he initiated a metroline project targeted at facilitating mass transit, a project that was halted when Military seized power on December 31, 1983.

The gentleman beside him brought out his cheque book and scribbled on it and the ex-governor collected it reluctantly, then it was the announcement of a flight to Warri and the gentleman greeted again and left to catch his flight.

I didn’t miss the opportunity, I said sir, he gave you money? He said yes he did, he says he appreciated my leadership and the achievements that followed, I went wow!

He asked “young man what do you do?”  I said I don’t plan to be a governor sir, he smiled, I repair prepress machines sir, he goes does that have to do with printing? Apparently he was a journalist and was familiar with newspaper printing. Then he gave me the lesson about leadership that stuck since then. A leader MUST create value, and this value MUST affect the poor and the most vulnerable in our society. I looked at Lagos and thought if we don’t do something about creating value for the poor, development will never be real. Education is key so we thought to give it free of charge to the children of the  poor, we took a bit from the rich to fund it, they (the rich) came for me, but a leader MUST also be able to communicate a vision. I called the high and mighty into a meeting and explained how they won’t be able to sleep when the poor is not educated, of course they willingly agreed to an increase in some taxes to fund the project. And the next statement got me, and you shouldn’t miss this “True advancement will only come with a different kind of thinking, a thinking that promotes collective enablement, collective development, a mindset of raising other people up once you are up.”

Sadly, Alhaji Jakande died on the 11th of February 2021 at the age of 91, my heart was broken as I was still planning to create a platform that will bring him in contact with some young people so we can hear his story first hand and learn, but May his gentle soul rest in peace.

Let’s bring it home, today it about leaders that will bring advancement to the printing industry, I hear a lot of Printshop owners harassing the next generation, they have been called names, they have been bullied till many of them have lost interest in the profession. Forgetting to realize that they didn’t conceptualize the idea of your business with you, so that you have a responsibility to help them see a future working with you for true advancement. It is impossible for any MD/CEO who wants advancement to work alone. You always need staff, good ones for that matter, it is your responsibility to help the staff see the value they can create and in turn what value they will get. The strength of wealth security is in wealth distribution, the new generation too want to drive a car, rent a home, get married and raise a family, you can’t help them see how they can achieve this with you then they don’t deserve to stay with you.

Any leader who chooses to advance the cause of other people’s life will have followers, todays leaders MUST aspire for impact. What impact do you have with the coming generation? Are you approachable? It’s only when they come close that you can influence them, the next time you complain about the new generation, check if you can operate on the same page with them. It is not right to blame a non performing staff that you haven’t trained, what training program have you put in place for them?

I recently met a young man who came asking me for money, he had just been released from prison after suffering a jail term for an offence he didn’t commit. I wasn’t sure it was a real story so I probed a bit more, the young man got angry and walked away while muttering some words that sounded like “if you will help me do so, if you won’t I walk…”

About a month later, I stopped to buy some fruits from my favourite fruit shop in the neighbourhood, again appeared my friend, I recognized him but he didn’t recognize me. He told the exact story and I reminded him on how he walked away when I asked questions the last time, he broke down in tear and started the full story of how he suffered for an offense he didn’t commit. He is angry and frustrated at not only the system but also those he felt would be understanding but are not. This is the story of the young generation, they are also angry at the system that isn’t fair to them and they will walk if you ask too many questions. So I have highlighted a few tips on managing a new generation of workforce and hope this helps.

  1. They are not like you and that in itself is a good things, but remember they are growing up in an era where every experience is personalized. They can do almost anything from ordering and to finding a life partner on that their personal gadget so you have a responsibility to ensure you make a personal connection with them. I like how Nancy Halpern, an executive coach with KNH Associates in New York City puts it “Be a human being, not just a boss.”
  2. Help them see a future:  Avoid building a posture of a “one man business” for your print shop, put a structure in place that won’t allow every activity to be subjected to you, the younger generation want to see a company that will run even after you are retired. Adunola Adeshola, a career strategist and founder of career site called employeeREDEFINED.com said and I quote “I talk to millennia’s all the time who feel like they’re bored and frustrated and they’re doing routine work, and they don’t feel like what they do is making an impact,”. For the best buy-in, it’s worthwhile to help younger employees understand how their work fits into the bigger company picture. Explain how the presentation they’ve been putting together will impact the company. What does their contribution make possible? “For millennia’s, that’s really important.” There is also this part of them always asking “why” they should do things the way you prefer, you can tell the yesterday’s staff to turn in the presentation by 1 pm and it will be fine, but for this young people you will need to take the extra 2 minutes to let them know why, something like, we will need you to turn in the presentation latest by 1 pm because I need another 1 hour to fine tune it before sending to the customer. Are you also asking why this is so? According to Evan Pellett, a recruiter and author of cracking the Code to a Successful Interview – “When you give them instructions, they don’t internalize like the mid-level folks.”  It is what it is! It is so important to create a strong company culture that will align with their motivations, it must also take into consideration the work-life balance of this new age. I will say it is important to craft a future that will get them excited in your various organization.
  3. Take advantage of their naturally technically savvy nature: Talk about the digital innovations from Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Dropbox, Airbnb, or even Tumblr, they are all driven by millennial, there is no way you can understand its use more than those in the spirit of the age. Instead of prohibiting the use of smart phones or passwording your internet, let this young generation help use this medium as a tool to getting your job done, they will be more productive and also come through with a believe that you are beginning to trust them.
  4. Encourage collaboration: This age group is comfortable with working in groups and teams, I even read that a survey says they look out for workplaces that encourages collaboration. As sad as it may sound that this generation appears arrogant, they still will go to their peers to get endorsement, advice and help. My friend who desperately needs help can work away if my questions are too much but will again be quick to break down in tears the moment he realizes I can become a collaborator. Get this guy’s comfortable with you in their brainstorming sessions and you will be amazed at the collaborative ideas that will come up to help advance the business.
  5. Demonstrate that you trust their ability and Allow them become leaders: They are a generation brought up when hardship first appeared, they are rugged and have a positive can do spirit from the way they are raised up. This generation took care of their young ones when both parents had no choice but to go fend for the family so they are natural leaders. Stop belittling them, give them bigger and meaningful project while showing your support, once they are assured that you believe in them, lead them right and they will perform beyond your expectations.

We are in a crisis situation if we can’t creatively get the next generation trained for the printing Industry challenges ahead of us. The test of any true leader however is in the time of crisis, will we continue to blame the next generation or will we take responsibility to ensure that we navigate to safety during this turbulent transition to a generation that chooses not to act like we do?

There are still lessons to be learnt from Lateef Jakande whose leadership style was totally different from what everyone was used to yet the most impactful in the history of governance in Lagos State, so are there lessons from Jeffrey Benjamin’s quote “True leaders take responsibility while false leaders blame…”

Are we able to point to a next generation leader that we are currently inspiring? Are we able to mentor a generation that has been termed “lazy and selfish” till the narratives changes? The journey of leadership is never ending, someone says it’s a relay race and a baton of impact, or baton of influence MUST be passed to those in line for the race. This is leadership for ADVANCEMENT! … and we can do It!

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