TITLE OF BOOK: Winning Strategies: 50 Selected Thoughts for Leaders and Aspiring Leaders.
AUTHOR: Akin Oluwadare Jnr.
NO OF PAGES: 214
PUBLISHER: CSS Bookshop
PUBLISHING DATE: 2020
BOOK REVIEWER: Yinka Oyebode
When the Author, Akin Oluwadare, whom I am comfortable calling Akin or Akinse told me I would be the reviewer of his second book, I readily accepted the challenge. As a matter of fact, I have accepted to be the reviewer of this book before I began to consider the date of the event and whether or not I would be so chanced. You won’t blame me. You can hardly say no to a charismatic and engaging personality like Akin. Needless to say that Akin and I are childhood friends, but more importantly he is a friend I so much admire and respect for his strength of conviction and generosity of spirit. And this is mutual.
Reading through the book, one cannot mistake the fact the author’s engaging personality reflects quite vividly in his work. Good writing, according to World Street Journal’s Bestselling Author, Ann Handley, “serves the reader, not the writer” and as opined by Donald Morison Murray, the renowned American Journalist and English Professor “The reader doesn’t turn the page because of a hunger to applaud. Rather, good writing anticipates what questions readers will have as they read a piece, and (before they ask them) it answers them.” Handley also posits that good writing is simple but not simplistic.
It would appear that both Handley and Murray had the book “Winning Ways” by Akin Oluwadare in mind while making these very profound statements that have helped many writers re-focus their creative energy.
The author makes no pretensions about his intention to make the book answer some life transforming posers which leaders and those eager to make a success of their career or leadership roles are daily confronted with. Apparently, the author endorses Brian Sanders’ submission that “everything rises and falls on leadership”, hence the book focuses on equipping readers with many leadership tips.
Published in 2020, (the year that the world was brought under it’s kneel by a global pandemic known as Covid -19), the book which is divided into ten major chapters can aptly be described as a leadership manual. Each of the chapters contains a group of five essays dealing with the subject matter of the chapter. The book evaluates and examines different aspects of leadership, using day-to day ordinary situation to teach leadership lessons that are capable of provoking genuine change and equip the reader with the right attitude to become not just a changed person, but a change agent.
The foreword to the book, brilliantly written by Arc Yinka Williams and the preface by the Author, as well as the handful of endorsements in the opening pages have ably laid a good foundation for the content of the book and clearly provide the reader with adequate hints on what to expect in the book.
As pointed out earlier, each of the chapters has a message that is succinctly delivered through a collection of five essays each between 600 to 1000 words. The shortness of the essays is an incentive to the reader.
Chapter one: Proceed with Unfaltering Courage: This chapter, unarguably the foundation chapter, put the reader through some rudiments of leadership training. The Author stealthily seeded lessons via the five essays titled: Just Begin; Inaction is Dangerous; Knowing Where to Tap; Do It Afraid; and Choose Your Battle. Some of the key takeaways in the chapter include his admonition in the essay Inaction is Dangerous, where he writes: “Take a step from the norm. Jump however difficult it seems at first trial. Many things can happen when you jump; you may jump and fly and become a good example to others. You may jump and fall on something soft; there are lessons for you if you are discerning. You may jump and fall on something hard and the pains therefrom may teach you some quick lessons that may be your turning point. Anyhow you get back up and shift position forward, it is dangerous to remain on one spot for too long. Inaction is dangerous. (pg7)
In “Do it Afraid”, he writes: “Indecision is also a decision but it is the worst type of decision”. Further down he posits “If fear is capable of producing tears of joy, should we then be afraid of fear all the time?”
Chapter Two: Strive for Excellence. The Author in this chapter, shares some hard facts that would drive the reader in the pursuit of excellence. Akin Oluwadare, himself a man of excellence points at some practical steps through the five essays vis: Good is Not enough; Being on Time is Late; The Man Jim Ovia; Change Before You Have To and Impact.
Specifically, the Author who had over the years being a beneficiary of the institutional grooming at the Zenith Bank, where he is a Senior Manager, uses the bank’s founder, Jim Ovia’s rise to prominence and dominance in the banking sector, as well as a few other leaders, to drive home some leadership traits that would aid steady rise on the leadership ladder. The Bible in Proverbs 1 vs 5 says “A wise man will hear and will increase in learning and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels”. The author, uses the story of Jim Ovia’s book launch to drive home the point that every experience should necessarily produce some positive impact. For him the book launch remains one event that inspires him and deepens his thirst for excellence. Aside Ovia, which he showers with very generous accolades (for obvious reason), he also cites personalities like the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN and the doyen of Accounting profession in Nigeria, Pa Akinola Williams as some leaders he draws some inspirations from “The simple message here is for you to reinvent and keep reinventing yourself”, he concludes.
Chapter 3: Battle of The Mind: The topics include Confidence; Poverty Mentality; face Your Fear; Blow Your Trumpet and Expressions. The Author’s main concern here is how to deconstruct some old belief that tends to slow people down. “Your good works announce you but sometimes, you have to first announce yourself to own your good works before your good works begin to announce you”, he posits in page 53.
Chapter 4: Exercise Self- Control: The five topics here Be Slow To Speak; Delay Gratification; Think Safely; Test The water; Just before You Condemn. The Author devotes the chapter to some tips that are crucial to self control. “Taste your words and look beyond the primary effect on related parties before you utter them. Relationships broken are hard to mend. Be slow to speak” (pg 65). Also in page 81 he writes: “Now I know that success is not only about the good, the better and the best. Success includes the ability to manage the good, the bad and the ugly and still stay true to yourself and your conscience not minding what the society thinks”.
Chapter 5: Hidden Values: The five topics here are Discover Your Secret Place; Employee, Know Thyself; The Catalyst; Beware of Negative Motivation; Trust But verify.
Again, the Author in this chapter dwells on self-discovery as a key point in leadership. “The quality of your thoughts dictates the direction of your energy. You may not have control over how you spend your energy because it has a direct correlation with your though process, but exercising control over your thought process will save you a lot of positive energy” , he states in Page 85. He throws a poser to the reader in page 88. “Please describe yourself in one sentence, who are you? If it takes you more than 30 seconds to describe who you are, then I see a risk. If you are not seeing one, then it may be that you are so buried in your day job that you do not take time to know who you really are beyond what puts money in your pocket….” (page 92)
This is a challenge I would like to throw to everyone here as well…WHO ARE YOU?
Again in page 93 he shares yet another poser: “Your vision may be sizzling hot, but progress might be slow if you do not have anyone following up on you to measure the pace at which things are coming up.
Chapter 6: Surpass Expectations: The chapter includes topics such as The Law of the Second Wind; The Art of Simplicity; Own Your Life; Creative Destruction; Nil Report is a Report. While the Author dwells on the need to take full control and responsibility of our lives, he is however quick to add: “Taking control of your life is not suggesting that you should undermine the place of benefactors, no man is an island, we all need each other to grow, but do not get to that place where men begin to say to you- If not for me in his life. We all need men to actualise our dreams, but let no one share the glory of God with Him in your life. Our God is a jealous God, no one shares His glory”.
It will appear here that the Author’s biblical allusions are a product of the writer’s faith. But then isn’t the Bible replete with so many leadership tips and lessons.
Chapter 7: Delusions: the titles here are Perfection is a Myth; Failure is an Option; Progress is not Speed; Damn It. The Authors through some practical examples demystifies some self-imposed myths that are capable of limiting growth and fulfilment. “Hold the dream, think big, start small, start now, keep moving, do not stop. It is all in your hands. Perfection is just a myth” (pg 125) in page 135 he writes “Do not let your problem define you, damn it even if for once, to enable you see clearly”. He also warns against subjecting oneself to undue influence via the social media. “This is the new world we have created, where everything looks nice, even before they are made. The virtual world is full of fantasies, only the discerning will be able to focus on reality” (pg 137)
Chapter 8: Embracing the New Normal: The topic here include Mental Health; Health is Wealth; We Need One Another; Choose Your Style; Do Not waste The Crisis.
In this chapter, focus is on the current reality as provided by the Covid-19 global pandemic as well as the importance of staying safe and healthy. Furthermore, the chapter focuses on how to make the best use of the crisis situation. Or what many will call turning adversity to prosperity. “Should we be concerned? Yes, should we be worried? No. why? Worry focuses on the problem, but concern, though acknowledges the problem, focuses on the solution. If the only thing you learn from this crisis is to sit down and think through your relevance post –covid-19, you would have achieved something big.” (pg 158).
Chapter 9: Leadership. Topics include The Lid Factor In Leadership; Leadership Without Stings: hanging the Nigerian Narrative; Active listening; Observing Without Judging Teaming Redefines. “It is not a must for any leader to know all the ‘hows’ to get things done, but a leader that will take us beyond our present level and transform our national life in the affirmative must be able to thin k ahead of the rest of us. He must not be the brightest among us, but he must be sound in judgement. It will be good for our leaders to delegate responsibilities when the task to be achieved is clearly spelt out, but delegating thinking to those numerous special advisers may no longer serve our national interest, because some of those appointments have been proven to primarily fulfil federal character principle than advising on good governance” the author points out in page 165.
Chapter 10: Harness Your Society: Invest in Your Social Capital; How Are You; If You Are Against, what Are You For?; A Problem Shared is Still Your Problem: Between Propaganda and Fake News. The importance of social capital investment forms dominant theme of this last chapter of the book.
“A fat account delights any man but avoid the danger of depleting your social capital without replenishment. How many times do we sacrifice relationships on the altar of ego or financial benefit? Money can do all things but relationships that are well nourished can do all things. Invest and keep investing in your social capital” (page 184)
He also adds: “While you should not live your life on hearsay, you may be depleting your social capital when you live your life entirely independent of public opinion. Perception matters, particularly when you do not take any step to correct it. Sometimes, people in addition to you, have a say about who you become.”
Perspectives is a stand-alone chapter of the book, even though it was not designated as a chapter. It may be safe to describe it as an epilogue. It is a unique offering by the Author, as he devotes the portion of the book to taking feedback from members of his immediate family- His wife and four children- on what they consider the key points in leadership. This section, a departure from the 10 chapters where the voice of the Author was dominant, focuses on the wife and the children making profound statements on what they perceive as leadership. This section makes an interesting read, especially with the wife and each of the children sharing their own concept of leadership.
The conclusion by the Author focuses on parenting in the 21st century, where he posits that the pressure on modern day children is no less than the pressure on modern-day parents.
“Parenting should be a deliberate task. It should not be executed by proxy, and it is a lifelong assignment, even when the children become grown-ups, because the counsel of a parent remains an indispensable asset. That said, if you are a successful parent today, it is by grace, so tarry a little before you label the parent next door a failure.” (pg 205)
In concluding this review, it is important to state that the Author practically demonstrates some of the lessons contained in the book. For instance, he writes about the need to make an excellent presentation of one’s ideas and projects. The cover of the book attests to this excellent packaging and presentation, which according to him will compel people to show more than passing interest. The cover is excellently package and attract readers who would, by virtue of that, be curious to read the book.
Again, Winning Strategies, as a book attest to the versatility of the Writer as the book dwells on so many topics and aspects of life. The book can be said to have something for everybody. The religious minded, professional, youth and students, the highly placed and the lowly placed surely have something to relate with and something to learn from the book.
Benjamin Franklin advises : If you would not want to be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing”, quite unarguably, my friend , the Author has chosen both.
The Author’s reference to the Meristem television commercial anchored by Nike Davies Okundaye, founder of Nike Art Gallery shows a profound observation that cut across field.
Again, as he wrote in page 94, “You do not take credit for your talent, you only take credit for using it and if you don’t use it, you will lose it”. Akin Oluwadare can conveniently take credit for using his creative writing skills.
Winning Strategies despite all the accolades is not a perfect work. There is no perfect work of art anywhere in the world. The book sure has its fair share of errors that can be captured in the second or reprint editions. The essay on The Man Jim Ovia is replete with unnecessary repetition of the name of the Zenith bank Founder, Mr Jim Ovia countless times in the story that spreads into six pages. This can be better done by interchanging the name with pronoun or other adjectives. Repeating the name “Mr Jim Ovia” is tautological. It shows the author’s seeming overt admiration for his principal, but such can be spared in such a remarkably beautiful essay.
Also, in page 93, the there is a light distortion in the alignment of the printing at the last paragraph. It is curious that this missed the scrutiny of the publishers.
Above all, the book is a great work. The language is simple and lucid. The examples he cites in the book are such that the readers can relate with. The printing font used also makes the book appealing and the author shows a mastery of the art of storytelling, the flow of thought and occasional use of anecdote as well as literary and biblical allusions makes the book a great a literary work worth spearing precious time to read and digest.
It is indeed a must read for leaders in various spheres as well as aspiring leaders-that is the next generation of leaders. The message is sublime and profound, without taking unnecessary swipe at current leaders, which has become quite fashionable among writers. If we are going to fill the leadership gap in our society, there must be conscious efforts to provide leadership education at different levels. This book is a good manual for such trainings.
I congratulate the Author, my friend who is also the husband of my friend, Akin Oluwadare Jnr for this second effort, which, no doubt has defined him as a master story teller, life coach and author of very impactful books. May your Winning Strategies bring you more wins as it does to the readers!