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Leadership is not a matter of mere technique but it is fundamentally an act of character.”  Andreas Widmer

I am of the opinion that one does not necessarily need to know the dictionary meaning of the word virtuous to know a virtuous leader. They are very easy to spot. You might not be able to give a name to what you are seeing, but you know something is different. You could almost swear that there was a light around them reaching out to people and pulling people to them.

In the course of my life, I have come across various types of leaders and a couple of virtuous ones. One of them that stood out and still stands out for me, was the man that gave me my first job. He was a lecturer, a researcher and a consultant. He has a research team that works with him on various projects. I walked into his office one afternoon and asked for an opportunity to be on his research team. He looked at me, smiled and said, “you look really young, how old are you?” The rest they say is history.

One of the virtues he exhibited was discipline/integrity. We learnt to deliver our part of the contract to our clients at the time we agreed to deliver. One of his favourite statement is, instead of giving me excuses why you could not, tell me how you accomplished it, in spite of all the excuses you had not to. Our clients knew that they could go to rest, once they had our word on the matter. And as expected he also extended this to his employees, once we had his word, we could be rest assured that the matter was as good as done.

Now an important question comes up from the previous paragraph. Were there times when employees could not deliver as expected? What happened in those times? I have always believed that being kind is not the absence of firmness. You can be firm and kind at the same time. When we had situations like that, he would empathise with you (especially when there is a genuine reason) but also help you see ways, in which the situation could have been handled better. I remember him telling me, Ada learn to ask for help when you need it.

Another virtue he exhibited was fortitude. He had a very interesting outlook to challenges. I had never -before him- seen somebody who gets excited by challenges. He always saw it as an opportunity for growth. He will usually say, “how will we grow without challenges. When you are doing something important, expect to face challenges either internal or external, sometimes it can be both. If you do not face challenges, then it is probably not important”.

Lastly, patience. I remember walking into his office, a 17-year-old, 200 level undergraduate with no experience. I remember that the least experienced member on the team was a Masters degree holder with five years’ experience. I also remember walking out of the office the week before my call to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with 2 years’ experience and a bag full of wisdom I would not be able to pay for. He taught me patiently. He showed me by example and trusted me to do the same and even better. I made a lot of mistakes during the course of my stay there and some of them almost affected our business but he exhibited self-control (did not get angry) and asked for ways to salvage the situation while also teaching me how it should be done.

This article was written by Oparaugo Chinemerem. Chinemerem is a student of the MBA class at the Lagos Business School.

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