Leaders must have ability to morph their firms into adaptive forms

Thursday June 4 2020


Just as the butterfly undergoes a metamorphosis, transformers prepare themselves for opportunities before they show up. PHOTO | AFP 


An inspiring company right now is Zoom. It has roared into a position of dominance and like Bloomberg put it, Zoom has become the pandemic's go-to social network.

Whenever there is a story of a transformational institution or even nation, it is because of a transformational leader. A transformation like that of a butterfly. Incidentally the Greek word for transformation is metamorfosi.

So, just as the butterfly undergoes a metamorphosis, a transformation is a change from one form to another. With this in mind, we can define a transformational leader as someone who is able to guide a department, a company or country from one form to another.

When I was a little boy growing up in Nigeria, politicians would promise different things.  In particular, I remember that during the 1979 election they promised access to water, electricity, schools, hospitals and better roads. Come 2019, they were promising the same things. If your problems have not changed over time, then transformation has not happened.

What forms transformational leadership? First, personal transformation precedes transformational leadership and there can be no personal transformation without mental transformation because where the mind goes, the body will follow.

The discipline to self-transform is however lacking in many. Every vision has a cost. You must be willing and able to pay for the cost of your transformation. This will involve learning new things and unlearning some old things. It will involve knowing when to talk and when to keep quiet. It will involve knowing the things that you enjoy that you have to stop doing and the things that you do not enjoy that you have to start doing.


Personal transformation is work and that is why many people never really experience it. Many arrive at a point of comfort and they settle there. The reality is that the higher you aspire to go in life the greater the cost.

Transformers have thick skin and have a sense of confidence that borders on insanity. If you want to be a transformer, then you can’t afford to base your decisions on how much people commend you or like you. What makes a person transformative is that they have relevant ideas and are able to inspire people to buy into and run with them.

Transformers prepare themselves for opportunities before they show up and are also very great at creating their own opportunities.

The post-Covid-19 era will require a new way of thinking. To help leaders across the region navigate these strange times, I began the “Street University” which is a Zoom-based platform where leaders discuss matters of transformation. The free programme runs every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30pm East African time. If you would like to be a part of this kindly reach out to me by email and I will send you the login details.

We refuse to be stopped by this enemy that has declared war on our way of life. I end with the words of Martin Luther King Jr that “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks. [email protected]