Remaining relevant to people we lead, we must be teachable

Wednesday March 10 2021

The lessons you spent a lot of money paying for are learnt by a new generation by default. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The greatest role of the leader in the digital age is learning. We need to understand two very important things about the world as it is today. First, if you are over 50 years old, the rate of change around you has been so fast that it takes effort to keep up.

Second, the lessons you spent a lot of money paying for are learnt by a new generation by default. We spent money to learn how to use a computer yet the next generation learnt about computers through playing games.

I remember an incident that happened nearly a decade ago. I was watching TV with my daughter who was a teenager then and my phone rang. It was at a very crucial point of the programme we were watching and there was no way I was going to get up to pick up the phone. However, my daughter told me to go ahead and answer the phone and that she would pause what I was watching. I told her it was live television and not a DVD (Who remembers what those are?). She laughed and told me to go ahead. I was annoyed. How could this teenage girl attempt to teach me how to use what I had bought with my own money? Needless to say, she had a greater laugh when it was all over. I did not know that my decoder had the capability of doing what she said it could.

So, to stay relevant to the people we lead, we must remain teachable.

Humility must become your greatest virtue because without it you cannot be teachable.

Reverse mentoring


Reverse mentoring has become a cultural thing, and as a leader you must create the environment for it to thrive.

Recently my daughter was excited about a platform called Clubhouse. I had never heard of it but my children were going on and on about it. Then I discovered that it was a fast-growing platform that was making waves. As usual, I came up with all the reasons why it could be the wrong place to be.

Now, she is a beauty and make-up artist whose vision is to transform lives. A few weeks after she told me about Clubhouse, she said that an organisation in Australia that she met on Clubhouse took an interest in her work and decided to sponsor what she was doing.

The next thing I heard was that one of the world’s top beauty schools that also saw her on Clubhouse had given her a scholarship.

My first son is in an interracial relationship with a young woman from India. So, my Nigerian son and my Indian daughter decided to start a YouTube channel. They put so much effort into it and my traditional thinking was again pitched in favour of my fears and concerns.

I heard them talking about algorithms and many other big words that I was clueless about

Before long their videos began to gain traction and they were featured on media platforms around the world, including the BBC.

The natural inclination of human beings is to resist and reject what we do not understand. Even when reading, we oftentimes read only what we believe. Our revelation and understanding is pitched in favour of our preconceived mindsets.

The truth is that we will always interpret life based on our mindsets. The key to a life of continuous relevance therefore is be to have a mindset guided by the fact that all that we know is not all there is to be known.  We need to come to terms with the fact that what we do not know is exponentially greater than what we know, and so humility becomes our gateway to growth.

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer, PowerTalks

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