Ibukun Awosika on Leading with Integrity in the Face of Crisis—GLS21 Faculty Spotlight

Published June 10, 2021

We are excited to welcome Ibukun Awosika back to The Global Leadership Summit stage in 2021! If you’ve been to the Summit before, you might remember seeing Ibukun’s inspiring Grander Vision story showcasing how she chose integrity in the face of a crisis when corruption would have been an easy out.

If this year’s Summit will be your first-time hearing from Ibukun Awosika, you’re in for a dose of wisdom that could change your organization.

Over the course of her impressive career, Ibukun has had the honor of influencing Nigeria’s economic growth by chairing a number of influential corporate and nonprofit boards. She is the Founder and CEO of a group of manufacturing, retail and bank-way security system companies; as well as the former Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, the country’s premier banking brand.

Globally recognized, she has received multiple awards, including the 2020 Forbes “Woman Africa Chairperson” award, and was also the first Nigerian recipient of the prestigious “International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge” award in 2008. Through her projects, Ibukun champions entrepreneurs, empowers women and youth, and supports missionaries who provide medical and educational supplies to those in need.

Here is what others have to say about Ibukun:

“Anybody who would be the chairman of First Bank of Nigeria has to be somebody with a lot of high ethics and high integrity,” said Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director at First Bank of Nigeria. “She is very, very well respected. She is also someone who is very influential—a culture shaper.”

“She’s become an example of how to do business as a Christian in Nigeria,” said Tara Fela-Durotoye, CEO of House of Tara. “You can see her faith in the way she talks, the way she deals with every staff—ready to listen to you, ready to show you how to grow.”

“Her mission, her vision is all about doing the right things and showing integrity in what you do,” said Remi Adekola, Manager at Sokoa Chair Centre.

We have so much to learn from Ibukun! Get your tickets for The Global Leadership Summit on August 5-6 to hear from Ibukun Awosika and 15+ additional world-class faculty! And until then, get a preview of her wisdom in this extended cut Grander Vision showcase, Leading with Integrity in the Face of Crisis.

When you’re building furniture, you can’t use the wrong components and materials and expect to get the right chair at the end of it. I discovered that’s pretty much our lives—it’s really about deciding who you want to be.

In Nigeria, corruption is quite prevalent. There are many business practices based on cheating, taking advantage of the customer or business deals that are not conducted fairly.

When you’re building furniture, you can’t use the wrong components and materials and expect to get the right chair at the end of it.

When I wanted to start my business as a young person manufacturing furniture, I decided that two things were critical for me:

  1. I was never going to sleep with a man to get a job.
  2. I was never going to pay a bribe.

It seemed like a naivety of idealism, but I knew I could make it work.

A year or so into my business, I gave my life to the Lord. Considering I come from a Muslim background, that became a whole new experience for me. I started heading the business fellowship in my church. It gave me grounding and confidence to continue with my quest and my desire to build a business based on biblical principles. In pursuit of building institution or building wealth, I will not deter from righteousness.

In 2004, there was an announcement in the news: “Importation of any form of furniture is banned.” With that single announcement about 80% of our business was shut down. Now, that was a very scary moment.

In pursuit of building institution or building wealth, I will not deter from righteousness.

I had an option to choose to become a smuggler (and a lot of people chose that route—they would make a deal with the customs officers to get around it), but I wouldn’t do that because of everything I’d learned and the principle I’d chosen to live by didn’t fit in with that. So, I called my staff, had a meeting and said, “Look, I’m not firing anybody. I just need you guys to pray for me and ask the Lord to grant me grace and wisdom for this season.”

I looked at the whole furniture value chain and I found that the most difficult to replicate locally would be office seating because it’s very technical. So, I went to the largest French office-seating manufacturer and talked to them about having a joint venture in Nigeria. They laughed because they’re the largest in France, one of the top ten in the world.

But I’d been doing business with them for up to about ten years then and I’d left a good record. Two weeks after, they called to say, “You know what, we’ll give you technical support and we’ll do a 5% investment.”

As we built the business plan, they changed their mind and moved their investment from 5% to 21%, and all technical support and training of all the staff that would be required.

As we built the business plan, they changed their mind and moved their investment from 5% to 21%

I then went on to set up the other factories in order to meet our entire value chain within the business. At the end of it, we became a bigger and better company than we were before the crisis. And the whole process of responding to that situation and the build-up of the new companies that emerged from it opened doors to a corporate career because companies started looking for people who had integrity and certain value systems to sit on their boards.

In the last 28 years, I believe the level of success we’ve achieved as a business has shown that even though our value system was thought not to make it possible to succeed in this environment, we’ve proven that not to be true. By deciding to advance my values, by deciding to advance my focus and in trusting Him, He will lead me every step of the way to the right place.

Get your tickets today and mark your calendars to hear more from Ibukun Awosika and 15+ world-class leadership faculty at the premier leadership event of the year!

Get Tickets for GLS21 >>

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