Former Liberian Minister of State speaks on effective and efficient leadership

king_banner2April 6, 2016
Olubanke King Akerele, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia, joined Ashesi’s Leadership 3 class to speak on ‘A Good Society through Effective and Efficient Leadership’.

Following years of conflict, Liberia has taken steps towards national rebuilding, not only in the development of infrastructure, but also in the area of a new kind of leadership. According to Ms. Akerele, “the way we build new leadership for the continent is to create it.”

As part of her talk, the former minister of state touched on her experiences while working for the United Nations Development Program and how it impacted her drive for leadership training and development. She stressed the importance of building experience in the training of leaders, before they take up leadership roles.“You don’t just graduate and become a leader,” she said. “You have to experience the reality of issues beforehand, and this is extremely important leadership development.”

On post-conflict leadership, Ms. Akerele shared her experiences in addressing a food shortage crisis following the conflict in Liberia and some of the key decisions she had to implement in her role as minister. She advocated the importance of a practicing leadership in a new way, using institutions as bedrock for training leaders, not only in the classrooms, but also in the real world. “The need for exposure and experience is critical and the way we have new leadership for the continent is through training,” the former minister said. “You have to create the new leadership, you have to change the mindset and you have to help people understand what leadership and governance is about. There also needs to be more mentoring and associating with older people and also more people with the professional background to help them get there.”

She concluded her talk with a demonstration of a board game she created, “Growing Africa’s Leadership”. The game which will be launched in Nigeria later this year is based on the experiences of young African professionals who worked in various government functionaries, as part of Akerele’s leadership development training efforts. The game opens players up to real world scenarios where they are tasked with making decisions that affect national development.

Olubanke King Akerele is a Liberian politician and diplomat who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from October 2007 until her resignation on 3 November 2010. She served for over 20 years at the United Nations prior to her political appointment. Upon the election of Sirleaf as president in 2005, Akerele was appointed as the Minister of Commerce and Industry. Following a 2007 cabinet shakeup, she replaced veteran diplomat George Wallace as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Akerele studied at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and graduated from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, United States with a B.A. in economics. She earned her first M.A. from Northeastern University in manpower economics, then a second M.A. from Columbia University in economics of education. Akerele also completed her first year at the University of Liberia, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. She is the granddaughter of Liberia’s 17th president, Charles D. B. King.

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