Enase Okonedo is dean of Lagos Business School at Pan-African University in Nigeria, a position she has held since 2009. She has also held several teaching and administrative positions at the school, since joining in 1995, including Executive MBA director.
Dr Okonedo has an MBA from Iese in Barcelona and a DBA from the International School of Management in Paris. She is also a chartered accountant and in her spare time, she enjoys collecting African paintings and sculptures.
1. What do you enjoy most about being a dean?
The challenge of achieving new things, getting people to dream with me about the possibilities that lie ahead if we focus and work as a team. When I became dean, we had been focused and engaged in developing managers primarily for the Nigerian economy. Our outlook has changed since then to have a more pan-African view, focused on developing managers for African and emerging economies. This has obviously impacted our research agenda, our product offerings as well as the structure of our programmes.
2. Who are your business influences?
My biggest business influence would be Christopher Kolade, the current pro-chancellor of Pan-African University, Lagos, Nigeria. He started his career in radio and has been chief executive and chairman of one of Nigeria’s most successful multinational corporations as well as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UK. When I joined Lagos Business School, I had the pleasure of working closely with him as his research assistant. I admired his style, his work ethic and his achievements. He has greatly influenced my approach to management.
3. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
“Be consistent in reading something every day for a definite period of time.” This came at the time when I had just left the banking industry and was contemplating a career as an academic. It was given to me by a professor of finance at Iese – Javier Santoma – and it has greatly helped my development not only as an academic, but now as a manager. It’s amazing how reading consistently each day has helped develop my mind.
4. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my doctorate. My doctoral study period was very challenging for me, as I was studying, working full-time with ever increasing responsibilities, involving various boards and external committees and managing my home as a wife and mother. So I felt a huge sense of pride on completing my dissertation.
5. What is the worst job you have ever had?
It would have to be my job as an audit clerk, in the days when I had to intern as part of my first degree course. It was a routine job that left no room for creativity and I didn’t find it challenging. That was when I decided I wouldn’t want to work as an auditor. Of course, those were the days before accounting became more “creative”.
6. What advice would you give to women in business?
Work with a high sense of responsibility, focusing on doing your best in whatever you are entrusted with and ignoring any feminist “jabs” by your male colleagues.
7. What is your favourite business book?
Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. Although it is written as a fable, it addresses a real business concern which is the imperative for business leaders to have a process for developing new strategies given an ever changing world.
8. What is your life philosophy?
Three things: treat everybody as you would want to be treated – with dignity and respect; love as though you’ve never been hurt; and finally, give and don’t count the cost.
9. What is your plan B?
To manage a fund with not only a financial but social objective. One of the things that has always bothered me about the Nigerian financial landscape is the absence of funds that have a social objective. Given the increasing growth of the Nigerian economy as well as the developmental and social needs, I would be most interested in growing this sector.
10. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
To think more with my head and less with my heart, especially when making business decisions. Some women tend to have a softer, more emotional side that sometimes gets in the way of rational business decisions. I’ve learnt that going too far with your heart may impair optimal decision-making. Fortunately, I recognised this before I became dean and this has guided my decisions in this role.
Compiled by Charlotte Clarke