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7 Questions on Leadership with Matthews Otalike

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Name: Matthews Otalike

Title: CEO and Consultant Trainer on Leadership and Management

Organisation: Kuttingedge Institute of Leadership Training

I worked for 35 years in public broadcasting in Nigeria; 30 of the years in leadership at different levels.

I have a Master in Leadership from the University of Liverpool and another in Mass Communication.

I am married with children, some of them parents now.

I enjoy training others.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Matthews's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

What I found most challenging in leadership the ability to win people's trust. This was made possible through honesty, transparency and consistent open door policy with colleagues. I enjoyed walking the talk with colleagues and what helped me most was emotional intelligence. I find joy often receiving calls from those who worked with me at different times and in different locations to check on me and telling me what they learned from me.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My role in leadership was accidental. I was a young Reporter with a public television broadcasting organization. Before I was a year on the role, the News management team began to assign responsibilities to me. I was assigned the job of a Sub-Editor. It blew me away. There were senior reporters who I realized, were happy to work with me. I was shell-shocked, yet there I was. From then on, I kept rising on the leadership ladder with what I later learned was expert power in leadership parlance. I was editor, producer, presenter, national bureau correspondent, investigative TV journalist, etc.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Waking up each day for me is looking up to what is lined up on my diary. It feels good to be organized. I execute daily plans and when other assignments and responsibilities crop up as they often did, especially when in journalism practice they have to be addressed. I never really had closing time. Professional proficiency has its challenge of extra demand on one's time. I was passionate on the job so I couldn't feel the stress. I always made sure I had my meals. Most times I returned home late. My spouse has been very understanding, so the home front did not present any challenge. I always slept well.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I have learned that a leader cannot do everything, although I learned that long ago.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Newsroom Management by Robert Giles. I came across it in a bookshop in 1981, just when I was being given the role of sub-editor. The book broadened my vision of leadership in a Newsroom (department) with different sections and their heads and overall coordination. It guided me to navigate the challenges successfully.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Openness, transparency, humility and trusting others so as to be trusted. In leadership, we relate with fellow human beings with their own foibles. Emotional intelligence is the key to effective leadership.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I retired meritoriously from the public broadcasting organization in April 2015. The National Director General of the organization promised to visit the zone I was superintending before I bowed out. He came with some of his lieutenants from the national headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. He had an interface with all the management and staff from the seven production centers in the southeast in Nigeria.

I was really humbled when one of the Managers got up and recounted how I had turned around the fortunes of the television industry in the five states in the zone. He capped it by saying that "the Zonal Director (myself), was not interested in lining his pocket (pilfering the organization's money) as his predecessors did. That is why so much was achieved through his leadership in just one year and five months." I nearly shed tears in humility.

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