Defining leadership in the 21st century is easy but can also be conceptually complex. In this digital era, as the world shifts to espouse a digital economy, the characteristics of leadership have transitioned from controlling, directing and organizing to influence, but not just simply – It has now become expedient for today’s leaders to operate beyond management and become an embodiment of a unique vision that is implanted in their followers or team members in order to achieve a goal or a greater good.
Growing up, we read about leaders like Julius Caesar, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandella, who led their people to victory in either war or non-violent protests. In fact, history records their feat as the utmost symbol of leadership. But as society evolves, a new crop of leaders are emerging and their legacy isn’t being built on just their ability to stand or speak against oppression or injustice but in creating institutions and influencing a generation of people to improve society.
Leadership is no longer about occupying an executive office, a true leader is one who deposits or brings to life the leadership capacity in every individual he meets (even virtually).
A young activist that clearly exudes these progressive qualities of leadership is Hamzat Lawal. He founded Connected Development (CODE), from a place of distress and discomfort for injustices happening to marginalised people in remote communities. Through CODE, Lawal has led advocacies and government’s actions towards providing timely intervention to these deprived communities in the areas of healthcare provision to reduce needless deaths and maternal mortality; education infrastructure to ensure more children in these regions are able to learn and have access to future opportunities; provision of water and sanitation services.
As CODE intensified its work in rebuilding society, Lawal developed a unique socio-digital accountability initiative called Follow The Money(FTM). Through FTM, over eight thousand young Africans tagged community champions have been empowered to demand and drive accountability and transparency in governance in hundreds of communities across the continent.
With FTM, Lawal kindled young social activists across Nigeria and Africa to become active citizens who are invested in good governance and accountability in order to ensure public money is used for public good.
In 2020 alone, despite the COVID pandemic, these ‘new-born’ activists visited over 250 communities, inspected and monitored the implementation of projects, created online and offline campaigns to demand better from the government and impacted over four million lives.
By influencing a new generation of activists who are demanding better from governments in Africa and impacting lives of people living in the most marginalized communities, Lawal is demonstrating qualities of a Global Citizen – which in today’s context is the prime definition of leadership.
With a mission to build a movement of 100 million people to end extreme poverty by 2030, Global Citizen is developing a community of leaders like Lawal, who can use their voices and work to address deep-rooted causes and combat systemic poverty across the globe.
To achieve its mission in Africa, the organization recently launched its 2021 fellowship program powered by pop star Beyoncé Knowles (BeyGood) and funded by top American filmmaker Tyler Perry. The program is set to empower 15 Africans, including five Nigerians with network and resources to become global leaders.
As part of fulfilling its objectives, Global Citizen selected eight individuals to serve as advisory council board members, all providing support for fellows and the fellowship program.
Lawal, widely known as the anti-corruption activist, was selected to work as an adviser in the area of citizenship. The year-long program will provide the opportunity for Lawal to once again partake in the moulding of young future leaders.
His role will include spearheading special projects and providing mentorship and guidance for fellows. He will work alongside other influential African youth leaders such as: Aisha Yesufu, Bonang Matheba, Charmaine Houvet and Nozipho Tshabalala, to mention only a few.
As the progenitor of socio-digital accountability in Nigeria gears up to impact the lives of young, global leaders, his contributions towards fostering transparency in governance has earned him recognition as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in Nigeria for the year 2021.
Organized by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) the award features change-makers from various sectors who have not only excelled in the work and created positive impact, but also blazed the trail for socially responsible leaders all around the world.
Lawal will be getting awarded for his strides in the political, legal and government sphere. Beyond fruitful legacies, notable awards and recognitions, the path of the grassroot campaigner and activist shines forth as a beacon for all those who desire a better-developed continent and works toward creating the change they so desire.
In the words of John Maxwell, “the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”