At the age of 24, Dr. Adedayo Akande found himself president of the University of Health Sciences, Antigua. His background in corporate America offered no experience in the field of medical education, but he was determined to protect his father’s legacy. Despite being young and inexperienced, he guided the school for over a decade and carried it safely through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The University of Health Sciences, Antigua
Akande’s father, Dr. Yele Akande, traveled from Nigeria to obtain a Ph.D. in biology. While studying at Loyola University in Chicago, he heard the island of Antigua was hoping to attract a school of medicine. He and his wife flew to the Caribbean, obtained a charter, and started one of the first medical schools in the region.
“My dad always had a desire to advance health care, and our university allowed him to have an impact worldwide,” recalls Akande. “Students from every part of the world graduate from our program.”
In 2009, Akande’s father suddenly experienced kidney failure as a result of a heart attack and dialysis. At the time, Akande was 24-years-old and working a corporate job in Chicago.
“When my father passed away, I knew I couldn’t allow his lifelong goal to die with him,” explains Akande. “His school’s graduates were impacting the lives of so many and working toward the betterment of humanity. I determined to continue not only my father’s legacy but also this institution.”
Five traits of an effective leader and educator
Thrust from IT work into a high-profile leadership role, Akande decided the type of leader he wanted to become. Early on, as a leader, he determined to:
- Surround himself with a trustworthy team
- Adapt to change
- Show compassion
- Demonstrate active listening
- Exhibit servant leadership
As the University’s second president, Akande had big shoes to fill. With these attributes, however, Akande follows successfully in his father’s footsteps and carries the school into the next generation.
Effective leaders surround themselves with a team
Effective leaders recognize the need to surround themselves with people who can offer them knowledge and expertise. They know if they’re always the smartest person in the room, they’re setting themselves up for failure.
“The challenges I faced early on in this role stemmed from the fact that I was new to the industry,” remembers Akande. “Jumping into this role, I had to put together a team I could rely on daily. Without those people in place, I don’t think the school would be where it is today.”
“Around every effective leader is a trustworthy and reliable team. Because I trust my team, I’m able to delegate responsibility,” says Akande. “There’s no reason to have a team if you are trying to micromanage them.”
Effective leaders adapt to change
Akande believes leaders must be able to adapt to change. “Change is inevitable,” he warns, “and being inflexible will almost always result in failure. My Dad was years ahead of his time; he even wrote a curriculum for the online medical school he envisioned long before that technology was readily available.”
Coming to the University from an IT background, Akande expanded on his father’s innovative vision. “When the pandemic suddenly forced medical schools to teach online, that was something we were able to do,” he says. “This was probably the biggest change we’ve had to make in our history. It required adjustment from our team and our students, but we were ready to adapt.”
Effective leaders show compassion
In Akande’s opinion, the most effective leaders show compassion. In every decision he makes, he first puts himself in the position of whoever will be affected by his choice.
Akande views compassion as vital for leaders in the field of education. “I see students from all walks of life,” he explains. “They might be dealing with anything from suicidal thoughts to childhood trauma. As a leader, I am committed to caring for the students who come to me and helping them achieve their goals.”
Effective leaders demonstrate active listening
Akande maintains that effective leaders practice active listening daily. Before he makes decisions, he truly listens to everyone on his team.
“Leaders need to do their due diligence,” Akande advises. “You have to really understand what’s going on. Making a decision without having full understanding can be detrimental. The days are busy, but when my team is speaking with me, I make sure to be fully present.”
Effective leaders exhibit servant leadership
Akande considers himself a servant leader. In decision-making, he characteristically puts the needs of others before his own.
“The students come first in everything we do at the University of Health Sciences Antigua,” says Akande. “Without them, there’s no reason for me to be here. Servant leadership is not the easiest course. Sometimes it is tempting to shift gears toward more of an authoritative leadership style, but I truly believe servanthood is more effective over time.”
As president of a medical school, Akande points out that physicians should all be servant leaders. “Physicians need the ability to listen and show compassion,” he says. “They need the humility to work well with a team and the flexibility to adapt when change is required. All these traits are aspects of servant leadership.”
As the second president of the University of Health Sciences, Antigua, Akande sets the example and expectation in servant leadership for his students. Today, with over a decade’s experience, he is confident in his role, but no less careful to employ the attributes of effective leadership that enabled him to continue his family’s legacy.
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