Shaping Impactful Leadership Through Identity

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Blog, For Educators, Heroes, Inspiration, Podcast

Leadership, to me, is an ever-evolving symphony made up of a multitude of instruments. Each leader brings their own special story and perspective, creating a harmonious blend of experiences, struggles, and successes. Each leader’s narrative is a unique melody, resonating with the symphony of impactful leadership.

Introducing Dr. Doyin Atewologun

T. A. Barron recording podcast, reading Jill Santopolo's book, "The Light We Lost"
Dr. Doyin is a psychologist, scholar-practitioner, regular media contributor, and multi-award winner in recognition of her innovative methodologies and pioneering work in promoting inclusion and excellence in organizations. She is CEO and Founder of Delta, a leadership and inclusion consultancy and Leadership Programme Advisor at the Rhodes Trust at the University of Oxford. Her previous roles include Dean of the Rhodes Scholarship and Director of the Gender, Leadership & Inclusion Centre at Cranfield School of Management, where she was Reader (Associate Professor).

From her roots in Lagos, Nigeria, to her esteemed role as the Dean of Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University, Dr. Atewologun’s journey exemplifies the power of embracing identity while fostering inclusive communities.

Dr. Atewologun’s journey — like many others — is proof of the transformative power of embracing diverse backgrounds. These stories transcend boundaries, offering invaluable insights into effective leadership.

As I reflect on my recent conversation with Dr. Doyin Atewologun on Magic & Mountains, I am struck by the profound discussion we had on identity and its intricate relationship with impactful leadership. Dr. Atewologun shared her personal story, her expertise in organizational psychology, and her commitment to nurturing young leaders from diverse backgrounds.

Episode 11 Excerpt

by T. A. Barron ft. Dr. Doyin Atewologun | Magic & Mountains: The T. A. Barron Podcast

Episode 11 Excerpt

by T. A. Barron ft. Dr. Doyin Atewologun

Common Threads of Impactful Leadership

The path to becoming a great leader involves continuously developing and honing important qualities that make a positive impact.

Every leader’s story may come from a different background, but they all highlight key elements of effective leadership. Traits like resilience, empathy, adaptability, and having a clear vision are all crucial components that pave the way for successful leadership.

Resilience is one of the most important qualities of impactful leaders. This unwavering ability to face challenges head-on and turn setbacks into opportunities is truly inspiring. Dr. Atewologun’s story echoes this sentiment, illustrating how resilience fueled her journey from her roots in Lagos to becoming a beacon of leadership at Oxford University.

Empathy, the ability to understand and connect with others on a deeper level, is another important characteristic. Leaders who show empathy can bring together different perspectives and create inclusive environments where everyone feels heard and valued.

Finally, Adaptability, the skill of navigating change and uncertainty, is an essential quality of impactful leaders. Dr. Atewologun’s journey perfectly illustrates how an adaptable leader can flourish in diverse settings and quickly adjust leadership styles.

Driven by a strong vision and purpose, inspirational leaders guide their communities toward positive change. Listening to different perspectives, learning from others, and staying curious all help broaden our horizons, deepen our knowledge, and make us better leaders in a constantly changing world.

Navigating the Complexity of Identity in Leadership

Dr. Atewologun’s upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria, was marked by vibrant family holidays and a thriving school environment. However, the sudden loss of her mother and the subsequent relocation to the UK presented her with profound challenges. Moving from the bustling energy of Lagos to the quiet confines of a small English town forced her to confront her identity in new ways.

Amidst the turmoil of relocation, Dr. Atewologun turned to journaling as a means of self-expression and reflection. By documenting her experiences and crafting narratives, she found a sense of continuity amidst change. This journey of self-discovery underscored the importance of mental health and resilience in navigating life’s transitions.

Self-reflection is like a little compass that guides us on our leadership journey. It helps us look within, understand our strengths, acknowledge areas for improvement, and tackle challenges with fresh energy.

Dr. Atewologun’s story shows us how important it is to embrace our own experiences while respecting others’, making sure everyone feels included and valued.

Cultivating Inclusive Environments

Throughout our discussion, Dr. Atewologun emphasized the importance of recognizing and embracing the complexity of identities in leadership. Drawing on her background in organizational psychology, she highlighted the need for inclusive environments that honor individuals’ diverse backgrounds and experiences.

As the Dean of Rhodes Scholars, Dr. Atewologun facilitated spaces for young leaders to explore their identities, values, and aspirations. By creating inclusive environments for reflection and dialogue, she empowered them to leverage their own unique perspectives for impactful leadership. This approach fostered authenticity, empathy, and collaboration, driving positive change within communities and beyond.

Embracing Diversity

Recognizing the hurdles that young leaders often encounter when trying to make change in established systems, Dr. Atewologun is still hopeful about the positive impact they can have. By embracing diversity and creating environments that respect individual identities, we can develop leaders who are genuine, understanding, and resilient.

The work Dr. Atewologun has done with the Rhodes Scholars shows how diversity can transform leadership for the better. When we appreciate our differences and promote an inclusive atmosphere, we can tap into a wealth of varied perspectives and ideas. By working together towards a common goal, we can build a more fair, balanced, and caring world for everyone.

For more insights on impactful leadership, I invite you to tune in to episode 11 of Magic & Mountains: “Leadership and Identity with Dr. Doyin Atewologun” to hear, in Dr. Doyin’s own words, how writing her story helped her to remember where she came from… and where she longed to go.