Exclusive interview: Adedoyin Adele-Fadipe

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER | CENTRAL ELECTRIC & UTILITIES LIMITED

Adedoyin Adele-Fadipe’s experience spans across Power Sectors in Nigeria, West and East Africa, Upstream Oil & Gas Development, Crude Oil & Petroleum Products Trading and Infrastructure Project Development. Adedoyin led the acquisition and a management team for Crude Oil & Petroleum Products Contracts, participated in policy design initiatives and has managed global project partnerships. Her core focus is on bankable end-user supply strategy and renewable energy.

WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN LIFE?

From an early age, I watched my mother admire women of strength, excellence, contentment and generosity of heart who broke barriers and crashed glass ceilings oftentimes despite the challenges that they faced. This shaped my understanding of what it meant to be a woman. My mother, although she was not a ‘working’ woman in the conventional sense, managed to raised four strong women in the culture of building up and managing goals. My father instilled the belief in us girls that we could achieve anything we set our minds to with dedication, hardwork and integrity. He always gave us room to express our opinions.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR AND WHAT WAS YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY?

During the lockdown, I took out time to study the Bible. The stories of Eleazar & Joshua as well as Aaron & Moses demonstrated the significance of one generation’s role in impacting another generation.

WHEN MEETING OTHER LEADERS WHAT DO YOU ASK THEM?

I ask them about their personal leadership experience because I know that each leader has a different journey and a different set of tools by which they grow & manage themselves and their constituency. I am always eager to learn about the trends that they see and to understand their perspective of those trends in both general and specific terms.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LESSON LEARNED DO YOU CONTINUE TO PRACTISE TODAY?

My first leadership experience was when my class teacher instructed me to write down the names of noisemakers in her absence, knowing full well that I was very talkative in class. She did it to help me understand the effect of my behavior.

IS A LEADER BORN OR MADE?

I believe that certain people are born with inherent leadership qualities but I do not think that inherent qualities are sufficient to make a good leader. What is more important is character: the willingness to learn and one’s ability to draw ‘positive’ perspectives and lessons from one’s experiences.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

First is the willingness to serve, the ability to listen & learn, genuine concern and fairness. Second is the ability to set out a clearly articulated vision that is both easy to understand and relatable by all stakeholders. Thirdly, a successful leader is one that delegates, mentors, supervises and reports effectively while being able to take decisive decisions based on facts and proper consideration. Finally, a leader must always be willing to take responsibility with candor, courage and a sense of integrity that offers stability for the overriding good of his or her constituency.

WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?

For inspiration, I follow social development and sustainability, music and the creative arts, and information technology, digitalisation & IOT. Focusing specifically on music, is a universal language that brings people together in ways that breach barriers. I am deeply fascinated by the merging of European Classical music with traditional African rhythms. This is similar to the merging of foreign technology and business solutions into what must be uniquely African innovation.

The creative process of music and the arts is one that appears to me as being intrinsically common to the process of energy innovation. Both inspire the ability to think outside of set boundaries while staying true to the uniqueness of communities and culture.

The energy sector today is requiring a similar creative ethos in its innovative process of technology design, financing, changing global trends, business strategy and operating models, to mention a few. Music and the creative arts can also be used to have an extremely effective impact in the area of the host community.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

The biggest risk I ever took was leaving a secure career path to fund further educational and professional development. I wanted to explore other possibilities in order to position myself as a solutions provider in the area of economic sustainability and social development. I therefore chose to start over without any guarantees. Arguably, the risk that I took ultimately decided the trajectory of my career to where I find myself today.

IF YOU COULD WISH AWAY A CHALLENGE TO YOUR BUSINESS OR THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Development capital, appropriate funding structures, forex risk and resilient human capital are all challenges that I would like to wish away.

Speaking specifically to appropriately structured development capital, Africa must be able to develop tailor-made solutions that speak to the uniqueness of the continent’s markets, culture, social disposition and topography. We cannot simply import solutions from other climes by relying on them in a way that only creates channel instruments to grow foreign businesses and balance sheets. However, progress can only be made when we improve the availability of funding structures and terms to develop innovation and structures that are specific to Africa.

Increased project development funding means that we would have a better capacity to independently engage experts and resources, acquire skills by engagement and carry out more specialised feasibility towards Africa-specific innovation. We can then welcome our foreign colleagues as post development equity participants so that local companies can claim higher value, develop strategies for Africa-centred solutions, limit the business’ exposure to forex requirement on capex repatriation – while still leveraging on foreign experience and capabilities.

WHAT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO KEEP A TEAM MOTIVATED?

We try to communicate openly about current plans, challenges, projected targets and everything in between; always linking it to the vision as a means of ensuring a sense of stability. In doing so, we help the team to see the growth trajectory of our enterprise, articulate their role in the achievement of our collective targets and how the company’s future aligns with their own individual potential for growth and progress. We are genuine in our willingness to listen to their concerns, showing always that their growth is of major concern to the organisation.

We are constantly seeking strategies to help them thrive outside of the workplace. I would summarise our technique as a stakeholder approach that is based on a sustainable organisational framework.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR AND YOUR TEAM’S PERFORMANCE?

It is a work in progress. We are not yet where we want to be but we have achieved many strides. We are adapting to improve our structures to meet current challenges and ensure our ability to optimise opportunities that are yielding.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHERE LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?

In dealing with the uncertainties, I make an effort to keep in touch with other leaders in order to exchange experiences and lessons learnt and also to remain resourceful and objective.

I do a lot of research and study to keep up to date with trends and I try to keep an open communication channel with subordinates because they almost always have more insight than I do.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM PLAYING IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY OF THE 2020 GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

Certainly, we must be part of the solution by positioning our business model for the ability to create jobs, impact communities, engage in local capacity development and build strategies for less dependency on foreign exchange. We also intend to inculcate impact programmes into our operations by using the opportunity to establish our profit need sustainability model.

HOW IMPORTANT IS SCENARIO PLANNING WHEN IMPLEMENTING ANNUAL STRATEGIES?

This is perhaps the most important of all tools required to build a sustainable organisation because you have to be able to feasibly develop your plans and consider all manner of risks that could occur with regard to your planning and your execution strategy.

Our scenario planning approach allows us to forecast potential risk, apply or develop methodologies, processes and tools to analyse, address and monitor the potential risks to our business case and determine the impact of the risk event on the targeted outcome of our original plan. This helps us to create a range of outcomes with regard to our targets and overall strategy. This process is adopted across the organisation in the determination of what our position will or ought to be.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DIGITALISATION, THE COMPLEXITIES AND INTRICACIES – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AROUND THIS AND HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR AFRICA?

The sustainability of renewable energy access has never just been about the hardware alone. It’s highly dependent on the system upon which the asset is built to support its operation; i.e. performance monitoring and reporting, data gathering and analysis, maintenance, customer services, etc. This era of rapid innovation offers us the ability to explore solutions that enhance and optimise this asset – irrespective of challenges such as limited financial inclusion, telecommunication access, skill level requirement, access to rural and far-flung locations and the cost of system development, deployment, integration and management.

Digitalisation and IOT are the backbone by which innovation will express these new solutions. However, these solutions will have to be tailormade to suit and reflect the uniqueness with regard to markets, topography, culture and social disposition in Africa.

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

In the context of this interview’s focus, it is that our work had an impact on communities, however remote, to the extent that lives were transformed for the better. Also, that we were able to work with others to deliver electricity services in a manner that had an overreaching and sustainable impact on the socio-economic conditions of the communities where we went, cementing the view that electricity access itself is a tool. In summary, electricity for empowerment and not as a burden.

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