Women in Leadership
Omolara Aromolaran: SSA to Lagos State governor
By Temitope David-Adegboye
Mrs. Omolara Aromolaran is Senior Special Assistant to Lagos State governor on Administration. She holds an HND from The Polytechnic, Ibadan and Masters degree in Lincoln University, California. In this interview, she speaks on life as an administrator and how she combines her many roles.
What informed your career choice?
I started as the special assistant in the office of Chief of Staff in July 1999. Since then, I’ve grown to become the senior special assistant in the same office.
What does it take to work with civil servants?
Civil service job is like any other job in terms of challenges, motivation, time and self-fulfillment. The challenge that we go through is like those in any other organisation would go through. You have a time to achieve a goal to ensure that your service delivery actually meets up with the demand. You need the will, the know-how, the motivation within yourself and maybe from the organisation to drive you to achieve your goals.
Before your appointment as SA, what were you into?
I was with a company as an administrator.
So, you’ve always been an administrator.
I actually studied marketing in school at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. But since I got out of school, my training has been in the administrative section.
Having worked as an administrator for a while, what are the lessons you’ve learnt over the years?
The experience so far has been very good. I am actually a people-person and I like coordinating. I like to achieve set goals. I’m self-driven and I look beyond my immediate. I try to see beyond what currently exists around me. I like to imagine what would be the aftermath of whatever I am doing. I try to think of how people would perceive it, what impact it would have on people that are going to be the recipients of my delivery. But it has been good because it helps me to be focused, broadens my knowledge and builds in me strength, because you are not just limited to one area. As an engineer or a doctor, one is limited to that area alone except one decides to acquire knowledge in other fields. But as an administrator, I cut across the engineering sector, medical, legal and all others. And it also rubs off on one’s personality.
If you were not an administrator, what other else would you have been doing?
I think I have always known I will be in admin. Because I have a natural tendency for that. I have always wanted to work in a team. If I want to work in a team, it would mean that I want to learn the rope with an intention to eventually lead the team. So, I’ve always known that my natural tendencies lean towards administration.
What leadership style have you adopted that has helped you over the years?
You can’t administer without people. But basically, it is an open door policy and then master-servant style. I believe in participating in all the tasks. I do not believe in giving orders and not being a part of it myself. I join the team from the lowest to the highest level. I do not just believe in sitting down, I join them in performing each task because I also get to learn along the line. It helps me to grow in knowledge and understanding. That is one thing many people in leadership positions do not recognise. When you participate in doing a task, you learn more too because whether you like it or not, you don’t know everything. There are little things that the so-called ordinary people know more than you, if you claim to know the big things. Another thing is that it makes you relate with your colleagues at the level they are. You can also feel what they are feeling. I’m more of a master-servant because I participate in the entire task myself. You can’t give what you don’t have. If you want to direct someone to do something, you must have an idea of what the task is all about so that when the person finishes, you would be able to assess.
Apart from that, I am a Christian. Jesus had to come down in person for Him to understand the challenges and ways of the
Flesh. He came down in human form so that He could understand us humans. I take that master-servant style of leadership from Jesus. He was the highest but He came to the barest level that anyone could ever imagine, to the extent that he had to wash the feet of His disciples even as their leader. By that singular act, He felt the feet of his disciples, how hard or soft they were and whether they were injured or not. That way, you can actually know how to relate with them and make them do what you want them to do. So, Jesus’ style of leadership is my style of leadership. He is my watchword.
You would agree this style of leadership certainly has its own disadvantage too. People may want to take you for a ride. How do you deal with it?
People who know me know that despite the fact that I like to be a part of all tasks, I am a very principled person. When I believe in something, I go all out for it. I think people can take you for a ride because of what they perceive of you. Yes, a lot of people have tried. It is natural for people to want to take others for granted. But at the same time, you can be very explicit about your person–what you would take and what you wouldn’t. Naturally, whatever side you turn, you are bound to have people wanting to go across the line. It is your duty to put them in check and everything falls in place. Every other person takes s a cue from that.
How do you combine your role as a mother with your career?
It is by the grace of God. And like anybody who is in that position or even higher than me, I see all as being very important and critical. And all of these areas add up to make me who I am, because without any of these areas, I probably wouldn’t be complete. So, I see it as a normal and natural place to be– a good wife, mother and good woman at work
There is a belief that women who are keen on making a success of their careers find it difficult?
I don’t believe that. It all depends on the individual, starting with the woman.
Every aspect of your life, be it the family or work require attention. You must not trade off one for the other. If you do, definitely you would have a shortfall in one aspect. And it would reflect on the other aspect that you have taken as a priority. Both are very important. If a woman takes this advice, she will blend. God has given us the capacities to be able to handle many tasks and balance them. But it now depends on where your priority lies. You must realise that you mustn’t take the home more important or even take your career more important.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
The best advice came from my mum. She would always say to me that it is necessary for me to be the best that I can be both at my work place, my home, to my husband and children. She advised me to ensure that I am never found wanting.
How supportive is your husband?
The role of a husband or a wife is critical to the success of the other person. The joy which money or job cannot buy is what the spouse gives.
Who would you say you took after, your mum or your dad?
My mum. She has been a business administrator right from childhood.
So you didn’t take anything from your dad?
I am a complete feminist. I took more of my mum. Maybe my facial look is more from my dad
What is your advice for women, especially young ones who want to become administrators like you?
You have administrators at all levels. Everybody is an administrator one way or the other. My advice to women generally is that we need to realise that we have so much that we carry in our wombs; it is not just babies. We carry a whole nation. That invariably means we are carrying a whole continent. And you need to be careful. A woman should not allow herself to be considered as incapable or inadequate. I don’t believe it. Naturally, the society would tend to want to push you down but you have a stronger will in you. You should not allow your potentials to die. Naturally, I have gone through a lot of challenges in life, like not having enough of what you require and not having the opportunities that would enable you achieve, but despite that, my focus is still intact. I look more ahead than I look at the present. Looking ahead drives me to continue to move ahead. Women should dream bigger dreams, set things in place to actualise those dreams. Women should have faith in themselves. Their faith shouldn’t just be in what they wear, how they look, how many children they have and all that. Life is beyond that.
‘I look more ahead than I look at the present. Looking ahead drives me to continue to move ahead. Women should dream bigger dreams, set things in place to actualise those dreams’
‘You can’t give what you don’t have. If you want to direct someone to do something, you must have an idea of what the task is all about so that when the person finishes, you would be able to assess’
‘Whatever side you turn, you are bound to have people wanting to go across the line. It is your duty to put them in check and everything falls in place’