I started volunteering with Pro-Health International in September 2011 on a medical mission to TAI LGA of Rivers State. On a fateful medical mission to Ukana LGA of Akwa Ibom state in October 2011, I met him. My first sight of him was on the first morning of the project. I remember seeing someone signaling me to round up because I was the one facilitating the bible study session during the morning devotion. I had not met him before, I didn’t know what he looked like, but common sense told me he must be the Executive Director of Pro-Health International.
Later that week, we officially met and I gave him a copy of the book I had written that year. Few months later he called me in the middle of his morning walk (he still walks/jogs every morning till today) to come over to Abuja to lead the writing of the organisation’s devotional. I agreed. After successfully getting that book published, I didn’t go back to Calabar where I was. I have worked closely with him over the years, occupying various positions, and I must say that there is a lot I have learnt from him as a leader. These are a few things he has taught me.
- LIFE STARTS AND ENDS WITH GOD
I have had the opportunity to interview over 150 people who have been a part of his organisation for the past 25 years, and one thing they have consistently said that characterized his life is the God factor. Like a thread intricately woven within a tapestry, so is God woven in his life and all of the things he does. He is one man I have seen who trembles at the word of God. He has taught me that you cannot lead anyone with a worthwhile vision if it doesn’t come for God. So he knows his source.
- KNOW AND WALK IN YOUR PURPOSE
When he initially set out to establish his organisation, many called him crazy and stupid because he had to resign his job to do that. It wasn’t attractive to start up a NGO at that time. It was only missionaries from abroad who carried out medical missions at that time. But he knew that was what he was called to do and he applied himself to it. He knew his purpose, he stayed on it and didn’t allow distractions and challenges to pull him out of him. He took a risk and it payed off.
- BE A CONSISTENT DREAMER
I have seen him come up every year with fresh dreams. And I have seen him achieve them. Usually, his visions for every season always appear impossible, but you know what, in the end they come to pass. And when it is done, he moves over to the next big thing.
- PASSION IS THE FUEL YOU NEED
If there is one man I have seen with great passion, it is Dr. Iko Ibanga. His passion burns like fire in his bones and you can see it in his eyes. That passion has driven him to places that others wouldn’t dare to enter. His passion drives him like wine. He sets goals and goes after them with determination. He is a passionate leader.
- BUILD A SYSTEM
Dr Iko has built an organisation that can operate without him, one that can outlive him. He has been able to successfully raise leaders within his organisation and hand them a model for operation. So whether he is around or not, his vision can function well. That for me is very vital to immortality. Building an organisation that will succeed with or without your presence and most importantly, outlive you.
- BELIEVE IN PEOPLE’S POTENTIALS
Many believe that having experience and the right qualifications help get the job done. For him, there is also the other aspect of giving people the opportunity to prove themselves. He looks at your potential to do a thing and he throws you out there to rough it out. He knows you would make mistakes, but at the same time he believes you will get the job done. That is golden.
- RELATIONSHIP IS A SOCIAL CAPITAL
There are very few people I have met who relate with people the way Dr Iko does. He meets total strangers and strikes up conversations that will some day culminate into a business transaction. In fact the successes he has achieved for 25 years can be attributed to his relationships. He builds relationships and he has leveraged so much on its advantages.
- BE HUMBLE
I have in so many ways seen him exhibit this rare virtue. He joins the rest of us to sleep in the most uncomfortable accommodations during medical missions. He has served us food several times. He has loaded and unloaded supplies with us over and over. He is real. He has no air of arrogance about him. I personally believe that one of the reasons he is favoured by God is because of his humility.
- LOVE PEOPLE
Dr. Iko has taught me that you cannot succeed as a leader without genuinely loving people. Love is the life behind the success of every vision. He has lots of love in his heart for people, even people he does not know. No wonder over 1.5 million people have been impacted by his love as he, with his team, provide quality and quantitative health care free of charge to the poor and less privileged in the rural communities of Africa.
- PRAY ALWAYS
When I first came to Abuja to meet with him, the next day was a Sunday so we went to church. As we sat down he began to pray in tongues. In my mind, I was like, “I already like this man”. We pray everyday at the office from 12pm to 1pm. And he is unapologetic about it. The truth is, with prayer I have seen so many things happen for him like it’s magic. He sees prayer as the fuel for exploits. It opens the portal to access revelations and the supernatural.
- I AM NOT PERFECT
Just as I have discovered in every great leader, Dr Iko is not perfect. But he lives daily giving his best. He is a human being who has chosen to submit himself to the hand of a mighty God to use him. One thing I have learnt from my experience with him is that no follower who focuses on the weakness of his or her leader becomes a greater leader. Rather than magnify their imperfections, magnify and celebrate their strengths. There is so much to learn from the good they express.
These are the eleven leadership lessons I’ve learnt from my leader and mentor Dr. Iko. I will be releasing two of my ebooks today the 14th of November 2016 to honour him and my son. Today is his birthday and Zion my son is 6 months. Happy Birthday Dr. Iko.
Have a lovely week ahead.
You are the best of your kind. You are the next big thing. Make it happen!