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Leaders of tomorrow must inspire young people to reach their potential

Who do you look up to for inspiration?

My friend, Kiyan Prince, was stabbed in 2006 for stopping a fight. He was a respectful, ambitious and humble person, who exemplified the Nutmegethos. My mentor and my former football manager have also helped empower and support me. Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker, has inspired me because he was one homeless and now is helping millions of people around the world. Last but not least, I look up to Malcolm X because he was studious, articulate and fought hard for what he believed in, despite huge adversities.

How did you get into your current role?

I started a business accounts degree at Brunel University – my aim was to become a businessman. But during my final year, with the graduation date fast approaching, I didn’t feel ready to enter the real world.

While at university I was concerned about the level of knife and gun crime in my community. Being the eldest of seven, I wanted to to help my community and be a positive role model to my siblings. I started volunteering work through the university’s entrepreneurs society and ran youth events in my local area.

After running two community events in 2008, we decided to set up Nutmeg (new unique talented motivated energetic generation), with the vision of empowering young people to reach their full potential. I knew that I was passionate about helping others, but I didn’t see it as a career option, so I continued looking for accountancy jobs after graduating.

In the end, I turned an offer down; I felt that the exposure and experience that I had gained could be better used to help young people in my community. My goal was to build Nutmeg into a sustainable organisation and leave a legacy. While I was developing it, I did volunteer roles and worked in a school.Then, in July this year, an opportunity finally came to work for Nutmeg full-time and I grabbed it. I’ve worked so hard during the last two months, but it feels good because I’m doing what I truly love.

Can leadership be learned and developed, or is it just natural?

I refuse to believe that leadership is an esoteric quality. I liken leadership to a small seed in the ground that needs to be watered to grow; leadership qualities are watered through experience, education, awareness and action.

What have you found most challenging about leadership?

Coming from a grassroots background has given me a real insight into the issues people face and fuelled my desire for wanting to make a difference. So when I see a need, I want to take action and address it quickly. But if you’re building a sustainable organisation, a lot of time is spent doing mundane tasks such as writing funding bids, reports, planning and designing projects. The gap between when the idea is developed to when it’s actually implemented increases the chance of people losing interest and momentum. That’s why leadership is so important to communicate an inspiring vision that’s worth fighting for.

What advice would you give to future leaders?

I’ve learnt that leadership is not about where I’m going, but about the people that are travelling with me. I understand that if I do well, many others will be inspired by my story and be empowered to pursue their dreams. So I’d advise others to have strong reasons for doing what they are doing, as this helps them stay on track during the tough times. Also, if people see that you really believe in what you are championing then you are more likely to get support.

What will be the key challenges for aspiring leaders in your sector?

In today’s world everyone is overloaded with information, but has limited time to build robust relationships. Since many young people, especially those from disengaged backgrounds, feel like achieving success is beyond them, instilling belief in them to think otherwise is going to be a challenge.

What role do you see yourself playing in the future?

My aim is to be the best I can be, do what I love and positively impact as many people as possible. At the moment I’m really eager to build up Nutmeg, but in the future I’d like to be in a position where I make a greater impact to people’s lives and have a greater influence on key decision makers.

In five words, your perfect leader is…

Passionate, visionary, competent, empathetic and inspirational.