Adaku Ezeudo is a diversity and inclusion consultant, trainer, mentor and coach and has worked across functions in multinationals and public sector organisations before starting a transformation boutique consultancy called PhoenixRize Consulting where she specialises in supporting organisations in meeting their statutory equality and diversity requirements. She also founded i-Smile International, a charity set up in Ireland and Nigeria to enhance the economic, political, cultural and social participation of marginalised women. She has received multiple awards and recognition for her work on social inclusion, community activation, women empowerment both locally and Internationally. In 2018, she was listed as one of Dublin’s Heroes and one of the most exceptional and inspiring people in Dublin by the Dublin City Council Culture Company.
Under what conditions do you get your best work done?
I work best when I am under a bit of pressure, it allows me to laser focus on the task at hand and get things done quickly. I am also a night owl, my most productive time begins when your typical early riser is nodding off. I tend to be more relaxed and more creative at that time and I am more likely to come up with outside-the-box solutions.
Have you had a mentor and if so how did this person impact you?
Yes, I have had several mentors during the course of my personal and professional growth. Mentors are invaluable. I had mentors that challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and dream bigger, some mentors boosted my self-esteem and confidence while others shared their wisdom and knowledge which helped me to innovate. There is however one particular mentor that stands out for me, this is because he provided me with practical ongoing business support. He went above and beyond to act as a champion/spokesperson for my business. He clearly understood the peculiar business challenges I faced as an ethnic entrepreneur and he often went out of his way to help me build networks and partnerships.
What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
I would like to actually mention two mistakes – inauthenticity and personal agenda. I have witnessed many leaders engaging in tokenism and personal agenda. They are not genuine and do not care about the other person’s growth or development, it’s often about looking good for the funders/critics or simply a tick box exercise. This is very sad and unfortunately, people see through all the gimmicks and fluff. Leaders need to be entrusted to show up as authentic, bring out the best in others and operate from a place of total honesty.
Have you ever been professionally stuck? How did you become unstuck?
Yes, I have been professionally stuck. I began my career as an accountant in the financial services industry but over time I began to feel constantly stressed, demotivated and unfulfilled. Even though I was good at my job, something was missing. Purpose. I yearned to do something more meaningful, that excited passion in me and allowed me to make a difference in people’s lives. I became unstuck by building a business that aligned with my personal values which are fairness, helping others, integrity, service, excellence and compassion. I am now a diversity and inclusion consultant, helping corporates, charities and public sector organisations overcome cultural barriers so that they are better able to benefit from the opportunities presented by cultural diversity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could go back in time and hang out with my younger self, I would advise myself that life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about how fast you go but how far you go. Give yourself permission to dream big, don’t limit your ambition. Patience and persistence ultimately pay off. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else, focus on your own journey. Don’t wait to learn from your own mistakes, watch, listen and learn from the mistakes of others. And more importantly, life is too short to waste time doing things that don’t light your fire, if what you are currently working on doesn’t excite you, it may be time for a change.
If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?
Humility, Integrity, Ability to Inspire