The Future of Leadership Forum: Interview with Prof David Abdullai (Founder & CEO, African Graduate School of Management and Leadership)
The Future of Leadership Forum
Featuring: Prof David Abdulai
Founder & CEO, African Graduate School of Management and Leadership
• Where did you grow up?
• What was your Dream
Career when you grew up?
• Who or what inspired you
to reach for the Stars?
• What was the turning point
in your Career?
• What is driving you today?
Part 1: David's
Where are you from?
I was born in Ghana and part of my youth and
education was in the United States. I grew up in
Washington DC, Boston and Denver, Colorado.
What did you study?
I studied at Howard University for my
undergraduate and finished my PhD in
International Economics at the University of
Denver and did a Leadership Development
Program at Harvard University.
What was your Dream career when you grew up?
As a young child I wanted to be a musician and I
could sing and dance and I followed James Brown
but unfortunately it never happened. Even today,
when I work, I listen to classic music.
What were your Sources of Inspiration?
My father who never went to school but had this integrity
about him, this working spirit and he was a leader in his
community. And my grandfather who was a paramount chief
and would call his people together to deliberate on matters
and that is why I saw that leadership is a very important
Where did you start your career?
I started my career first at the World Bank as a consultant
then I went to the Bank for International Settlement in Basel
and then to Malaysia where I was the first African Dean to run
the law faculty. From there I was head hunted to come to
South Africa to run the UNISA Graduate School of Leadership
- and from there I went to Ghana where we started the
African Graduate School of Management and Leadership.
What was the turning point in your career?
Having worked in different parts of the world, I realized that
there was a lot more to be done to make Africa a better place
and in turn inform the global environment because Africa has
a lot to teach the global environment - and realizing that all
human beings want the same thing.
• What does the Future of
Leadership mean to you?
• What have you learnt from
your journey that is most
important for building future
• What would you like to tell
aspiring leaders they should
focus on for building a future-
Part 2: David's
Future of Leadership
What does the future of leadership mean to you?
Without good leadership people perish. It is the same
thing in a family - without good leadership, the kids
will go wayward.
What have you learnt from your journey that is most
important for building future leaders?
Work hard. Keep on being very hungry. Complacency
is the recipe for failure. You must be humble. You must
be honest and have integrity.
What would you like to tell aspiring leaders they
should focus on for building a future proof career?
First, integrity is very important. And during bad times,
you must tell them the truth. As a leader, you must
read, continuously read. Knowledge is the only factor
that does not obey the law of diminishing returns. You
can keep adding on to your self knowledge.
• What are the key
Technologies that you
envisage will be driving
the Leadership of the
• Which Social Media
Platform(s) would you
suggest aspiring Leaders
Part 3: David's
What are the key technologies that you
envisage will be driving the leadership of
We can also use technology to cut down
corruption. If everything is paperless and there
is minimal human interface, it will drastically
reduce corruption. Also medicine,
telemedicine, to help people in rural areas to
have access to medical advice without having
to go to the big cities.
Which social media platform would you
suggest aspiring leaders should master?
It was at Harvard that we were influenced to
register on LinkedIn, the professional network.
If you use Facebook, you should use it
professionally. And of course other apps such
as Whatsapp - as a future leader, it is
important to have a website. Skype is also
• Which have been your
Biggest Success Stories in
principles for the Future?
• Which are the Role-
models of Leadership that
you would recommend
future leaders should
Part 4: David's
• Which have been your biggest success
stories in establishing leadership
principles for the future?
• There are so many people that it is very
hard to point to just one. I get a lot of people
call me every now and then - to just point at
one, would not giving credit to others.
• Which are the role models of leadership
that you would recommend future
leaders should study?
• Wealth is not about money, it is about
creating wealth. If you have a lot of people
who believe in you and trust you, whatever
you want, they will provide.
• Most people go out looking for money and in
the process they tarnish their reputation,
they trample on the values that brought
them to where they are and they end up in
• How can People get hold of
you (LinkedIn, Website etc)?
• Where can Listeners follow
your Thought Leadership?
• What is the one Thing you
would ask Your Listeners to
take away from this Interview
and implement in their
Part 5: David's
How can people get hold of you?
Please visit our website africasml.edu.gh or
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can listeners follows your thought
Please follow Prof Abdulai on LinkedIn
What’s the one thing you would ask your
listeners to take away from this interview
and implement in their leadership?
I believe there is always sunshine after rain.
So of you are currently struggling, you
should not think this is the end. Also no
condition is permanent. So those that have
made it should not think that this is it and rest
on their laurels. And finally, there is no
substitute for hard work.’
Listen to the full Interview
on Soundcloud, or watch the Slides, as
Twenty Insights from Global Thought Leaders