Oswald Sanders’ best definition of leadership as “… influence” aptly describe the positive influence of Sir Remi Omotoso on his family, his community, his church and the corporate world. The crying need of the church and the world today is leadership hence, remembering Sir Remi Omotoso today among other things provide an opportunity to learn leadership. God as the Ultimate Leader calls us to leadership and Sir Remi Omotoso as a good leader was a follower of Jesus Christ. Focus and self discipline provided the foundation for Sir Remi Omotoso leadership practice. In the spirit of Wesley’s relational theology, the leadership theology of Sir Remi Omotoso, a former Conference Lay President, Methodist Church Nigeria is rooted in God’s love and Word with the understanding that leadership or ‘love does not happen in a vacuum. Love is only possible in and through relationships (Jn 3:16). Sir Remi Omotoso’s empathy for others is shaped in practice by Wesley’s relational theology just as ‘social holiness needs to be extended beyond ecclesial koinonia. It is within the socio-economic and political community that holiness of life is to be realised.’
Leadership to Sir Remi Omotoso in contrast to the world’s all-powerful, all round talented guru-leadership with a big vision is an empowering and relational leadership hence, his ascension on June 5, 2020 left a big vacuum in the church and corporate world. Like John Wesley, leadership to Sir Remi Omotoso was a response to human needs and not just an achievement or personal gain. The blessed assurance that Sir Remi Omotoso is with his Saviour encourages us to always remember him as we wish him a happy 75th birthday today in heaven and to mark his first posthumous birthday and reflect on his leadership legacy. Sir Remi Omotoso was a model of Christian leader required to get the church and the nation from where we currently are in a largely post-Christian, post-modern, hurting, sceptical and somewhat disillusioned pluralistic society – to where God wants us to be.
Sir Remi Omotoso brought Christ to the table of leadership. He was a sort of Methodist Christian and a corporate leader worth following and worthy of imitation bearing in mind the ways he helped, related, and mentored others to take responsibility in accordance with godly standard. Sir Remi Omotoso’s leadership lifestyle was about expression of Christian faith under the governance of God, with Christ as focus, and given the revelation of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. The concern of leadership to Sir Remi Omotoso was the extension of mission and power of God into every context of life, Christ on display, ‘irrespective whether the leadership occurs within the ecclesial sphere or not.’ The nature and strength of empowering and relational leadership of Sir Remi Omotoso reminds us of how he related, witnessed, enabled, supported, and accompanied each individual along his ways, so that they all become in the end what God had always intended them to be.
Sir Remi Omotoso born on Saturday 28th August, 1945 in Odo Ayedun Ekiti was a Methodist Evangelist and Knight of John Wesley with a visible expressions of variety of pioneering and innovative skills and gifts in his everyday personal and corporate witnesses and relationships. Sir Remi Omotoso ‘a frontline investor, thoroughbred professional, seasoned administrator’ was a model of a Christian leadership for the corporate world. The singular invitation from Chief Joseph Sanusi, a former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, to Sir Remi Omotoso ‘to occupy a vacant seat on the board of Standard Chartered Bank where he was then chairman’ attested to the genuineness and excellent record of Sir Remi Omotoso.
Sir Remi Omotoso’s lay leadership from the local church to the Conference levels in the Nigerian Methodist episcopacy has put into a right perception that secular business world can take much more from church leadership and apply it in the boardroom. Sir Remi Omotoso’s leadership concept also discouraged an overuse of business practices in the church in order not to encourage the CEO model of church leadership bearing in mind that a business model of running a church has the potential to de-emphasises pastoral care and relationships. For Sir Remi Omotoso, the God’s Word is the foundation of everything we do in the church, however, business tools can be useful in the church life but ‘business tools aren’t the key to having a healthy church.’
Ed Stetzer said, “It’s true that an overemphasis on business tools can shift the focus from ministry to people to efficiency in operations … Business tactics at times have been prioritised over the Word of God. Instead of being used as tools, they were instead seen as goals. According to him, ‘once a business-like church ran smoothly, it could easily forget about its true purpose of being the body of Christ. This has resulted in the church conforming to the world around it and relying on tools more than trusting in God.’ Sir Remi Omotoso did not allow this happen in the church rather he prioritised prayer and the Word of God in order to overcome ‘a disjointed balancing act between Scripture and business tools or leadership.’ Sir Remi Omotoso’s style of leadership was rooted in the Scripture ‘while still being open to truths from other sources are discernment and a filter.’
Sir Remi Omotosos’s leadership style ‘first approach new ideas with an open Bible, prayerful hearts, and wise counsel from others within the church,’ and this approach helps in decision making in the church and corporate business. Sir Remi Omotoso’s church and business leadership style was shaped by ‘a vision and overarching purpose in what is done, people and resources to organise in activities that deliver the vision, obstacles to overcome, and legal and practical responsibilities to fulfil. There is need for planning and strategising, budget setting and management, and usually premises to maintain.’
Sir Remi Omotoso as one of the features in the book 50 NIGERIA’S BOARDROOM LEADERS—Lessons on Corporate Governance and Strategy provides a model of Wesleyan leadership for the corporate world. Mike Awoyinfa acknowledged that Sir Remi Omotoso’s ‘contribution is among the best.’ According to Awoyinfa, Sir Remi Omotoso ‘defines boardroom leadership with verve and authority.’ Sir Remi Omotoso’s effective model of church leadership he exhibited at the local and national levels of the church provides a sound foundation for his effectiveness in boardroom leadership. Sir Remi Omotoso’s leadership reminds us that ‘there is much to learn and be applied from different leadership approaches but what singles out church leadership is that it is about leadership of something that uniquely belongs within a much larger context, an eternal context of God’s overarching purposes for humanity and this world. It’s big picture stuff that goes far beyond the reach of even the largest multinational corporation! And business methods alone aren’t adequate.’
In following the final command of Jesus before bodily left this earth, Christianity, is a practice of relationship and followership. Just as the Christian’s centre of gravity is Jesus Christ, Sir Remi Omotoso understood the leadership of a board, that is, the chairman as the board’s centre of gravity. Just as Jesus sought out and managed his disciples bringing the best our of them for the kingdom purposes, Sir Remi Omotoso’s exemplified a leader ‘who knows his onions in bringing people to reason together in a positive manner and in coagulating ideas of different people. He must be someone who can get the best out of everybody. He should be the one who can build synergy and cohesion.’ Leadership under a spate of diverse opinions for Sir Remi Omotoso calls for ability to reconcile and turning opinions ‘to the direction of achieving the goals and aspirations of the company’ or church.
Leadership is about learning lessons from one another. According to Sir Remi Omotoso, ‘The boardroom is another school, a school as strong as Harvard. In fact, there are certain things in the boardroom that are not taught in Harvard. In the boardroom, you learn prudence, humility, firmness, focus, results-orientation, management of diversity of people and a host of other qualifications that a good leader must have anywhere. You get strengthened if you are lucky to have gone through one or two boards.’ Sir Remi Omotoso’s leadership legacy is a reminder that God has created no one as a legendary golden calf (Exd 32).
Sir Remi Omotoso’s warning against leadership generally acting as God is a reminder that we are all stewards accountable to God and to one another hence, good leadership ‘must have a respectable level of experience … must be a fantastic listener. A great coordinator. A psychologist of a kind. A fair-minded fellow who is prepared to not to dominate the board but is prepared to get other people to contribute and is able to synthesise the contributions of those people to form a decision that others will key into and take ownership of. He must be firm, but not overbearing. He must have transparent integrity. Integrity of thought, words and action. He must be seen as a personification of the organisation itself. A man who earns and keep respect. Let it not be expected that the chairman would be master of all subjects. He cannot be. He cannot be an expert in finance, marketing, supply-chain management and even law. But he must be able to learn quickly and learn how to tap into the knowledge of others, so that the goals of the board can be achieved. He must not see himself as a taskmaster of the board. He must see himself as the leader of the board instead.’
Sir Remi Omotoso preached what he led and led what he preached. He was a good speaker and coordinator, able to ‘managing meetings to be productive, managing time in meetings so that it doesn’t degenerate to a beer parlour kind of gathering, ensuring that members focus on the subject of discussion.’ Sir Remi Omotoso was a bridge between church members and church leadership just as ‘between the board and management through the CEO and the company secretary.’ There was no boring or tiring time with Sir Remi Omotoso at home, in the church, or in the office. According to him, his role as a leader or chairman of a meeting is ‘to pour oil on what looks like troubled water. If you are straight-faced, no-nonsense, straight-talking chairman, you are not going to succeed much. There must be a point in the meeting when you will bring in relevant jokes that will make people feel that they are just starting the meeting, and the fellow who feels a little heated up relaxes. You must have some sense of humour, but not to the extent of turning into a comedian.’
Sir Remi Omotoso was very knowledgeable in many areas of discipline but he did not turned himself into a “professor” in the boardroom or at church meetings. Leadership to Sir Remi Omotoso is not by domination or control, but as a disciplined ‘conductor of an orchestra harmonising and bringing the best in everyone.’ To God be the glory for the gift and leadership of Sir Remi Omotoso to the Body of Christ and corporate world. Please remember his wife, Mama Ebun, the children, grandchildren, siblings, and the entire family in prayer.