Archetypes: Benjamin Akande, Ph.D.
Interview by Kelly Hamilton
A conversation with Dr. Benjamin Akande, dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology at Webster University. Akande, 52, is recognized in the St. Louis area for his leadership roles at Webster, where he established the Global Leadership Academy program and serves as the university’s chief of the Office of Corporate Partnerships. He also oversees almost 1,200 professors who teach Webster students at campuses worldwide. In the larger community, the Nigerian-born St. Louis transplant of 14 years is a former consultant to World Bank and the United Nations Development Program. He serves on the boards of the Saint Louis Art Museum and Forest Park Forever, among other entities.
What is your current frame of mind? Relaxed, but at the same time, I have a sense of constructive impatience. I want to get things done.
When and where are you happiest? When I’m in the element in my work. When I’m engaged with things that are meaningful to me.
What is one word that describes you? Anxious.
What did you eat for breakfast today? I don’t do breakfast. That’s intentional. I do water and coffee in the morning. I like to start the morning clear.
What is your most marked characteristic? I’m fashion-conscious. And my oratory skills—I’m good extemporaneously.
What is your greatest weakness? My willingness to be vulnerable to people.
What trait do you most admire in others? I like ordinariness—people who have no pretense. Dependable, honest people. And change-masters— people who eat change for breakfast.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? My wife, Bola, and our kids Moyo, Anjola and Reni—without any doubt. They give me a lot of reason for living.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I would find a way to stop and smell the roses. I’m always thinking about completion and the next thing. When I achieve my goals, I don’t stop to savor it.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I don’t think I’m there yet. It would be premature to claim that something is great—I will leave others to make that assessment. I will say I have goals. There’s much more work to do.
Which living person do you most admire? My dad, Dr. Samuel Akande, who is 89 years old—for the challenges he’s had to overcome and for what he made me.
With which historical figure do you most identify? Nelson Mandela. I love his sense of courage. He taught us that it’s OK to be afraid, and that then we have to get over it. He taught us that fear is a prerequisite to courage.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it be? I would come back as a young, multiracial person, where you couldn’t really tell where I was from. The future belongs to diversity.
What is your most treasured possession? My books and African art.
What is your greatest extravagance? Clothes, shoes, socks and cufflinks.
What is your greatest fear? Failure. My fear motivates me. The purpose of fear is to put things into perspective for us.
Who are your favorite writers? Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel prize winner in literature. And Chinua Achebe. I grew up reading these guys. They informed my life journey.
What is your favorite hobby? I am a writer. I’m also finding that I love hip-hop.
What’s something interesting you just learned? That destiny is undefeated.
What is one thing you wish would happen? I want America to really live up to its true creed— and to move from success to significance. A lot of us came here because of what America could be: the diversity of thought, of people’s lives.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? To grow old with my family.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? Enjoy the moment, man. Life is fleeting
Photo by Wesley Law
Photo credit: Wesley Law