Getting To Know Yetunde
Yetunde A. Odugbesan is an outstanding Nigerian-American woman who greatly defines a Young Leader for Change. She is an international motivational speaker empowering people especially young people to be great leaders and to live a life of purpose, power and public service. With her words, she unites and empowers people.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Yetunde’s passion for change, leadership and politics began at a young age. She is now the CEO and Founder of Yetunde Global Consulting, LLC., a management consulting firm which specializes in leadership development and training, organizational management and global business strategies.
Yetunde is the recipient of numerous academic, leadership and public service awards. She is currently a Ph.D candidate at Division of Global Affairs Rutgers University in New Jersey. With her vast experiences Yetunde decided to help others actualize their dreams and goals. In 2008, she founded, “Putting Your Best Self Forward” to empower people especially young people all over the world to be great leaders; to live a life of purpose, power and public service. Yetunde’s passion to foster a spirit of service and civic engagement and to encourage more people to public service led to the co-authorship of a published book titled, “A Call to Serve: Quotes on Public Service.”
Her endless accomplishments are a testament of her perseverance and determination. She believes its her responsibility to encourage, inspire and motivate others to be the best that they can be. Her mission is to pay it forward. In our interview with Yetunde we get to know more about her, her mission and everything in-between.
As a young girl did you imagine yourself in your profession, what were you aspirations then?
As a young girl my aspirations where always larger than life. I always envisioned myself being the President of a country or ambassador—something always big. I wanted to be a doctor, a neurosurgeon to be specific like Ben Carson or a journalist that could travel around the world to shed light on global, political and social injustices like Oprah or Barbara Walters. My interests were always politics, leadership and human rights. I always had grand ideas for my life and I still do—now at 24, the great thing is that I am living the reality of my dreams and working to see those visions as a little girl comes into fruition.
I always wanted to help people, to have a bigger impact not just on my community but throughout the world. I believe that my academic, personal and professional background is preparing me for such journey. Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in Global Affairs at Rutgers University. My doctoral research focuses on political corruption in local and state government and its effect on governmental trust and performance and the allocation of social services being delivered on the local level in West Africa. I received my masters in Global Affairs with a concentration in International Law. I did my undergraduate degree in Journalism and Media Studies with a double minor in Organizational Leadership and Africana Studies. My academic background represents my passions as well as my professional background of choice. I also graduated from United Nations World View Institute and Eagleton Institute of Politics.
You wear many hats; TV personality, consultant, speaker and leader, how do you manage it all?
When you love everything that you do, you create time for it. I’m involved in numerous organizations and professional/academic associations. I only do things that I am passionate about, which is a lot. So it’s a pleasure for me to wear various hats. Also it takes a lot of dedication, focus, persistence, prioritization, hard work and great work ethic. I am very big on excellence and doing and being your best so, I am constantly working harder and making sure that all I do is excellent in thought and in execution.
Apart from your professional life, what are your other interests?
I love reading, watching documentaries and movies, fashion, having alone time and being around family and friends.
What is a day like in Yetunde’s life?
It’s very much fast-paced. From working on academic papers, running back and forth to various meetings, constantly on my iphone and ipad, meeting clients for my consulting company-Yetunde Global Consulting, booking speaking engagements, working on my next goal….so a day in Yetunde’s life is busy! But, I can honestly say that I have balanced my life exceptionally well and I am extremely satisfied with every area in my life. Being a multi-tasker is a skill and I am an expert at it!
You have achieved quite a lot, what has been the highlight of your career?
Highlights of my career is when I was chosen to meet President Bill Clinton at a Young Leaders Conference in Miami, Fl, starting my own business Yetunde Global Consulting LLC, Founding Putting Your Best Self Forward to empower people especially young people to live a life of power, purpose, service and leadership. Talking to over400 students at the University of Ibadan where my father went to college in Nigeria, West Africa. Fortunately I have been blessed to have many highlights in my life.
Which leader do you admire most in the public eye and why?
I admire Oprah Winfrey for her philanthropy, passion for public service and creating an exemplary career. I admire Bill Clinton for his work ethic, for creating the Clinton Global Initiative, for using his power and platform to challenge and discuss many of the global problems affecting us today. And for using his stature to bring together students, heads of states, ambassadors, philanthropists, private and public sector to make this world a better place. I admire President Obama’s poise and leadership style, as well as first lady Michelle Obama for being a true representation of the 21st century modern woman.
Do you have a mentor who has had great impact on you as a leader? How have they impacted your life?
I’ve been blessed to have countless mentors in my life. I am who I am today because of individuals who made it their priority to make me their priority, who decided to invest their wisdom and knowledge into me and who thought it was their duty to guide me…and for that I am forever thankful. And it is my duty to pay it forward, to empower, inspire and uplift another young person. The power of mentorship is real and I am a product of it.
What challenges have you faced as a leader?
Sometimes being young presents its benefits and challenges. I sit on boards, involved in organizations and attend meetings where everyone around the table always much older than I am. At times, because of my age people want you to prove yourself or may question your ability but that is okay because that’s what life is about…and usually my work and list of accomplishments speak for me and dispels all negative myths people may have about young people. And I have come to the realization that letting your work speak for you is powerful and that leadership and greatness have no age. I am proud to be young and powerful.
As a young leader African leader in the Diaspora what do you think are some mistakes our African leaders of today make?
Some mistakes our leaders make is that they take their citizens for granted, material wealth has become more of a priority than the well being of their citizens and stability of their country, politics is no longer viewed as a way to make a positive difference or to reform the system instead our leaders have turned our political systems into big business, the power of the youth in many African countries are constantly ignored by our leaders—our youth are our next leaders, doctors, engineers, professors…they are the main source of productivity for our nation states and refusing to acknowledge their role in society can be detrimental to the stability and efficiency of a government. African leaders must uphold and respect the rule of law, ethics and good governance. They must be concerned with the legacy the leave and the type leadership they lead with.
What 3 success tips can you give a young woman aspiring to get into a position of leadership?
- Be confident in your ability to rise to great heights. Never underestimate your power and role in society. You have something special to offer to the world—so let the world know who you are loud and clear.
- Stay focused on your goals. Do not let distraction steer you away from your divine purpose, mission and calling. So many people are depending on your skills, talents and most of all your purpose. The world cannot afford for you to be distracted, be focused and keep your eye on the prize.
- Remain Faithful: At times life does get hard…but remain faithful. To whom much is given, much is required. In this life it takes hard work and most of all perseverance. Continue to push further and do not give up. Nothing in life comes easy but you will have the Grace sufficient enough to see you through.
Any near future plans for Yetunde?
Yes, there is still so much in store for me. God Willing. Maybe a new book, new TV show, new business venture, new humanitarian initiative and more. We’ll see which one comes first but I’m positive that they will all materialize itself soon.
Visit Yetunde’s website to know more about her upcoming projects and ventures.