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Oliver Brown: Embrace continuous improvement for personal and professional

Leading with Purpose: The Journey of Sope Agbelusi and MindsetShift

In a world where leadership often seems confined to the confines of boardrooms and executive suites, Sope Agbelusi stands out as a beacon of change. His journey from Nigeria to the UK, coupled with his corporate career experiences, has shaped him into a transformative leader with a clear vision for the future. As the founder of MindsetShift, Sope is on a mission to revolutionize leadership, one mindset at a time.

Sope's childhood in Nigeria laid the foundation for his journey, but it was his move to the UK at the age of 11 that truly shaped his identity and worldview. "Adapting to the unfamiliar culture and surroundings became crucial," Sope recalls. "I soon realized that conforming to societal expectations came at a cost." This realization planted the seeds for his future endeavors, setting him on a path to challenge the status quo and redefine leadership norms.

Inspired by his own experiences in the corporate world, Sope founded MindsetShift with a clear mission in mind: to reimagine leadership. "I was frustrated with poor leadership examples—lack of authenticity, self-awareness, and a disregard for people in the workplace," Sope explains. "I didn't want my son to inherit the same challenges I faced in my career, so I took a leap of faith and walked away from corporate life." This bold decision marked the beginning of a new chapter in Sope's life, one dedicated to reshaping the way we think about leadership.

Establishing credibility in the executive coaching and leadership development arena was no easy feat for Sope. "Building trust with potential clients was challenging," he admits. "But I knew that showcasing my skills and sharing success stories would eventually pay off." Today, MindsetShift's impact speaks for itself, with clients like Shopify and Google praising Sope's transformative approach to leadership development. His authenticity and dedication have earned him recognition as a leader in his field, with a reputation for delivering results that speak for themselves.

Sope's podcast, "Everyday Leadership," serves as a testament to his commitment to making leadership accessible to all. "It's about shining a light on the concealed facets of leadership, offering listeners distinctive insights from those actively engaged in leadership roles," Sope explains. Through unscripted conversations and candid interviews, Sope provides listeners with the tools and inspiration they need to lead with authenticity and purpose in their own lives.

As MindsetShift looks ahead, Sope is excited about the upcoming launch of "Chess not Checkers," a program designed to help corporate individuals navigate their careers with wisdom and integrity. "We're challenging the misleading belief that working harder is the key to advancement," Sope says. "Instead, we're offering practical tools for authentic integration into professional lives, ensuring participants lead from a place of self-assurance and purpose." With initiatives like these, Sope is paving the way for a new era of leadership—one defined by authenticity, empathy, and a commitment to growth.

For those looking to cultivate leadership skills or make a positive impact in their organizations and communities, Sope offers this advice: "Be authentic, embrace your uniqueness, and lead from within. Remember, you hold the pen to writing your own life story. Let your chapters be defined by authenticity, courage, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to growth and integrity." In a world hungry for authentic leadership, Sope Agbelusi is leading the way, one mindset shift at a time. As he continues to inspire and uplift others, his legacy as a visionary leader and changemaker is already written in the stars.

Can you share with us a bit about your background? What was it like growing up?

Born in Nigeria, I moved to the UK at the age of 11, transitioning from being part of the global majority with little awareness of my Black identity to a new environment where I became a minority. As a naturally curious child, I often dismantled and reassembled devices, like the VCR, even if a few screws were left astray.

During my upbringing, adapting to the unfamiliar culture and surroundings became crucial. Initially, I believed assimilation was the key. However, it proved challenging, facing encounters with the National Front, a far-right political party, on my way home from school, engaging in conflicts with adults, and navigating the complexities of identity among my Caribbean friends. I conformed to their behavior, thinking it would ease my life, garner me popularity, and help me fit in. While this external facade seemed successful, internally, I grappled with incongruence with my principles and upbringing.

At the age of 15, during a conversation with God, a simple question challenged me: “What would life be like if you lived according to who God designed you to be, rather than conforming to societal expectations?” Despite anticipating potential loneliness and loss of friends, I realized aligning with my true self would bring joy and internal harmony. This marked the beginning of the rebirth of Sope Agbelusi and the first significant mindset shift in my journey.

What inspired you to create MindsetShift, and what is the mission behind the organization?

I was inspired to create MindsetShift because I was frustrated with poor leadership examples—lack of authenticity, self-awareness, and a disregard for people in the workplace, resulting in them leading from a place of fear and autopilot. However, the penny dropped when one day my son declared when he was ⅞ he wanted to come and work where daddy worked, and that hit me, when I looked back over my corporate career, my journey had not been easy, and I did not want that to be his future reality. So I took a leap of faith and walked away from corporate life.

At MindsetShift, we are reimagining Leadership, helping our clients to Unlearn, Unlock, and Unleash. Unlearning outdated modes, unlocking their potential, and unleashing their authentic leadership capabilities either as an individual, team or culture anchored in inclusion, equity, and psychological safety principles.

By doing this, we equip leaders to lead from the inside out, focusing on the whole person. Leaders who are not defined by their external environment.

We create spaces for genuine engagement, deviating from decks and sitting in uncomfortableness with our clients to find the hidden treasure. Just recently, I was facilitating an offsite with the group CEOs of a global organization and after an hour in I shared I can sense a lot of fear in this room so we are going to pivot and talk about why that is and it was a powerful transformative day for them.

What challenges have you faced in your role as the founder of MindsetShift, and how have you overcome them?

Establishing Credibility: As a newcomer in the executive coaching and leadership development arena, building trust with potential clients has been challenging. Coming from a corporate career in Finance, Sales, Project Management, and Consulting, I lacked contacts in the L&D world, which would have eased the journey. Overcoming this, I share success stories, testimonials, and valuable content through my podcast "Everyday Leadership," content pieces, keynotes, and by connecting with people. Despite MindsetShift being new in 2019, coaching has been a part of my 20-year career across various industries and countries, reminding me that showcasing my skills is not new.

Differentiating Our Services: In a saturated executive coaching market, resisting the temptation to mimic others has been transformative. Our key differentiators include an authentic "inside-out" approach challenging clients beyond superficial theories, real-world experience generating over $1 billion for clients, empathy through immersion like recent coaching at Shopify, and a commitment to experimentation for fresh and effective methods. Clients sometimes express unfamiliarity with our challenging approach, precisely what sets MindsetShift apart.

Scaling The Business: Balancing high-quality, personalized coaching services with business scalability is challenging. We've worked on developing scalable products like group coaching programs, upcoming online courses, and digital resources. Growing the pool of coaches expands our capacity without compromising quality

Could you tell us about some of the Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 corporations that MindsetShift has worked with, and what kind of impact your programs have had on their organizations?

I’d probably say the best way to answer this question would be by sharing some of the testimonials we’ve had from clients:

A Director at Shopify shared, “Having regularly used the book 'Power Questions' by Bobel Panas, I found Sope to be a gifted disruptor. Partnering with him helped me reset and disrupt disbelief in how I approach work and value others in charting our paths. Sope's style is a beautiful disruptor you didn't know you needed if you feel locked, blocked, or not enough.”

From a Google program I designed and facilitated over the past couple of years, a senior manager commented, “These sessions shifted me from leading on autopilot to intentional leadership. Sope challenged my understanding of active listening, revealing I was hearing, not listening. The team noticed a change in my approach.”

As the host of the Everyday Leadership podcast, what topics do you typically cover, and what do you hope listeners gain from tuning in?

"Everyday Leadership" is a refreshing and candid podcast that explores the essence of leadership, both within the boardroom and beyond. Through unscripted, interview-style conversations, we unveil the layers of leadership, delving into the personal journeys and insights of our guests.

Each episode is a repository of wisdom, drawing on life stories, motivations, and pivotal moments of individuals whose experiences resonate deeply. My goal is to shine a light on the concealed facets of leadership, offering listeners distinctive insights from those actively engaged in leadership roles. It's not solely about the well-known paths trodden by the famous; it's about the unsung heroes and their journeys, making leadership accessible, relatable, and genuinely inspiring for everyone.

Topics include faith, marriage, parenting, racism, entrepreneurship, mindset, angel investing, failure, grief and loss. It covers various aspects of our lives

How do you define leadership in today's world, and what qualities do you believe are essential for effective leadership?

In today's dynamic world, leadership defies a singular definition, evident in the diverse interpretations shared by over 150 of the diverse voices I have encountered in my journey so far. At the heart of effective leadership lies the ability to navigate the plurality of its meanings, and to stand firm in one's interpretation while embracing the viewpoints of others. My ethos on leadership champions the principle of leading from within whilst aligning with core values over external validation, fostering self-assurance amid chaos.

I believe the essential leadership qualities include:

1. Growth Mindset: Embrace continuous improvement for personal and professional development.

2. Authenticity and Integrity: Commit to transparency, honesty, and trustworthiness.

3. Agility and Adaptability: Pivot swiftly in uncertain landscapes, championing change.

4. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Understand and connect with others, cultivating trust.

5. Lifelong Learning and Curiosity: Embrace continuous learning, inspiring perpetual growth.

What do you see as the future direction for MindsetShift, and are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you're particularly excited about?

MindsetShift stands on the brink of an exhilarating future, with global ambitions deeply embedded in organizational cultures. Our vision extends beyond borders, aiming to impact the US and Africa by fostering psychologically safe environments conducive to equity, high performance, innovation, and growth. This transformative journey challenges conventional notions of work-life balance, advocating for selfishness and a more attainable concept of work-life harmony—a key theme in my upcoming keynote.

We're on the verge of launching "Chess not Checkers," a program for corporate individuals trapped by the misleading belief that working harder is the key to advancement. Addressing myths around introversion, networking, and career frustration, this course promises practical tools for authentic integration into professional lives, ensuring participants navigate their careers with wisdom, strategy, and integrity.

In addition to your current endeavors, is there anything else you aspire to accomplish in your career or personal life?

In recent years, the disheartening statistics surrounding venture capital allocation have been glaring. In 2023, Black founders in the US received a mere 0.48% of venture funding, while in the UK, this figure was an even more paltry 0.24%, with Black female entrepreneurs securing just 0.02%. These figures have remained largely unchanged over the last decade—a fact that I find deeply frustrating. In response, I am dedicating my efforts to creating meaningful change in this arena.

Through angel investing and supporting start-ups, accelerators, and scale-up programs with coaching, mentoring, and strategic guidance, I aim to make a change. My aspiration is not only to see a significant increase in funding for initiatives led by our communities but also to serve as a role model, demonstrating what is possible when we invest in our people and their visions.

Furthermore, my ambitions extend into the literary world and personal enrichment through creating a book, a project I am excited to undertake both individually and in collaboration with my wife. This endeavor is complemented by our shared vision to establish a marriage retreat, building on our eight years of experience running marriage courses virtually and in person. The concept of a weekend retreat has been a topic of discussion and a request from many, offering us an exciting opportunity to deepen our impact on couples looking to strengthen their bonds.

Leadership permeates every aspect of life; it is not confined to the professional sphere. My wife has profoundly shaped the man I am today, and the lessons learned within the sanctity of our marriage have seamlessly translated into my approach to leadership in the workplace. This symbiotic relationship between my personal and professional life underscores the belief that authentic leadership is holistic, influencing and enhancing every facet of our lives. As I look to the future, my goal is to continue intertwining these elements, creating a legacy that inspires and uplifts, both within my immediate community and beyond.

Finally, what advice would you offer to individuals looking to cultivate leadership skills or make a positive impact in their organizations and communities?

In cultivating leadership skills, authenticity is crucial—it's about being genuine, and ensuring external actions mirror internal values. This authenticity fosters trust, allowing leaders to connect deeply with those they inspire. Active listening, coupled with the courage to embrace new ideas and challenge the status quo, forms a powerful toolkit for effective leadership. Practicing what you preach, where actions consistently reflect words, builds integrity and reliability.

In an era of rapid technological advancements, keeping abreast is essential. Embracing a growth mindset, fostering experimentation, and learning from failure prepares organizations for the future, cultivating a culture of innovation. As a leader, creating such an environment has a profound impact.

In a world that often values conformity, the courage to lean into your uniqueness is invaluable. Embracing individuality illuminates new paths for others to follow. The world needs individuals who dare to be different and innovate, understanding the power of their unique contributions.

Remember, "You hold the pen to writing your own life story." In life's grand narrative, let your chapters be defined by authenticity, courage, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to growth and integrity. Through these qualities, you can leave an indelible mark on the world, inspiring others to follow in your footsteps.

Model: Sope Agbelusi @sopeag

Wardrobe Stylist: Oliver Brown @olvrbrwn

Agency Rep: Rashae Barnes @mzmedia_queen

Photographer: Golden Boy Film Productions @karstenportfolio



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