Passion: Developing People to Become Leaders

Background: Dan Owolabi began his career leading a classroom as a history teacher, then led within a church as a pastor, and has now created Owolabi Leadership and Branches Worldwide. Each of these two ventures are opportunities for Dan to lean into relationships with business leaders and entrepreneurs. Dan thrives when he can hear the difficulties, concerns, and roadblocks from these leaders, and help find ways to navigate and overcome each obstacle in bringing leaders to fulfill their hopes and goals.

Dan invests both locally and globally. You will hear him discuss Owolabi Leadership, where he pours into local community leaders to help them overcome problems and develop their struggles into impactful leadership. Dan also carries this mission to the world (literally), where he provides similar opportunities and services to people all across the globe.

Lastly, if you are someone who is interested in turning your passion into a career, Dan ends our conversation with some inspiring words to help you see the possibilities of pursuing a passion, and not just a paycheck.

I find the most passion working with people who are actively trying to change the world, and who really want to figure out how to get other people to catch that vision as well. Many times, leaders are frustrated, lonely, overstretched, and over-functioning, because they haven't yet figured out how to help their people 'catch it' and take off with them.”

“I went to college at Malone, and I was an RA my senior year; so that was my first opportunity to lead people in a formal setting with a formal title and everything. That really got me interested in ways that I can help people understand a vision, get them excited, and actually serve them while leading. That was where I really started to understand that I like this leadership stuff.

When I was teaching in Garaway Schools, I remember loving my students who really wanted to excel and grow, and I found myself putting them in leadership roles within the classroom. I really wanted to develop leaders within the classroom, maybe even more than just understanding the history curriculum. Then, when I became a pastor, I found myself again gravitating towards leaders, developing leadership teams to enable us to do what God’s called us to do.

As I left ministry, I looked back over all of the things I had done. That’s when I started to realize that over and over again, I kept finding my heart being pulled back to developing people to become leaders. That’s when I realized that I found my sweet spot.”

“And it can take time to think about your passion and figure it out. But when you decide what it is, then you can focus your time and energy on that. You can really find out what gives you life.”

“Owolabi Leadership is about finding local leaders and coming alongside them. We provide mentoring, consulting, support, a sense of community, and more. With Branches Worldwide, I am fortunate to be able to get to a lot of different countries every year, places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Thailand, etc. We are traveling the world, finding the best leaders we possibly can, and then supporting them with resources and relationships that really help them grow. These are entrepreneurs, they love Jesus, they love their business, they love their communities. They're young, they’re millennials. So, we’ll support them with micro loans, give them a business mentor, and a consultant to help them serve their community. Branches Worldwide has very specific goals. We want to impact 30 leaders in 30 different countries, for 30 years. We take a 30 year commitment to 30 individual leaders in 30 different countries.”

“I love taking risks. I love building. I love creating something that I know will last beyond me.

As we started Owolabi Leadership, we learned and grew, and I started to understand what business owners were going through. I realized that I had something to offer. I realized there was a deficit in a lot of the rooms I walked into. Something that they needed that I could actually help them with, and I focused on serving them instead of just trying to impress them, which helped me become more secure in who I was and who God created me to be.”

“I love the ah-ha moments. I love the moments of vulnerability, where people say something in a meeting that they’ve never said to anyone before… because in every room they’ve ever walked in, they feel like they need to be ten feet tall and bulletproof. These people are CEOs and Executives, so they’ve always felt like they need to have their act together… but when they tell me something like, ‘Hey, my marriage is falling apart,’ Or, ‘My number one goal this year is to be more available to my kids.’ Things like that are where I’m able to help them hone in on the things that really matter. I love that.”

“My support system… My wife is amazing, she’s been absolutely incredible. She’s supportive, especially as I travel every month for about a week or so. She’s held the fort down, and our girls are great. 

Also, I have a couple of guy friends that I spend a lot of time with (one is a social worker and the other is an attorney). We meet twice a month and read great books and talk. It’s on the calendar every two weeks. They bring good tension. In some circles, you can say something, and it’s actually bullcrap, and nobody calls you on it. These guys are like, ‘Wait a minute. Say that one more time.’ These guys help hold me accountable to who I want to be. Those are the best types of friends.”

“What’s the value in pursuing a passion? Everyone is pursuing something. If you are not pursuing your passion, oftentimes, you are just pursuing your paycheck. And if you do that, then that will leave you hanging. You will end up doing all kinds of things for a living that are just going to ruin your life. Whether it is a dead end job, or something you don’t love, or you are feeling tied to something you really don’t enjoy, and you are spending your years just pursuing a paycheck.

But if you work for a purpose and a passion, oftentimes, a paycheck will follow. Because you’ll make yourself valuable to people, you’ll find a way to make it happen. So, you really want to identify what your purpose is, because that’s where you really make the most of your years.”