Kanya King, CEO and founder of the MOBO Organisation
Last night I went to a seminar at Birmingham University by Kanya King, CEO and founder of the MOBO Organisation.
Kanya described to us her arduous journey from a council flat in London to hosting one of the biggest, most star-studded and most relevant music award ceremonies in Europe. She told us about how she wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age when she was selling whistles at Notting Hill Carnival, to property development and finally when her sheer determination to make the first MOBO awards work forced her to remortgage her own house.
That huge gamble in 1996 paid off as the first MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards were held, and featured high-profile guests including Tony Blair and Lionel Richie. The MOBO Organisation snowballed from there and over the years has featured performances from the likes of Destiny’s Child, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige, Jay-Z, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick. Kanya built MOBO into an extremely strong brand and now it has branched out into magazines and community initiatives.
Whilst audience questions were mainly focused on Kanya as an entrepreneur, I was particularly interested in her leadership style. She commands a great deal of respect from her employees due to her sheer determination, work ethic and passion. What I found most poignant was when she repeated a quote I have used in my own leadership assignment: “work on the business, not in the business”. Kanya has especially needed to do this because she has a child, and the astonishing growth of her company forced her to hand over some responsibility, which she didn’t find easy.
“Getting the right team is difficult” she said. “But I recruit people not so much based on their experience, but more based on their attitude, energy and enthusiasm. Many interns we have here have ended up being employed because we know what they’re like. They’re not coming here hoping to bump into Beyonce in the office, they’re here because they want to do a job.”
Kanya is also a great motivator; she is passionate and enthusiastic and balances that with the authority she has earned. She asked everyone in the room to do some impromptu speed networking and everyone did it without hesitation. This is an example of her excellent motivation skills.
Although Kanya regularly rubs shoulders with the biggest stars in the world, she is still down to earth and has not lost her connection with ‘ordinary people’. This is one of the reasons why she is so respected and why she has been able to successfully lead her employees towards making the MOBO Awards one of the biggest and best award ceremonies in Europe, and the company still continues to grow.
I’m going to finish with a great compilation video of previous MOBO Awards: