By Khalid AlAmeri (@KhalidAlAmeri)
The word leadership or to lead comes across us in our everyday lives. Whether you are in high school, a multinational corporation or government entity, the word is thrown around like it is going out of fashion and in the UAE’s case, rightfully so.
Due to the unique demographic make up of the UAE and the low representation of UAE Nationals in almost every entity and sector that is not government related, you could almost say there is a great urgency to develop a new generation of leadership to carry the country forward.
So the young guns, straight shooters and high flyers have a big responsibility ahead of them. If you go to almost any major UAE entity, you will hear the similar quote being presented to young, ambitious UAE nationals – ‘You are the future leaders’.
Now here is my question and one that will set the tone for a lot of what you are about to read, Leaders of what?
I know the answer might seem obvious to a lot of you and I am definitely not trying to generalize the question. All I am asking is for those who speak on leadership in the region to go one step further and look at what these young executives are being built up to lead.
Let us start with the basics. When a new analyst joins a bank, she is taught how to use outlook, build a financial model, take minutes of a meeting or structure a presentation for management. In other words you, are taught how to become best friends with your computer.
Now I will ask a follow up question. How much time do you spend on learning how to interact with third parties, build strong on the job relationships or develop cross culture interaction (the so called soft skills)? I bet not as much as the first three tasks I discussed because for some reason, they are not deemed as critical as being “technically sound”.
Did you notice how the last three skills all involved some type of human interaction while the first three involved none? One of the gurus on corporate culture and leadership, Chip Conley, from his recent TED talk said “One of the simplest facts in business is something that we often neglect, and it is that we are all human”.
Examples of this human neglect are endless. Extreme cases, one being from infamous Wall Street such as the Goldman Sachs CEO who actually went out of his way to avoid anyone and everyone in the organization. One of the former employee’s points out that “Daily, there was only a three second window where he actually had to see or speak to anyone”. Take former Merrill Lynch CEO who made it a point of having security hold off a whole bank elevator just for him. In some instances, making employee’s exit the elevator if he was about to get on.
Now I am not saying the CEO should take the time to know every single individual in his company where employee’s could reach numbers in the tens of thousands but it is important for them to instill a culture of human interaction & respect into the organization and these examples certainly do not set the benchmark.
So I pose the question: if an organization is a microcosm of human beings whose dedication and hard work determine the success of a company, and a CEO chooses not to interact with them in the slightest, what exactly are the these CEO’s leading?
Whether it is during an interview or a talk, you rarely hear leaders discuss the all-important topic of the very fuel that drives everything we do, the people. This is pretty worrying since it only shows that the gap is getting wider.
This has got to change and change fast. Leaders of a commercial company, specific department or government entity are first a leader of the people, people who dedicate a big portion of their lives to coming to work and delivering results day in and day out. It is company’s where leaders realize this and put their employees’ happiness and motivation at the top of their list that will always come out on top.
The examples of employee first companies go far and wide from organizations such as Zappos.com, Amazon, Joie De Vivre Hotels & The Container Store. These companies have been incredibly successful financially due to their leaders focusing on their people. I know it might sound strange to some people, but employees’ happiness & financial profitability can go hand in hand.
We, as a people of the UAE, all agree on one thing, that we have been blessed with great leaders who have built us a land of endless opportunities; and notice how we all work hard to help them realize their vision for our country. My humble advice to all current and up & coming leaders: see them as a mirror of who you are to become a motivator & an inspiration to the men and women who make up your workforce.
Sail eMagazine’s 19th Issue – October 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Just Another Undergrad
Scenes from Life – Syndication – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings