Tag Archives: great leaders

Leadership and Management Skills are Two Different Things – Arab News

via stockimages/ related to Arab News

via stockimages/ related to Arab News

AN engineer had replaced a doctor at the top position of the Ministry of Health at this very critical time of battling MERS coronavirus. Honestly, I did not cheer up once the decision was announced. I thought that a practicing doctor was fit to deal with such a situation. I voiced that out in a tweet when I a friend of mine, a doctor himself, replied to me that “the MoH is in need of a leader and that is something very hard to find in doctors!”

A controversial statement I am sure. And I trust that he did not mean, in anyway, that doctors are not or cannot be leaders. Doctors are entrusted to make tough decision about their patients’ lives and be in charge whenever they step in his or her clinic. Dr. Al-Rabeeah, the former health minister, is an extraordinary surgeon with an international reputation in the field of separating conjoined twins. A man like him is expected to be a leader in the operation room, directing the team, making decisions and standing side by side with all his staff in those critical moments.

However, the leadership that my doctor friend was talking about is a different kind of leadership. It is the kind acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih has demonstrated in the few days after taking over the position.

Right away, he embarked on field visits to different health institutions, he approached the media with a different tone “we will be very transparent in our efforts to combat the virus,” something that was painfully missed in the former managing team, he appointed a specialized adviser in his team, and he is openly discussing plans and strategies with the public.



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Greatness is in Thinking Beyond Making Money – Arab News

via David Castillo Dominici/ related to Arab News

via David Castillo Dominici/ related to Arab News

In the world of business there is a never-ending debate revolving around the ultimate question, the heart and soul of any strategy, i.e. why are we doing this?

Every organization or business concern pursues a purpose by launching its products in the market or by offering various services to its clients. What is that purpose? The first answer that comes to one’s mind is: Profit. As a matter of fact, profit is the crucial factor that justifies investment of efforts and resources. And naturally, the outcome of those efforts should be attractive enough to the owners or investors to continue with whatever they are doing.

Profit may be one of the goals of any business concern or organization but not the sole purpose. If we study the history of huge companies or organizations, we would find that money alone was never the driving force behind them that helped them transform into great and unique and more than profitable concerns.

At the beginning of this month, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, demonstrated an example of what truly makes a company unique and special. During the company’s annual stockholder meeting, Cook, the otherwise cool and soft-spoken person lost his temper during the Q&A session of the event. A think tank known as the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) was pushing for a shareholder’s proposal that would have dictated Apple to disclose costs associated with its sustainability and green programs and to be transparent about its participation in what NCPPR called “certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability.”



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Saudi Executives Must Boost their Online Presence – Arab News

via stockimages/ related to Arab News

via stockimages/ related to Arab News

Despite that, in reality, executives seem to be reluctant from joining the different social media platforms. It is not that they do not appreciate or understand the role of social websites in today’s business, they actually do.

In the same study mentioned above, the results show that 61 percent of top 500 brands were engaging with customers via Twitter, but only 2.5 percent officials for these firms were doing the same.

It’s obvious that executives are too busy leading and managing their companies. They do not have the time to struggle with the 140 characters of Twitter, or the endless pokes from customers on Facebook.

However, deep inside, these officials are quite concerned about their image on social media platforms, fearing their online behavior might affect their companies in a negative way.

Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of a lingerie retailer, admitted in an interview that she was having some concerns prior to joining Twitter. She was “worried about saying the wrong things, looking a fool or upsetting people.”



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A CEO of Two Companies; A Hero or A Narcissist?



Someone should be really exceptional to serve as a CEO in two companies, don’t you think?

That what came across my mind while watching this (Arabic) interview with Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of the French Renault and the Japanese Nissan, in addition to being the Chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Mr. Ghosn is an exceptional leader indeed. He boldly stepped in and led a revival operation to save Nissan of its fatal destiny of bankruptcy back in the late 90’s. He is one of a handful of CEOs who reached a level of celebrity that is rare amongst his peers. He earned many nicknames throughout his distinctive career, “le cost killer” and “Mr. Fix it,” and recently, “the ultimate rock star of the auto industry.” His story was even turned into a Japanese comic book; that in itself is a big accomplishment given how sensitive the Japanese culture is.

Still, no matter how driven, brilliant, organized, and multicultural a leader might be, I find the idea of being at the top of two organizations a bit troublesome. Mr. Ghosn is not the first one to do it, the legendary CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, did it as well when he was in the driving seat of both Apple and Pixar at the same time.

I would argue that printing your name as the “CEO of X & Y” on a business card, or printing two different business cards for all I know, is not beneficial to neither X nor Y. No matter how superman-ly a person might be, it is near impossible for the human mind to bear the huge demands on its resources to be always present on two different fronts. These are two organizations; two different sets of values and objectives.

Steve Jobs should not be taken as an example here. Actually, he was barely involved with the day to day work of Pixar. Not only that, but he even confessed to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that his health issues started to appear during his tenure as a CEO of the two companies.

I think it takes a huge amount of narcissism to believe in oneself ability to run two huge companies. The problem is, this narcissism reflects badly on everybody else in the organization. Yes there are exceptional leaders who have certain qualities that qualify them to take their companies, and maybe their whole industries, in new directions, and Mr, Ghosn could be one of them, but under the shadows of those leaders, there are others waiting for a chance to show their abilities, to prove their talents. Under the spotlight of a one man show, those potential candidates will end up frustrated, demotivated, crawling out of the stage; and that the last thing a leader would want in his or her team.

The interviewer asked Mr. Ghosn about how it feels to be a leader of two huge organizations at once, he kept repeating that ‘circumstances dictated this situation, it was not an option!’ Even if we submitted to this ambiguous justification, we could tolerate it for a little while after the alliance was forged, but keeping the status quo for many years since then is a bit … outrageous!

Problems are starting to emerge in the realm of Mr. Ghosn anyway; few days ago, the COO of Renault decided to resign and leave the company. Before leaving, he dropped some shocking remarks about losing hope in taking the top spot in the organization because “Mr. Ghosn is here to stay,” he said.

The bottom line is … leadership is about delegation as it is about influence. Nurturing the second in line is fatal to any organization sustainability. There are some views that see narcissism as a major part of any leader’s personality, maybe a bit of it, but when it turns into a repellent factor, it becomes toxic and it threatens the future of any organization.


Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Leadership

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Investing in our Young Generation – Arab News

In case you missed my latest Arab News article … What do you young generation need beside a good education to move us forward when they have the chance to be in a responsible position. That’s what I am discussing while shedding some light on Jeddah United Company; an organization that seems to have the answer to that question …


Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Articles

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They Do Not Hear You, Make Them – By @Lymoon

via Jeroen van Oostrom/

Hello all, a new post by a new guest is coming your way. Today we have @Lymoon (lemon in English). You may know him from his always smart and funny Twitter account. @Lymoon is a dear friend of mine and a man with quite an experience in the fields of engineering and management.

In this remarkable post he is talking about a skill we all need, on professional and personal levels alike, he is talking about how to ‘listen’ … truly listen!

I am sure you will enjoy this post, and hey, if life gives you @Lymoon, you better read his post carefully :)


Does the guy in front of you keep talking! Repeating himself/herself over and over again! You think he/she is stupid! Well, it’s a possibility, but most probably they didn’t feel that they have been listened to. That is why I wanted to talk to you about empathic listening. Empathic listening will help you with the employees you supervise, your boss, your talkative friends, and even with your wife.

Empathic listening is conveying the message to whomever talking to you that you actually heard them, you already paid attention to what they were saying. It is simple, just practice it, this is what you have to do:

  1. First let them speak about the situation.
  2. Identify their feelings.
  3. When they are done (yeah I mean don’t interrupt), reframe what they said stating their feelings.

Ok ok here are some examples:

  • Sentence: I am fed up with my work – Empathic: So, you are upset because things have changed at work.
  • Sentence: I am so not going out in this streets of Jeddah – Empathic: You feel angry when people do not drive in an organized manner.
  • Sentence: I felt so alive after the seminar I gave – Empathic: you felt valued and satisfied because the seminar added value to many people.

Yep it is that simple. To make it easier for engineers (my beloved geek universe savers) here it is in a formula:

Sentence = “You feel” + F + “because” + S + A

F: feeling; angry, upset, energetic, happy, …

S: subject; work, traffic, spouse, boss, sister, …

A: action done by subject; environment changed, not organized, ignores you, satisfies you, respect you, …

However, I have to warn you about the don’ts: do not be JUDGMENTAL and do not ask questions, just repeat. It might go like this: oh you lose your temper in the traffic! Then, of course you start unsolicited advice; control yourself man!

One more thing, empathic listening is really hard when you are under attack. The fight-and-flight mode kicks in and you start defending yourself, if not attacking back. At this situation my advice is to remember that it is about the speaker not about you and focus on the process (listen, repeat with feelings). Basically, shift your focus from defending yourself to thinking of how to reframe what you’ve heard. For example, attacking wife: you don’t know how to plan your drive! Empathic husband: it upset you that I got you lost on the way, which will make you late for your friend’s party. How sweet is that :”)

Steven Covey pointed that out in his book of the seven habits; seek first to understand then to be understood. Empathize with others first then they will listen to you.

Finally, this is just an appetizer, more ways can be found on the web, knock yourself out with these references:

*Image source


Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Leadership


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Buying Time – By Hanan Al Gamdi


Hello everyone; I am brining you a guest today. I am delighted to share with you this post written by Hanan Al Gamdi (@HananAlGamdi) about ‘Buying Time.’ Have you ever seen managers complaining about how their schedules are full and how they cannot find time; Hanan seems to have a solution!

Coming from an economical background, Hanan is adding value to the national economy by working in the private sector (as she likes to say). Her dream is to be the ‘Minister of Planning’ … one day …

Enjoy the post …


Coaching in business is a quite recent topic. While we might read theories telling us that ‘coaching’ is a very effective leader skill, yet when it comes to implementation, a lot of managers would feel hesitant coaching their staff.

It can be clearly seen in such a “rising professionals labor market” like the one we have in Saudi. The pioneering corporations that are willing to develop their staff are still few compared to small businesses that are usually doing their best to recruit individuals with high-quality experience, and usually, from those pioneer companies.

This managers’ behavior could be explained by their fear of loosing their qualified employees and/or of being replaceable by their own staff. If they were smart enough, they must have read somewhere in one of those business publications that great leaders are best described as ‘replaceable’; those are the ones who their teams wouldn’t fall apart and go astray once the time comes and they leave work.

Only smart companies realize that coaching people will benefit them on the long run because it would give them the chance to truly explore their staff abilities.

As per

Coaching  is “not concerned with delivery and specilaised training – it focuses on enablement and reflection, so that the individual decides and discovers their required progression themselves.” For me, I’ve always believed that the turning point to maturity comes when individuals start to better understand themselves . And as long as business concerned, maturity is a necessary factor.If you come to think of it, work on a managerial level is more about monitoring and planning rather than doing the work itself.

if time was being sold in units, then coaching manager can buy more and more units from others’ free time. At end of the day, this exchange will benefit both parties; the coach would have more units to invest in planning and monitoring while the staff would be motivated by taking more responsibilities and authorization in return.

So are you interested in buying more time units in your hectic schedule?!

*Image Source


Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership


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That is what Great Leaders Do

Image: Ambro /

I am taking some kind of a managerial training these days and the instructor just reminded me of a lesson I learned during my master studies. What is the one feature that almost all great leaders throughout history have in common?

You will be surprised that although it is a well known ‘feature,’ it is rarely found in most of work environments; Maybe that’s why extraordinary leaders are scarce!

Simply put; Great leaders are redundant! Yes … you read right; great leaders are replaceable!

They are redundant because they usually invest a lot of time and efforts in developing the second line of leaders, they know how to delegate and inspire, they have created a culture that is deeply rooted in their organizations, a culture that is reflected in the performance of their subordinates. If these leaders are not present for any reason or even if they decide to step down and give the chance to a new talent, the work they are attending to never stops, they have everything in place, everything covered.

Now compare that to the other kind of managers, the common kind, the ones who their lives revolve around power and authority, the ones who build blocks and blocks of secrecy between themselves and their subordinates in the name of ‘for the eyes of senior managers only’ and ‘sensitive strategical information’! Such kind of managers fear delegation; it means losing part of their importance to their own subordinates and that’s just hurt their ego. They like the feel of being needed and that their signature is on each and every paper getting out from under the hands of their teams!

Do you think it is easy to be a great leader?

* Image Source


Posted by on October 1, 2011 in Leadership


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From Professors to Leaders

The newly appointed Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Essam Sharaf, if a man of academia, he spent most of his career between University halls and corridors educating students about civil engineering. Also, the mayor of Jeddah, Dr. Hani Abu Ras, does not have much of a career out of the Industrial engineering department of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.

Now, the questions is, does the academic degree or being a professor at a university necessarily make a good manager or a leader or a politician for that matter?

I am afraid my answer to this question is a big-fat-NO!!

I am not trying to imply that the above examples make no good leaders or anything; actually, the first is still a brand new PM, and the second … mmm … let’s give him a chance (just for the records, I am not optimistic about this one although I wish I will be proven wrong).

My argument is that both fields require different set of skills. Between the University halls you should be spending most of your time updating your information, throwing yourself into researches, assisting students to become major players in their fields of study. While on the other hand, leaders spend most of their time thinking, communicating, and inspiring others. Definitely, there are some lines crossing the two fields, but still, the mechanics are totally different. This does not mean that a good professor cannot make a good leader, a poor preforming professor could be a good leader!! got my point, they are not related to each other!!

However, in the Arab world, such argument is mostly not considered. There is a strange belief that the best leaders are those coming from Universities; dig up the history of most ministers in the Arab world and those in important public positions to get a sense of what I am talking about. It seems that because we do not have R&D centers, where highly educated people should be exhausting their talents in, our PhD holders are competing for public posts!!

We just care about educating people, but I am not sure about creating leaders out of them!!

What do you think?


Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Leadership

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True Leaders and Clowns

Days are passing by and the end of the year is around the corner. For a lot of companies and a lot of managers, these three last months of the year are so critical. It is time to revise plans, goals, budgets, and not to forget, performance appraisals are just around the corner.

In such heated situations, there are two types of leaders that you may encounter, or might be yourself:

  • True Leaders: Those who already have well crafted planes and smart objectives earlier that year. A lot of their goals have been accomplished or about to be completed. However, they might face some missed targets and deadlines here or there. In such situations, they calmly and logically sit to restudy the situation, and ask themselves and their team members a lot of why’s and how’s. They turn obstacles into opportunities and failures into lessons learned.
  • Clowns: Those who built their plans on vague inputs, poor data, and sometimes pure dreams!! Most of their goals are missed, if not all. But nothing will stop them from raising their voices and pointing their fingers on everybody around them, even their own team members. Whenever around one of those, you will start witnessing a lot of fightings during meetings, a lot of heated emails, and a lot of passing the ball theory practices!

Look around you and check; which type of managers are you pumping into more often?


Posted by on September 1, 2010 in General Management, Leadership


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