Rashed Mohamed, Interview Example
One cannot overstate the importance of effective leaders in the success of an organization. The leaders are not only responsible for managing the organization financial capital but also human capital. The importance of leader has only been growing due to forces of globalization as more and more businesses are not only expanding their scale of operations but also extending their international reach and Abu Dhabi Media is no different. Abu Dhabi Media is one of the leading media companies in the Middle East, with wide presence in both print and electronic media. One of the rising stars within Abu Dhabi Media is Rashed Mohamed (Rashed) who has recently been promoted as area manager in the Abu Dhabi region. This paper doesn’t only reveal insights from the personal interview done with Rashed which was primarily focused on Rashed’s leadership style and philosophy but also offers critical assessment of Rashed’s leadership. One of the major lessons from Rashed’s leadership is that the nature and business model of the organization also determines the effectiveness of one’s leadership style.
While most people claim to have an idea of what leadership is, very few are actually able to define it. Rashed sees leadership as the ability to get everyone behind a common vision and also making sure that the financial and human resources of the organization are being utilized effectively. Rashed admits that many people see leadership as a trait one acquires but he believes effective leadership skills can be learnt by anyone through experience, positive attitude towards learning, and dedication to continuously improving one self. When asked if he considers himself a good leader, Rashed hesitated at first but quickly replied that the followers are the best judge of the effectiveness of a leader because one is always tempted to think he is a good leader. But leaders can monitor certain signals to determine whether they are doing a good job or not. One such sign may be the loyalty of the followers to the leader and similarly, another sign may be the leader’s ability to inspire followers to accept challenging goals.
When asked about personal leadership philosophy, Rashed replied he doesn’t have a great deal of faith in the powers that come with one’s rank within the firm. Rashed believes that a leader should inspire followers rather than force them to do something. Rashed also believes that people are capable of working hard and assuming responsibilities and a leader should give room for creativity to their followers. A leader can provide guidance and ensure that everyone stays on the same path but Rashed doesn’t believe in micro-controlling his followers. Rashed’s leadership philosophy immediately reminded me of Douglas McGregor’s motivational theory. It is clear that Rashed rejects Theory X and instead subscribes to Theory Y according to which workers are capable of taking on responsibilities and can show impressive performance when given room to make decisions. I do not disagree with Rashed that showing confidence in your followers can motivate them to work harder but I am also not oblivious to the fact that different people have different working styles and while some workers do desire some power to make decisions, other actually prefer guidance. Thus, Rashed should make sure he only gives decision-making authority to those who actually desire it while providing greater degree of guidance to others. This may especially be true of new workers who have little experience.
Since Rashed believes effective leadership skills can be learnt, I could not help but ask how and where he learnt to lead. Rashed took time to gather his thoughts and replied that people who have taught him how to lead come from both his personal and professional lives. One person Rashed mentioned was his grandfather who could persuade anyone to do a particular task because of the reputation he had developed. People respected and admired him so much that they trusted his judgment. In addition, they also wanted to please him because Rashed’s grandfather cared about people. Another person Rashed mentioned as inspiration was his first boss at Abu Dhabi Media. Rashed explained that his boss always made everyone feel important as if their contributions truly make a difference in the company. In addition, he would listen to everyone’s ideas even if he knew the ideas are weak and not practical. As a result, everyone would ultimately follow his boss’ instructions because they knew that the boss has made the best decision after listening to different opinions and ideas. After describing these two individuals who have taught him a lot about leadership, Rashed reminded me that effective leadership skills involve having a genuine relationship with followers and not just professional relationship. People want to be valued and respected and effective leaders make their followers feel important. Rashed also emphasized that his grandfather and his boss didn’t particularly teach him leadership skills which means one of the qualities of effective leaders is that they always keep their eyes and ears open and learn from what they observe. This desire to learn should never decline no matter how high a leader goes up in the organizational hierarchy. An effective leaders should be open-minded, too.
Rashed’s response was a sign that his preferred leadership style is democratic leadership style. While democratic leadership style is effective in motivating followers and it also encourages flow of ideas from followers, it is also inefficient because of slow decision-making process. In my opinion, democratic leadership style is suited to industries where high degree of innovation is essential to maintaining competitive edge but in media, followers rarely have access to the data and information leaders have. As a result, other leadership styles such as autocratic leadership style may be better suited as decisions are made faster and they are often complex.
Responding to my question regarding the ethics and values he displays as a leader, Rashed claimed that it is very important for a leader’s words and actions to match. Rashed says that he leads by personal examples because it is important to have credibility with followers. When followers feel a leader doesn’t do what he preaches, they will stop taking the leader seriously. Rashed said that one of the things he preaches his followers is to put their heart into what they doand he followers his own advice by being one of the first who comes to work and being one of the last ones to leave. He always gives his 110% to everything he does. Rashed told me that it is not uncommon for him to even work on the weekends because as Abu Dhabi Media grows, so do his responsibilities as an area manager. Rashed also claimed that taking personal responsibility is very important, even in times of failures. Rashed recalled a group project in which there were both time and cost overruns and as a group leader, he took responsibility instead of blaming team members some of whom had performed below expectations.
When asked how his followers may describe him, Rashed claimed that his followers will describe him as someone easy to approach and work with. When I asked some of the junior employees, one of the qualities they talked highly of was Rashed’s focus on open communication. Some even claimed that they have such an informal relationship with the boss that they don’t even hesitate to inquire if a leave may be possible due to personal reasons and even though they don’t always get leave due to work reasons, they do not feel any hesitation in at least trying. They also praised Rashed for open communication. This was a sign that Rashed believes in low power distance which is quite unusual in Arab culture where high power distance is the norm in companies. This also taught me that Rashed is not afraid to break the conventional rules.
Recalling a difficult time when the going got tough and it was a challenge to keep employees’ morale high, Rashed claimed it had happened only few years back. Like other countries, UAE was also affected by the recent financial crisis. Even though Abu Dhabi fared much better than the neighboring Dubai, companies including Abu Dhabi Media saw significant decline in revenues. As a result, there were rumors of laying off workers which really affected my followers. Rashed said he could have chosen to ignore the rumors but he knew doing so would be a mistake because one’s psychological morale affects one’s work performance. Thus, he gathered everyone in the conference room and assured them that he would do his best in ensuring no one loses his job and in the worst case scenario, everyone will work together to make common sacrifice such as accepting lower salaries so that everyone’s job is preserved. Rashid could see the sigh of relief on everyone’s face. Rashed added that luckily nothing happened and everyone got to keep the job without making any sacrifice in salary. But Rashed is proud of the fact that he took charge of the situation instead of merely hoping for the best.
Just as leaders succeed, they are also prone to fail. Rashed claimed he never forgets one failure because it taught him a lot about leadership. Abu Dhabi Media is always looking for new opportunities to maintain leadership in Arab Media Industry. Rashed refused to go into specifics, citing company’s policy against disclosing internal matters to outsiders but he hinted that one of the projects regarding an online magazine for men had to be scrapped due to cost overruns. Rashed claimed he had intuitive feeling in the planning process that the project was not economically feasible but he still proceeded ahead with it because he wanted to show he can take on difficult tasks. The plan was eventually scrapped but not before it cost the company a significant amount of money. This was a lesson in humility that a leader should know when to give up because disappointments are part of the game. A leader should not put his ego before the interests of the company. Rashed continued on with the project despite personal conviction that the probability of failure was extremely high. The positive side of this revelation is that Rashed is a leader that learns from his mistakes. On the other hand, this tells us about the dangers of involving emotions such as pride in business decisions which often lead to throwing good money after bad money.
During the interview, Rashed reminded me that not only leaders should engage in continuous learning but everyone in an organization should. This is because we are living in rapidly changing world where older information and knowledge becomes outdated quickly and similarly, older technology becomes obsolete fast. Thus, he ensures that his followers have the same attitude towards learning that he had. Rashed described many tactics he uses to inspire his followers to continuously learn such as offering this financial assistance through the company to pursue college education and also engaging them to attend industry conferences and seminars.
Responding to the question as to what are the differences between managers and leaders, Rashed proceeded to remind me that his job title is area manager but it is only a matter of title. In reality, his job is more of a leader. A manager just has to make sure daily operations are carried out as planned but a leader also keeps an eye on the external environment such as opportunities and threats. In addition, a leader makes sure the organization’s human capital is in optimal form and able to realize its true potential. Rashed claimed to be a big fan of a definition by an advisor to former U.S. President Bill Clinton that one follows a manager because he has to but follows a leader because he wants to. Rashed said his focus has always been to inspire his followers to follow him willingly rather than being forced to. It is clear that Rashed considers himself or at least attempts to be a transformational leader who inspires his followers to become the best they are capable of and enjoys strong sense of loyalty from the followers.
It is clear from the interview with Rashed that he aims to be a transformation leader who subscribes to the Theory Y. Rashed has a high degree of confidence in the potential of his followers and maintains low power distance with him. Rashed also believes in open communication and his followers admitted that they find it very easy to approach Rashed with any problem they may be having. While Rashed does a good job of motivating his followers, his leadership style does have elements of inefficiency. First of all, decision making process is slow. Second, not all followers may prefer independence and some may actual desire guidance and uniform rules.
Time is precious
don’t waste it!