– by Asil Attar
I grew up in a mixed heritage home, half Iraqi, half I Indian. I was brought up in the UK, American educated, a global traveler, a nomad. My parents left the Middle East in the 1950’s and settled in the US then later in the UK. My father traveled a great deal for work and as a fortunate consequence, I was able to experience many diverse cultures, geographies, and most importantly people.
When asked about my personal leadership style, my answer is always, Human, my leadership style is human and transformational. This means that every decision that I have ever taken in every leadership role I have ever held was centered around people; taking into consideration their culture, viewpoint, customs, traditions and most importantly respect for who they are and where they come from.
It fascinates me to see that over the last few years, diversity and inclusion have landed on the agenda for companies, that businesses now employee diversity and inclusion managers, that suddenly this is a hot topic. I simply do not understand this, because, for me, it has always been part of who I am, how I live, and how I lead. To think that you must consciously consider being diverse baffles me.
“Diversity shouldn’t be an objective, or a quote for an individual or business, it’s a way of life led by an innate respect for humanity.”
I have always surrounded myself with different nationalities, points of view, respected the male and female opinion and hired equally based on merit and experience, without diversity you simply cannot advance. How can you cook an amazing meal without any ingredients, diversity is the spice you need in an organization? There is nothing more empowering than potentializing the capabilities of diverse teams, treating everyone with respect and fairly, ensuring that they recognize they are of valuable.
I am often asked how I achieve such rapid turnarounds and maintain their consistent success, it’s not a secret, answer…I invest in my teams, hire the best in class, ensure I have an inclusive environment, am available and accessible at all times, am on the ground as well as strategic and display my passion, integrity, ethics and respect at all times.
If you have every walked into any of my offices, there is always a consistent message blazoned across my walls, ‘People are my number one asset’. I live by that rule, profits follow, trust me.
The only way an organization can effectively survive, flourish, and succeed now more than ever is displaying empathy, humility and making diversity the number one priority. Most importantly you must have a leadership team and leaders that display these traits authentically. Writing statements for the press, publicizing your inclusive environment, is not the answer, actioning and exampling it daily to your business is. The reputation, I have gained in every business I have led is that of a respectful and genuinely inclusive leader, leading by my values, ethics and integrity.
My legacy has and will continue to be to create social impact and bring positive disruptive change. Cultural, social, and emotional intelligence must be at the heart of every organization no matter how small or large, without this you will quickly find yourself on your own.
Today in a post covid world and now more than ever people are looking for motivation, positive impact, appreciation, and security. Hundreds of thousands have been furloughed, lost their jobs, livelihoods, and are in a space that they have never experienced. If you are one of those employers who has had to make those tough decisions, then your number one focus is on effectively and positively impacting your current workforce ensuring that they keep going despite the challenges, that you have their back so they, in turn, support you in these times, this means consistently communicating honestly and effectively to all your stakeholders.
This is the time for social leadership remembers as a leader you have a responsibility to everyone around you, your employees, customers, shareholders and the community, you are in a position of authority which means you must be the role model, encourage difference, empower others and foster their potential.
I will quote the Humanitarian leadership academy*, who defined social leadership beautifully “Social Leadership is a style of leadership fit for the Social Age, the world of constant change we live in today. It is a form of authority earned within our communities and founded upon our reputation…..Social Leaders help an organization to thrive, by connecting the power of the community to the everyday challenges of work. Social Leadership is built upon humility, fairness, and kindness, but it’s no soft form of power: it’s a power that is earned and, because of that, it carries great weight. It is built upon trust.
I could not agree more, after all for me it has and will continue to be about people-centric not self- centric.