“Passion, Reputation, Compassion, and Innovation.” – My advice to young CEOs.

December 3, 2017

A few months ago, I was named the ‘CEO of the Year’ at the CEO Middle East Awards 2017. Yes, it is true that my father is the founder of the MAG Group. But it took me years of working with and learning from him before being assigned to the position I am in today. As it did with me, for many first-time CEOs the designation comes with decades of on-ground experience. However, with the entrepreneurial culture that is gaining ground today, many CEOs are young, some just entrepreneurs right out of university. They are the ones this article is dedicated to.

The title of a CEO comes at a price – the cost of taking tough decisions that are not always made from the heart, but at times keeping the bottom lines into consideration. For young CEOs, this also comes at a higher price – lesser family and personal time, addressing concerns of employees, investors, customers and all other stakeholders. The reason I admire these young entrepreneurs and CEOs is due to their will to give everything it takes to succeed in what they believe in. Throughout my life and career, I’ve had the opportunity and fortune to learn from my father. Following are the key learnings I look back onto whenever I feel hesitant in taking a decision and pushing boundaries:

  1. Dream something that you’re passionate about, and make it happen.

Warren Buffett. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. All of them have one thing in common and one advise to give – do whatever you are passionate about! Be it economics, finance, marketing, music, food, engineering, medicine or whichever new thing catches your interest – find your passion. That’s the key to success – that’s the key to being happy; to putting in the prime years of your lifetime towards your work and feeling proud at the end of it. Life is too short for regrets, so be sure to say yes to the job only if you have the passion for the field.

  1. Stick to your code of ethics.

Find the management strategy that is in sync with your values and guide your teams to follow them well. There is no right or wrong here, just a preference for how you want to work and how you want your teams to deliver. As the CEO, you are the captain of your ship and it is your responsibility to make sure everyone is on board with your vision and that they follow your lead when it comes to delivering work.

Clashes at the workplace often happen due to differences in values, and in the course of a busy schedule of day-to-day activities, it is sometimes easy to forget the long-term goals and be blindsided by short-term objectives. However, remember to keep your eyes on the target. A business is a marathon, don’t run it like a sprint. It is imperative that you define and stick to your code of ethics for critical decision making in times of pressure.

  1. Earn your respect.

It’s a saying that has stuck with me through the years – “People can be bought by their pockets and can be stimulated with their minds; but only if you win their hearts will they give you their fullest efforts driven by their passions.” Your employees are your colleagues, and they are as human with every human need, as you and me. Global reports have found that stress levels are increasing in work places throughout the past few decades, with people being more unhappy and dissatisfied than ever before. With competition increasing in the market and pressure for faster and higher turnovers, my advise is that it is as important to make sure that your company culture is supportive and that your colleagues are happy and enjoying the work as much as it is to make sure your business strategy is on track to meet your short-term and long-term goals.

You need to tread the fine line between being a boss and a friend to be a true leader. Work relationships define your work culture and when people are happy with how you manage your teams and achieve business objectives, they will respect you and deliver better. It’s a simple rule of thumb – respect can never be commanded, it can only be earned.

  1. Keep innovating.

Every young leader that I know wants to leave a legacy behind – a legacy that s/he is remembered by for years to come. If you’re one of them, then give your passion your all, and change the status quo of the way things are done in your industry. Every brand has a purpose and as the CEO you have the privilege to bring that to life and even change it for the better. Steve Jobs did it with Macintosh. Mark Zuckerberg is still doing it with Facebook. You could be the next great CEO. Try not only to bring innovation to your company, but also to the industry. The world is changing at an exponential rate, and so should you with your company, to be at the forefront of innovative offerings, to be at the forefront of your industry.

There you have it, my keys to be a successful young CEO – Passion, Reputation, Compassion and Innovation. Passion will give you happiness and the drive to succeed and lead your company. Reputation is what will precede you, and your products, as you become poised for growth. Compassion will drive your colleagues to be emotionally invested and give you and your customers their best. Innovation will drive not just your business but also your industry. That would be your legacy – that would be the ultimate achievement of you as a young CEO.

– Talal M. AlGaddah is the Chief Executive Officer of MAG PD and CEO Middle East Awards’ ‘Young CEO of the Year’ – 2017.