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Out of the comfort zone [Gulf, The (Bahrain)]
[September 01, 2014]

Out of the comfort zone [Gulf, The (Bahrain)]

(Gulf, The (Bahrain) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Great leadership is at the heart of every successful business. A number of people might argue that some are simply born with a fundamental leadership ability, and that others are not. I, however, am a firm believer that every individual is born with untapped leadership potential and it is really how that potential is developed and harnessed that makes the difference. Personal leadership traits can be influenced by any number of factors, such as environment, the inspirational individuals around you, location, and a solid support system. Even the smallest element can make a huge difference.Leaders do not create followers. They create more leaders, and the most effective form of leadership is through influence. Good leaders will then follow. They listen, they see, they test, they learn, they absorb, they re-adjust, they re-experiment, they succeed, they frame problems before trying to solve them, and they create an ecosystem which may not be fail-safe, but where it is safe to fail.

The need to 'do good while doing good business' is a mantra I live and work by. Since the financial crisis, the need for enhanced governance structures has propelled, as stakeholders and investors look for reassurance. It is important to build sustainable businesses that enable true leaders to give back to the larger community in a positive way.

It is the combination of focus, energy, passion, creativity, innovation, execution excellence, and integrity, both personally and professionally, that results in a successful leader. Good leaders create sustainable businesses that are both predictable and profitable, so that in good times investments can be made for the future, and in stressful periods costs can be absorbed. A leader needs to not only understand the underlying principles required to run a company, but also grasp how to utilise these principles to make their business thrive in a world filled with conflict, inequality, and in an increasingly younger demographic.

According to 2013 statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency, close to 43 per cent of the world's population is under the age of 25. In the Middle East, this figure is even higher - sitting closer to 50 per cent in most Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member countries. The next generation of business leaders will be undeniably younger than ever before, and so there is an inherent need to equip the youth of today with the necessary skills to be able to take on and lead our businesses to continue to grow them successfully.

A report from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) stated that SMEs constitute 90 per cent of all businesses, and that more than 50 per cent of employment worldwide. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, SMEs comprise approximately 95 per cent of all businesses, contribute to almost 40 per cent of the economy's value-add, and 42 per cent of the workforce.

Entrepreneurship is the very definition of leadership. An entrepreneur must be a strong leader from the outset to guide the fledgling business along a path for growth. However, without dedicated leadership, the business will struggle as the formative years is when it is most vital for management to guide decisions with typically few resources. The boom in the number of SMEs and the clear empirical evidence that leaders are getting younger and younger mean it is now more important than it ever has been for the next generation to receive the necessary guidance to evolve into the best leaders that they can be.

As the UAE looks to increasingly diversify its economy, a key national objective is to focus on talent development programmes. Dunia's Young Business Leaders Program is designed to support future business leaders. The intensive summer internship program provides a promising group of students the opportunity to enhance their leadership, strategy, team work, communication, execution, and conceptual skills. It is leaders that create leaders, and so the students have the opportunity to engage with business leaders, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, investors, innovators, consultants and other practitioners to learn from their real world experiences.

Leaders need nurturing. They need to be tested, and pushed out of their comfort zone. They need to be personable, bright, determined individuals, and this exactly what our programme strives to achieve.

Each year, the program inspires young individuals across the region to discover the leader within them. If these young bright minds are able to successfully grasp and apply the principles that we have instilled in them in whatever they go on to do in life, then I can consider the program a success.

Rajeev Kakar is managing director and chief executive of Dubai-headquartered Dunia Finance.

(c) 2014 Al Hilal Publishing & Marketing Group Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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