Putting people first: Toufic El Chaar of Agthia Group

Written by
Toufic El Chaar

09 Dec 2015

09 Dec 2015 • by Toufic El Chaar

How can leaders foster a culture of innovation, specifically in the Middle East region?

With signs of a world economic slump mounting, external pressures and the inherent internal contradictions of the economic models; the prosperity of businesses is at risk and the ability of business leaders to figure out how to adapt their strategies remains experimental and under the test. 

I strongly believe that a behavioural change is required, particularly in the developing and emerging markets of the Middle East region that are blessed with relative socio-political stability. To implement the desired behavioural change, leaders in whatever capacity must embrace innovation and provide fresh thinking in all aspects that could result in economic prosperity specifically in human management systems and people effectiveness. For me, a culture of innovation is simply an attitude of the people – your human capital.

The key leadership challenge of our times is identifying a clear strategic vision for our organisations in an environment of bewildering change and complexity. To deliver business performance in a challenging and fast-paced world, we must observe three imperatives:

  • Foresight 
  • Insight
  • Action

In other words, leaders must slow down, stop, look and listen preparing their minds to sense and make sense of the chaos, so that it can develop an intent that seeks to create or innovate a desired future.  Some strategists suggest turning the VUCA world on its head through creative use of vision, understanding, clarity, and agility in order to win. 

What are your expectations for the coming year regarding organisations leadership capabilities in this region?

The coming year will witness an increasing emphasis on leadership capabilities fit to drive socio-economic growth, whether in the national context or within the competitive landscape of the business enterprise. Access to the best people will become a key driver of differentiated value. So, as leaders in human resource management become a greater source of strategic power.

I expect that the organisations of the region will have no choice but to invest in developing great leaders who are competent in leading themselves and others, in addition to leading the business. I see six leadership capabilities that a leader must possess in order to qualify for that ‘great’ status, which are:

  1. Drive performance and results
  2. Improve collaboration
  3. Engage people
  4. Develop talent
  5. Develop and deliver vision and strategy
  6. Manage change 

This great leader must be committed to lifelong learning and development, continually striving to improve results and relationships. 

What advice would you give to leaders to win the respect of the people they are leading?

It’s time to get inspired by the intuition and wisdom of the founding father of this country: the late Sheikh Zayed, and direct all our resources to building the individual and use the wealth which God has provided us.

What good is corporate wealth for, when, according to the latest UN reports, our planet is on the same edge?

I advise the leaders to own the ‘triple bottom line’ (TBL) concept: planet, people, profit. Corporations started to wake up to the importance of TBL in its success. This is a unique golden opportunity for the leaders of the region to make their mark and to prove their distinct value to all stakeholders.

How can leaders encourage a growth mindset among the people they are leading?

Irrespective of how fast economic recovery happens, one fact is clear: it’s the decisions leaders make that promote or prevent organisational growth. 

Growth mindset is the derivative of the owner’s mindset
It is not only about shareholder value. We should lead with owner's mindset and understand the value creation model of our organisations. 

In today's high-performance businesses, customers, employees, technology, leadership, and culture create most value. I recommend that we all wholeheartedly embed this mindset across our organisations as exhibited through these behavioural indicators:

  • Walk the talk and walk the walk 
  • 100% on message all the time; apologise when you get it wrong
  • Actively point out both good and poor examples of ownership 
  • Champion ownership mindset in all/many conversations – daily
  • Give feedback on what we need to modify or improve 
  • Share successes, watch outs and challenges

Only then, our people will feel more engaged, more influential, more responsible and will get better results. They will feel, think and act like owners.