Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
Sarmad Ali Khan
helps you in your leadership.
Sarmad Ali Khan
Name: Sarmad Ali Khan
Title: Assurance Manager, Technology
Organisation: CLA (Clifton Larsen Allen) LLP
Sarmad is currently a manager CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP), based in San Francisco Bay Area, California, US. Previously, he has more than 17 years of experience working in several countries, specializing in working with technology companies providing assurance services to his clients. He has extensive experience in auditing clients reporting under International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) and US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Sarmad also has extensive knowledge auditing international clients in North America, Europe and Asia region specializing in complex transactions.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspect of leadership is managing and motivating a team of diverse professionals with varying skillsets and personalities. Luckily, this is something I also enjoy, as every time it provides me a chance to make a lasting impact on someone's career and watch with pride as they grow and excel.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I think when you work in accounting firms, you have a chance to demonstrate leadership qualities from the very early stage such as being proactive in taking initiatives, being a team player and building relationships. During my six years in KPMG Qatar, which was my first ever job, I progressed from an intern position to an assistant manager position with a series of promotion. Right from the stage you are a Senior/Supervisor, you are leading teams, supervising the quality of their work, learning project management skills to ensure that the projects are completed on time with the required quality. As you progress from Senior to Manager role, you develop further leadership skills.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I try to maintain my work life and luckily I m very thankful to my firm which encourages us to do so. I am married with two kids (6 years old boy and 5 years old girl) so I try to spend quality time with my wife and kids. My days are as structured as possible from my early morning prayers, workouts, dropping my daughter to school on my way to work. At work, I really try to focus, collaborate with my teams, connect with my clients and other leaders, including my Seniors. After my typical work day (the hours wary depending on the time of the year), I love to spend time with family and friends as and when I can. I take my kids to their Taekwondo lessons at least twice a week. We love to have family dinners and discuss our day. I love to read before I go to bed as I have been an avid reader all my life.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Build trust with your team! Trust is an essential element of effective leadership. As a leader in any firm, it's essential to build trust with your team by being honest, transparent, and reliable.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The book that has had a profound impact on my leadership has been "Leaders" by Richard Nixon where he examined the leadership styles of several historical figures, including Winston Churchill, Konrad Adenauer, and Charles de Gaulle. He analyzes their strengths and weaknesses and draws lessons on effective leadership from their experiences. Reading about the great leaders had a profound impact on not just my leadership but life in general. For example, Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, kept his feet in a bucket of water while studying to complete his law exams. The anecdote has become a symbol of Adenauer's determination and dedication to his studies, even in the face of physical discomfort.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Be a good listener first and then inspire your teams to see your vision as a leader.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Apart from my work, I m also Deputy Head at ACCA Northern California Chapter. To provide brief background on ACCA, it is the global professional accounting body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification.
It has 240,952 members and 541,930 future members worldwide. I am an ACCA member since 2011 and ever since then, I have been actively involved in mentoring ACCA students/members in several countries including Qatar/India/Pakistan/Canada and now USA. Over the last decade, I have connected with members from several countries, attended ACCA networking events throughout North America.
This has provided me with the opportunity to work with their top leadership and to be where I m today. So the key takeaway from here is, you don't realize that mentorship/coaching is a two way street, the more you help others, the more you develop skills, particularly leadership. At the end of the day, leadership in my opinion is all about serving others.