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7 Questions with Saad El Hage
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7 Questions with Saad El Hage
Name: Dr. Saad El Hage
Current title: Head of Strategy and Sustainability
Current organisation: Intrapreneur Group
With 25 years of experience in various industries across the Middle East, USA, UK, and South America; I am still eager to further my knowledge in executive management topped with a doctorate degree in organizational leadership mainly in strategic management and performance management.
Having held a wide range of roles during my career, I have successfully led award winning, industry leading, multinational businesses, leading educational organizations, international cross functional projects and initiatives, managing substantial growth and developing business, whilst building commercial capability; increasing business effectiveness and operational excellence.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Everyday is a challenge for me especially if you are responsible for a profound consulting organization where your clients are anxious toward a profitable future. The balance between a sustainable outcome and the economic imbalance of today's markets outweighs the strategic foundations of extracting cash flows from existing markets. Having said that, CEOs better be aware of risk assessment strategies more than ever.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
From a diploma in biochemistry to a doctorate in organizational leadership and from a key account executive in gsk to the executive head of strategy and sustainability at Intrapreneur Group. What connects the points in between are vision, innovation, leadership, and passion to technology and digitization. I have handled several industries mainly in healthcare, oil and gas, higher education, media, real estate and master development, FMCG, and last but not least major strategy and sustainability consultancy groups. The drive is the passion to gain an in-depth knowledge of various businesses and industries to have an accumulated expertise of a tangible added value in the strategy and sustainability consultancy business.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The first hour of the day is the most important. I organize my thinking toward my daily goals and most importantly, what is the new thing I will learn today. I read articles and look into reports from various industries welcoming critical market changes taking place everyday, with an open mind and an eye on opportunities. I enjoy my 30 minutes morning online meetings with my team and continuously get updated on what to be achieved through the day. I check on my high network clients and get access to their challenges as these challenges are on the rise every single day. A healthy workout in the afternoon followed by business meetings with potential investors from various disciplines and countries. One more thing, I keep on reading whatever I get my hands on.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The art of listening. Give your ears to your investors and stakeholders and be a risk taker with a hand on risk assessment tools. Be a leader that leads sustainability rather than being a sustainable leader. What I mean by sustainability is not only the continuity of companies and uprising but by looking at the three main factors of sustainability: Economy, People, and the Environment.
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?
There are a number of books that have made an impact on my leadership style, but there is one book that made a real difference and that is Knowledge Emergence by Nonaka and Nishiguchi printed in 2001. That book was an inflection point in my career path and the reason behind my social, technical, and the revolutionary dimensions of knowledge creation. The process of knowledge is more important than knowledge itself otherwise it will be only information or data. Learning how to learn is what makes leadership work and how leadership is practiced, taught, and handed over down the organizational structure.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I have seven important values that I always adhere to as a company leader to build leadership capacity.
I always act with honesty and integrity in everything I do basically if the company leader cannot do this, the staff cannot be expected to do the same.
The second value is that of leading by example this is especially important when holding meetings with major stakeholders.
Third value I abide by is accountability as a company leader. I am accountable to the organization and will always work hard to achieve the company goals and objectives.
Fourth value is continuous development and improvement not only of myself but also of my staff. I feel it's important to be open to change and to also inspire your staff to be the best they can be.
The fifth value is teamwork as it's simply not possible to achieve your goals without others.
Sixth value is creativity and being innovative whilst I am a creative leader I want to encourage my staff to be innovative and have the freedom to come up with new ideas that will benefit the organization.
Finally the seventh value is that of commitment to the customer. Now without customers there is no business and they will be core to everything we do.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Having held various positions in different industries I was lucky to learn from the best in a very short time and have one thousand one stories to share. However, there is one story that always comes to my mind. One of my directors I used to report to a long time ago was addicted to harvesting my achievements and was smart enough to grow and flourish on the efforts I exert at work without any recognition of myself. I reached a stage where it is time to face that person and discuss openly and the repercussions were disastrous. Afterwards and through my life time I saw that such people are all over the business world and they are part of the natural business system. The way to handle such scenarios is to negotiate and be bold to discuss openly before it is too late. Growth is part of our nature but also power without control is useless.