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7 Questions with Waleed Abu Eleiz

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7 Questions with Waleed Abu Eleiz

Name: Waleed Abu Eleiz

Current title: Group Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer

Current organisation: SPIMACO ADDWAEIH

Waleed joined SPIMACO in 2019 to become an integral part of the group strategic growth restructuring and transformation team. Previously, Waleed held a number of high-profile positions in a number of international destinations and has developed experiences working alongside different cultures and groups. Financial, commercial and Management executive roles have provided a unique foundation to support his knowledge growth and systemic processes in different industries. A graduated from Macquarie University- Sydney with a bachelor of Commerce- Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant “CPA”. Highly successful history of providing leadership, innovative solutions, direction and experiences to the Finance, Fashion, hospitality, Retail, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

7 Questions with Waleed Abu Eleiz

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

Corporate culture and people mindset are the most difficult and challenging aspects in any transformation process. alignment between the board and the executive management is very essential to the success of any growth, transformation or strategy. Accordingly, executive management needs to cascade this down to other levels within the organization. Resistance to change is usually the default response of people to such changes. This resistance is driven by different motives by different people. In order to overcome such resistance, you need to understand the current culture, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly realize the pain points and the cause behind them. Only then you will be able to plan on how to tackle the resistance and get people involved instead of forced to accept change for their best.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I have done it the hard way! I took the stairs rather than the left and at some stage, I had to actually climb as there were no stairs either. I graduated from high school in 1996 with a dream to become a specialized medical physician. I only had the dream and will but didn't have the right circumstances or the money. I worked for 7 years to support my family and I did everything, name it, I did it. In 2003 the owners of the firm, where I worked offered me a scholarship. I went to Sydney and I had to do the foundation year again after 7 years of being completely away from study. I passed and completed my bachelor in Commerce-Accounting from Macquarie University, one of the best universities in Australia. I graduated in 2007 and in 2008 started my CPA and qualified in 2011. I started to progress in my career working for different industries in different countries, different roles and with different cultures until I became who I am today. A lot of sacrifice, a lot of pain and a lot of sleepless nights but that was exactly why I enjoy my success today as it was never easy.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I usually wake up early in the morning with a clear plan of what I need to do. My work is very well structured and my goals/targets are usually very well articulated and clear. I value the organized way of thinking. I arrive at the office with a light breakfast and start executing my plans after reading my inbox and deal with what comes across but in a well predefined way. I evaluate the progress against the targets and I make sure I empower my team and delegate as much as possible to them as I believe in teamwork. I involve my team in the decision-making process and give them the freedom and space to challenge my decisions. We make sure we all agree on the plan before we move forward (I can't say that this would be the case always as sometimes I had to make the final call but most of the time at least). I conduct meetings and I prefer face-to-face rather than distant meetings. I continuously follow up on progress and updates. I like to conclude things clearly to avoid subjective interpretations to things. When I go home, I relax, have dinner and usually watch football or a movie after chatting with the family. I also rewind the tape of the day and evaluate myself especially in areas where I believe I have room to improve. I am an aggressive critic to myself when I don't handle matters the way I should have. I always try to be a better person than I was yesterday as simple as this.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Don't be royal more than the king! I will leave it at that..

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?

As strange as it may sound, it is actually the Quran! The Quran is a lifestyle, it is the most comprehensive book covering many and different aspects of life. The Quran guides how you should manage your relationship with God, which will lead to self-peace and eventually how you drive your relationship with others. The Quran is a guidance to everyday life in all its aspects. Help, support, compassion, generosity, knowledge, behavior, justice, equality, attitude, respect, integrity, science, physics, phycology, love, peace, family, community, forgiveness, tolerance ...etc are a few topics to mention. I can't find a better book for better understanding of the aspects of life and a better book to make you a better leader.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

You need to lead by example, to be humble, to be available to meet and listen, to be ready to adapt and understand differences but most importantly to be able to make decisions and take actions. One of the most important pillars of leadership is trust. You need to build trust at all levels from your board to your team and other colleagues. You need to show a high level of reliability in order for people to be willing to listen to you and trust your judgement. That comes with a high level of integrity and knowledge; integrity is the ability to do the right thing even if everyone does the opposite and regardless of any consequences. It is the ability to say the truth at any time and at any cost and show everyone the real you. As for knowledge, it is all about being aware of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what will come out of it. Knowledge doesn't have to be the one who knows all the answers, but the one who is willing to provide solutions and answers.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

Often, transformation is perceived as change and people by nature don't like change. They don't like to be out of their comfort zone so they start to resist. On one occasion, I faced fierce resistance during a comprehensive transformation plan and I was an intruder to their culture but then I had to leave after one and a half years before we completed the plan. After my departure, people started to realise the value of what transformation was offering the organisation as you only value things when you lose them. Things started to deteriorate and the company eventually collapsed because they stopped the transformation plan.