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7 Questions on Leadership with Farzad Rahnama

Name: Farzad Rahnama

Title: Wells Global Safety and Environment Manager

Organisation: Repsol E&P

I entered this world in the vibrant southwest of Iran, in a city steeped in the legacy of oil production in name Gachsaran in 1982. From the very start, energy coursed through the veins of my family, raised among discussions of pipelines, refineries, and the constant hum of the energy industry, it was almost predestined that I'd follow suit.

As a child, I marveled at the enormity of the oil infrastructure surrounding me. But as I grew older, questions began to stir within me—questions of responsibility, of the environmental footprint, of the impact our actions had on our planet's well-being. This burgeoning concern propelled me toward a path that merged my fascination with engineering and my growing sense of duty toward the environment. I initially set my sights on Chemical Engineering, driven by a desire to understand the intricate processes behind energy production. Yet, the weight of responsibility for both human health and the planet's welfare lingered in my mind, an incessant inquiry that demanded answers. This introspection led me to pivot toward Environmental Engineering.

In 2013, my journey expanded beyond borders, marking the beginning of an international career that would profoundly shape my perspective on sustainable business practices. Stepping into the global arena, I encountered a mosaic of cultures, ideas, and challenges, each offering a new lens through which to view our collective responsibility toward the planet.

after 10 years and wonderful expriance in various project of repsol working in 4 continent. I landed in head quarter where as the Wells Global Safety and Environment Manager, my role transcended conventional job descriptions. It became a dedication—an unwavering commitment to instill a collective mindset geared toward sustainable business practices within our operational frameworks in Wells oraganisation.

Every day presented an opportunity to enact change, to influence decision-makers, and to foster a culture where efficiency wasn't just a goal but a means to minimize our ecological footprint. so that, the essence of my work lay in the understanding that sustainability wasn't a standalone agenda but an intrinsic part of every business facet. It wasn't merely a departmental concern; it was a collective responsibility woven into the fabric of our operations.

Guided by this etho, and through collaboration, education, and unwavering dedication, I am committed to foster a paradigm shift—a shift where sustainability wasn't an afterthought but the very foundation upon which our business strategies were built. Each day brought new challenges, but it also brought the opportunity to inspire change, to turn ideals into actions, and to forge a path toward a more sustainable and prosperous future for generations to come.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Farzad's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Maintaining a balance between innovation and compliance while ensuring safety and environmental standards. Indeed, innovation in well operations, whether in drilling techniques, extraction methods, or technology utilization, is crucial for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, to stay competitive. However, Wells operations often occur in diverse geographical locations with varying environmental conditions, thus aligning these innovations with stringent safety protocols and ever-evolving environmental regulations has been complex.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I have started a project on 2014 in Algeria as Safety and Environment Coordinator. we have completed first phase of project development where the aim was to construct a gas treatment unit and drill numbers of wells. After few years on March 2018, I have been called by project director. I was told "We believe what you have done during this period is outstanding, and we see that you have more capability to demonstrate, therefore, we have decided to promote you to the position of Asset Safety and Environment Manager."

The recognition didn't just acknowledge past accomplishments; actually it came with a challenge—an expectation that I would continue to grow, evolve, and take on more significant responsibilities.

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

My day typically begins with an early morning routine that includes a refreshing walk and catching up on messages from friends and family. As I sip my morning tea, I dive into reviewing my list of priorities related to my role. This involves checking my detailed ToDo list and perusing the day's meeting schedule and planned tasks. This initial review offers a clear glimpse of what lies ahead.

Starting off, I dedicate time to reading the latest 24-hour health and safety updates. Following this, I keenly participate in operational meetings and then shift focus to tackling work emails. Aligning with the planned tasks and priorities for my role, I often engage in meetings that review performance, address challenges, and track progress toward our collective goals.

Due to my commitment to intermittent fasting, I usually skip lunch and choose for a refreshing mid-day coffee break instead. In the afternoon, I find myself interacting with team members from different regions. We collaborate on setting tasks for the upcoming days or discuss updates on the progress of existing plans. Flexibility and adaptability play pivotal roles in my task planning and decision-making, especially given the diverse projects spanning different time zones globally.

Our weekly team call serves as an opportunity for me to reflect on our performance through our digital safety and environment dashboard. I actively listen to feedback, learning more about the challenges within our discipline. Additionally, I carve out at least 45 minutes each day for creative brainstorming and innovative pursuits, crucial for driving growth and maintaining a competitive edge. I punctuate this routine with timely conversations with my line managers and the rest of the Wells Operation leadership team on a monthly basis.

As the workday draws to a close, I update my ToDo list and work plan for the next day. During my commute home, I indulge in podcasts, and my favorite is "A Bit of Optimism" by Simon Sinek. Upon arriving home, I dedicate my time to conversations and collaborative home tasks with my wife. Our discussions span news, her work, my work, and, most importantly, sharing dinner together. Later in the evening, I dedicate around 45 minutes to self-study, with LinkedIn Learning being my go-to platform.

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is vital, so I ensure I'm in bed no later than 11:00 pm every night.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

If there is one important lesson that I remember every day. the importance of humbleness in leadership. While confidence and decisiveness are valuable traits, acknowledging one's limitations and being open to learning from others is equally crucial. This is win-win deal in particular working around younger generation nowadays.

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?

I found "Adaptive Leadership" incredibly impactful. This leadership framework, introduced by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky in their book "Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading," delves into navigating complex challenges and effectively leading during times of flux, uncertainty, and conflict.

In today's landscape, challenges like climate change, global warming, and sustainable economies stand out prominently. Exploring this book helped me grasp vital leadership principles, particularly in identifying the root causes of conflicts or challenges within teams and organizations, the significance of encouraging adaptability in individuals and teams, fostering an environment that embraces learning from mistakes, and recognizing that leadership isn't bound by titles but can emerge from anyone within an organization.

This concept fundamentally altered my approach to leadership. It's not just about problem-solving; it's about fostering adaptability and resilience in the face of evolving circumstances, a crucial skill set in today's dynamic world.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

I would say "Embrace continuous learning and be open to diverse perspectives—never underestimate the power of listening, learning, and adapting."

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

During the chaotic era of the Covid-19 pandemic in beginning of 2020, my role as a Safety and Environment leader leaped me into an unprecedented and deeply impactful experience.

The forthcoming uncertainty was intense—we were confronting an invisible adversary whose rapid spread posed a threat unlike any other. During this uncertainty, the primary challenge was to maintain operational continuity without jeopardizing the health and safety of our workforce.

My work revolved around fostering a culture deeply rooted in safety and environmental consciousness. The onset of the pandemic prompted swift action as we collaborated to develop and rigorously test our emergency response plan tailored for Covid-19.

We swiftly organized training sessions and disseminated crucial health guidelines to the far remote corners of our project sites, aiming to shield our team from the imminent danger. Little did I anticipate that I would become the pandemic's firsthand lesson within our ranks.

As fate would have it, I found myself as the first victim of Covid-19 in our field operations. Suddenly, the thoroughly crafted protocols and plans became my lifeline. It was a pivotal moment where trust in our preparations became paramount—my life hinged on the efficacy of our collective efforts.

The plan, accurately practiced and exercised within our team, became my beacon of hope. When the disastrous moment arrived, my colleagues executed the plan perfectly, swiftly evacuating me from the site to a definitive medical facility.

Four weeks of a difficult battle later, I emerged on the other side, fully recovered. The experience left an indelible mark on me, a testament to the unwavering trust forged in real adversity. It underscored the profound truth that in the face of an unprecedented challenge, the bonds of trust within a team can navigate even the most perilous waters.

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