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7 Questions on Leadership with M. Faizall Kassiem

Name: M. Faizall Kassiem

Title: Senior Business Analyst

Oranisation: Merchants SA

A results-oriented professional with extensive experience in management, leadership and business analysis. I am dedicated to ensuring accurate financial and economic data and information management while supporting departmental strategic goals. With a strong

background in data analysis, information systems, and project management, I am committed to delivering comprehensive and high-quality data sets and reports to

drive informed decision making.

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

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


Jonno White

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

The most challenging aspect has been balancing the diverse needs and expectations of team members. In South Africa in particular, Diversity is linked to a range of external factors and politics is but one to mention. In environments where I've managed cross-functional teams, each individual brings unique strengths and challenges. Finding the right balance to ensure everyone feels valued, motivated, and supported requires constant adaptability and a keen understanding of individual and team dynamics. The biggest challenge in South Africa is to finely balance diversity with Competency.

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

My leadership journey began organically, evolving from a combination of ambition, continuous learning, practical experience, and a robust commitment to personal growth. Starting in retail, Customer Service call centers, technical support roles, I demonstrated a knack for problem-solving and effective communication. This led to my abilities being recognized and opportunities for leadership roles, where I refined my skills in team management and strategic planning. Certifications in LEAN/Six Sigma and data analysis further strengthened my leadership profile, allowing me to navigate diverse industries successfully.

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

I structure my workdays with a focus on priorities. Mornings are dedicated to strategic planning and addressing high-priority tasks. Afternoons are often reserved for team meetings, collaboration, and project management. Early evenings are utilized for professional development, staying updated on industry trends, and preparing for the next day. The remainder part of my evening is for family time where there is a complete disconnection with any work-related matters. Maintaining a balance between strategic thinking and hands-on management is crucial for effective leadership but ensuring there is work-life balance is more crucial to be an effective leader.

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

A recent lesson/reminder is the importance of fostering an inclusive and collaborative team culture. In a dynamic environment, I learned that by actively encouraging open communication, valuing diverse perspectives, and creating a space where team members feel heard, we can harness collective strengths and drive more innovative solutions. We often take for granted the factors that make us a winning team like listening to other viewpoints, putting ourselves in other's shoes and ensuring that a collaboration is just 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?

The book "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek has profoundly impacted my leadership. It emphasizes the importance of leaders prioritizing the well-being of their team members, fostering a sense of trust and collaboration. This philosophy aligns with my belief in servant leadership, influencing how I prioritize the needs of my team to create a positive and productive work environment.

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

My advice would be to cultivate a growth mindset. Embrace challenges as opportunities for learning, seek feedback, and continuously invest in your personal and professional development. The ability to adapt and learn from experiences is invaluable in leadership, fostering resilience and innovation.

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

Many moons ago in a bustling corporate setting, there was a seasoned leader named Faizall who was known for his strategic acumen and decisiveness. Faizall had successfully navigated the complexities of leadership for a while. One day, as a routine part of the leadership training program, Faizall was asked to swap roles with an entry-level employee named Elif for a day.

Elif, who had recently joined the company, was thrilled yet nervous to step into the shoes of the leader. Conversely, Faizall, accustomed to an office and executive decisions, now found himself at a desk in the heart of the office, surrounded by the daily grind of frontline tasks.

Throughout the day, Elif, with newfound authority, quickly realized the weight of leadership decisions. From managing conflicting priorities to addressing employee concerns, Elif faced challenges that seemed more daunting from the leader's perspective. On the other hand, Faizall, now in the trenches, experienced firsthand the intricacies of daily operations and the importance of every team member's role.

At the end of the day, as they returned to their original roles, both Faizall and Elif were profoundly changed. The experience prompted Faizall to reflect on the impact of decisions on individual team members and the need for empathetic leadership. The lesson learned was that true leadership involves understanding and appreciating the diverse roles within an organization, recognizing that every role, regardless of hierarchy, contributes significantly to the overall success.

Maya, having experienced a day in the shoes of leadership, gained a newfound appreciation for the challenges leaders face daily. The experience served as a reminder that leadership goes beyond authority—it's about understanding, supporting, and empowering the team to achieve collective success.

This poignant story reminds leaders of the importance of empathy, humility, and recognizing the value of every team member's contribution. It encourages reflection on the responsibility that comes with authority and the need to foster a culture where every individual feels valued, ultimately contributing to a more harmonious and productive work environment.

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