Name: Mohammad Khaled
Title: President and Finance Team Lead
Organisation: TEDx RWTH Aachen
I am an Egyptian studying Business Administration and Mechanical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. In Egypt, and now in Germany, being part of student initiatives that bring benefit to their community has always been one of my top priorities.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Khaled's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Effective communication is a cornerstone of leadership, but it's also one of the most challenging aspects. Ensuring that the team receives clear and consistent messages, while also being open to feedback and actively listening, requires continuous effort. Doing all this while also allowing your team to do things their own way can be very difficult, especially during stressful times.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have always been fascinated by the idea of organizing events. When I first came to Germany I applied to the TEDx team within the first week. Fast forward 9 months, after already being a member of the TEDx RWTH Aachen team for the “(Un)limited” event in 2023, I wanted to have a bigger role in the organization. Being a member of the finance team, my aim was to become the new finance team lead. However, I had always, over my 9 months at the organization, joked about becoming the next president.
So with the former president stepping down and no real candidate to replace him, I began thinking about potentially taking his place. Yes, there were some people tempted at first, but none of them wanted the responsibility that came with the position. With that in mind, I started asking about the responsibilities of the president, how much time I would have to give and if it will affect my studies in a negative way.
I knew it would not be an easy task, but I was even more sure that I was ready to take on the challenge! What had been a joke at first was now becoming a reality; I became the new President as well as the Finance Team Lead.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Since I am still a student and being part of a student initiative is voluntary, I try to divide my time between my studies and my responsibilities at TEDx. I usually start my days off with one or two classes, depending on the day. Then around 12:00 I return back to my TEDx duties. These involve relying to emails, networking with potential sponsors or speakers and promoting the organization on social media. At 14:00 I go back to university for two more classes, before shifting my focus again to TEDx.
The part after that varies, depending on what I have scheduled. If we have a meeting scheduled, it is usually around 19:00/20:00. So I try to exercise a bit and eat something, before heading to our TEDx meeting. Our meetings are mainly for reporting and discussing how each team is performing. We also discuss potential speakers, event logistics and brainstorm new ideas. When the meeting is done, I go home and study for two more hours until its around 23:30. In the last 30 minutes before I go to bed, I schedule some emails to be sent to sponsors on the next day and check our LinkedIn page then go to sleep.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I've recently learned the importance of balancing micro and macro management. I had a situation where I was micromanaging a project, and it hindered my team's creativity and initiative. It only came to my attention after the team informed me about it. It was a lesson in stepping back, providing clear objectives, and allowing my team the autonomy to execute their tasks in their own way. Since then I have been able to be more patient with results and allow each person to have their own creative ideas.
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 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey:
Covey's book profoundly impacted my leadership philosophy, particularly through the 'Be Proactive' habit. This habit shifted my mindset from reacting to situations to taking proactive control of them. It encouraged me to be responsible for my choices and actions as a leader. I realized that I have the power to influence outcomes and that a proactive approach can lead to more positive and constructive results. It revolutionized the way I handle challenges and uncertainties in my leadership role.
Another habit mentioned in the book, that impacted my leadership was 'Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood'. It taught me the value of active listening and empathetic communication. After reading the book, I made a conscious effort to truly understand the perspectives and needs of my team members before offering my own solutions. This change in approach not only improved team dynamics, but also led to more innovative and collaborative problem-solving.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
As a young leader, who is still learning so much about leadership along the way, I would say master the art of delegation and trust your team. You can't do everything on your own. Empower your team, trust their abilities, and delegate responsibilities. It not only lightens your workload but also helps your team grow and take ownership, resulting in higher productivity and innovation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
One of the most meaningful experiences during my time as a leader was listening to a person talk to us during one of the recruitment events. For the event we had this idea of having a jar filled with random prompts for people to come and give us 'one-minute TED talks'. It had already been late and the event was ending soon, when a girl approached us and reached into the jar. Turns out the topic she picked had been a passion of hers.
She started talking for a very long time, much more than a minute for sure. Every time we thought she was done, she continued by going into a new sub-topic. It went on for about an hour. While it may have been annoying to some people, I was thinking about how WE were part of the reason she was speaking so freely. We helped empower her to speak her truth and to try and tell us about that passion of hers. It felt surreal knowing that we provided someone with a space safe enough to talk for so long about something close to their heart. It made me believe even more in our mission and in sharing "Ideas Worth Spreading”.