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7 Questions on Leadership with Syed Laeeq Peeran

Name: Syed Laeeq Peeran

Title: Chief Operating Officer

Organisation: STRATAGEM Ventures

Serial entrepreneur, mentor, marketing and business consultant, and enterprise development strategist with over two decades of diverse industry expertise. A broad experience includes expertise in building smart and highly creative marketing programmes, increasing marketing share, retaining client loyalty, and generating revenue in all market situations. Recognised for decisive leadership and exceptional abilities to tackle problems, lead on, and implement sound judgements in high volume and exceptionally productive work contexts.

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

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


Jonno White

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

One of the most difficult components of being a leader is striking the correct balance between decisiveness and inclusivity. As a leader, you must frequently make difficult decisions that affect your team and organisation. These decisions might range from determining strategic orientations to dealing with personnel issues or allocating resources.

On the one hand, being decisive is essential for keeping things going and providing a clear direction for your team. However, it is also critical to be inclusive and considerate of different points of view within the team. Finding the perfect balance between these two factors might be difficult. If you are overly decisive, you risk alienating team members who may feel unheard or underappreciated. However, if you lean too strongly towards inclusivity, you may find it difficult to make timely judgements, and your team may regard you as indecisive or inefficient.

To address this obstacle, I've discovered that actively soliciting feedback from team members, encouraging open and honest communication, and fostering a culture of psychological safety are all critical. Furthermore, it is critical to always improve your decision-making process, learning from both triumphs and failures, and being adaptable in your leadership style as situations change.

Finally, effective leadership necessitates striking a careful balance between being a decisive leader who acts and an inclusive leader who values the contributions of the entire team.

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

My journey began as a junior marketing executive at a dynamic and forward-thinking marketing agency. Fresh out of university, I was eager to dive into the world of marketing and make a meaningful impact. My proactive attitude, creative ideas, and willingness to take on new challenges quickly made me stand out within the agency.

As I gained experience and refined my marketing skills, I started noticing the bigger picture and how marketing strategies fit into the broader business landscape. I was drawn to the strategic aspects of business management and began seeking opportunities to contribute beyond the confines of traditional marketing roles.

Recognizing my curiosity and potential, my mentors at the agency encouraged me to explore my passion for strategic thinking. They provided guidance, connected me with relevant resources, and supported my pursuit of additional education in business strategy and management.

Armed with this newfound knowledge, I started taking on more responsibilities that involved cross-functional collaboration and a holistic view of business operations. My ability to bridge the gap between marketing tactics and overall business objectives became evident as I led projects that not only drove revenue but also contributed to the company's strategic direction.

However, my ambition didn't stop there. I began envisioning a company that could provide comprehensive strategic management consulting services to businesses looking to navigate complex challenges, optimise their operations, and achieve sustainable growth. I spent countless hours refining my business model, conducting market research, and outlining my unique value proposition.

With my vision solidified, I took a bold step and founded my own strategic management consulting firm "STRATAGEM Ventures." The transition from a marketing executive to a business founder was undoubtedly challenging, but my determination and preparation set me up for success. I leveraged my existing professional network and tapped into the relationships I had built throughout my career to secure my firm's initial clients.

My leadership style reflected my holistic approach to business. I believed in the power of collaborative problem solving, and I created an environment where my team members felt empowered to contribute their insights and expertise. This approach not only fostered innovation within my firm but also attracted top-tier talent eager to be part of a company that valued strategic thinking.

As my consulting firm gained momentum, clients appreciated my ability to provide not only actionable strategies but also the guidance and support needed for successful implementation. My reputation as a thoughtful and results-driven strategic advisor spread, and my client base grew across industries and sectors.

Over the years, my firm has evolved into a sought-after partner for businesses facing complex challenges. My expertise in strategic management, coupled with my commitment to understanding each client's unique circumstances, sets my firm apart. I not only helped companies overcome obstacles but also guided them towards long-term success and growth.

From a junior to a Founder, my strategic management consulting firm was a testament to my passion for learning, determination to make a difference, and ability to lead with insight and purpose.

My story serves as inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, showcasing how a combination of expertise, vision, and a commitment to excellence can lead to a fulfilling and impactful career journey.

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

Get up at 5:00 – 6:15 AM: Get up for Fajr Prayers, morning walk for a while and then lay down for a while.

7:30 AM: Get up and Morning Routine

Start the day with a healthy breakfast and some light exercise or stretching to energize myself.

Spend a few minutes reviewing my goals and priorities for the day.

9:30 AM: Email and Planning

Check emails and respond to urgent matters.

Review my calendar, prioritize tasks, and adjust my schedule if necessary.

10:45 AM: Deep Work Session

Focus on high-priority tasks that require my full attention and creativity.

Minimize distractions and consider using techniques like the Pomodoro method (focused work intervals followed by short breaks) to maintain productivity.

12:45 PM – 1:45 PM: Mid-day Break and Duhr prayers time

Take a short break to refresh my mind. Consider a light lunch and prayer my mid-day prayers “Duhr”

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM: Meetings and Collaborative Work

Schedule meetings, brainstorming sessions, and collaborative work during this time.

Keep communication concise and effective to make the most of these interactions.

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM: Tactical and Administrative Tasks

Address operational and administrative tasks such as budget reviews, strategic planning, and project management.

Delegate tasks whenever possible to free up my time for strategic thinking.

5:15 PM - 5:45 PM: Afternoon Break and Asr prayers time

Take another short break to recharge. Pray my evening prayers “Asr” and some healthy snack with a coffee.

6:00 PM - 6:45 PM: Innovation and Research

Dedicate time to staying up-to-date with industry trends, competitor analysis, and exploring innovative ideas for my company's growth.

Encourage creative thinking and consider allocating time for personal research projects.

6:00 PM - 7:15 PM: Review and Wrap-up, Maghreb prayers

Reflect on the day's accomplishments and evaluate progress toward my goals.

Make a to-do list for the next day, prioritizing tasks that require immediate attention. Pray my dawn prayers “Maghreb”

7:30 PM - 8:00 PM: Reach home and prepare for my jiu-jitsu/MMA class

8:00 PM - 10:00 PM: Jiu-jitsu/MMA training, drills and sparring.

10:30 PM - 11:45 PM: Reach home take dinner wait for 25-30 mins, then shower. Moreover, pray my night prayers “Isha”.

12:15 AM: Wind up everything what is in my mind with light meditation and prepare to sleep.

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

A recent leadership lesson that has been reinforced for me is the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty. In today's rapidly changing world, leaders must navigate through unexpected challenges and disruptions, such as the global pandemic we've all experienced.

During the early days of the pandemic, I found myself leading a team that had to quickly transition to remote work. It was a challenging time, and I had to learn to adapt to the new reality while ensuring that my team remained motivated and productive. One of the key takeaways from this experience was the need to stay flexible and open-minded in our approach to leadership.

I realized that rigid plans and structures can quickly become obsolete in the face of unforeseen circumstances. Instead, leaders must be willing to pivot, make quick decisions, and provide clear communication to keep their teams on track. This experience taught me that leadership isn't just about having a strategic vision; it's about being able to adjust that vision as needed to address the ever-changing landscape.

Moreover, it highlighted the importance of empathy and understanding in leadership. Many team members were dealing with personal challenges and uncertainties, and it was crucial to listen to their concerns, offer support, and create a sense of camaraderie despite the physical distance.

In summary, the recent leadership lesson that I've learned or been reminded of is the need for adaptability, resilience, and empathy in uncertain times. Being open to change, staying agile, and putting people first are essential qualities for effective leadership in today's dynamic world.

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?

One book that has had a profound impact on my leadership journey is "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This book not only changed the way I approach leadership but also transformed my perspective on the role of a leader within an organization.

The story of how this book impacted my leadership begins with a challenging time in my career. I was leading a team that was struggling with morale and engagement issues. Despite my best efforts to implement various strategies and initiatives, I couldn't seem to inspire the kind of commitment and dedication I desired from my team members.

One day, a colleague recommended "Leaders Eat Last" to me, and I decided to give it a read. The central idea of the book revolves around the concept of servant leadership, where leaders prioritize the well-being and success of their team members above all else. Sinek argues that when leaders create a safe and supportive environment, employees are more likely to feel valued and motivated to give their best.

As I delved into the book, I began to see the flaws in my previous leadership approach. I realized that I had been too focused on results and metrics, neglecting the emotional and psychological needs of my team. The book's numerous real-world examples and case studies highlighted the incredible impact of leaders who put their team's well-being first.

Inspired by "Leaders Eat Last," I started implementing changes in my leadership style. I began to actively listen to my team members, show empathy, and prioritize their growth and development. I worked on creating a culture of trust and collaboration, where everyone felt safe to voice their opinions and take calculated risks.

Over time, I witnessed a remarkable transformation in my team. Morale improved significantly, and team members became more engaged and proactive. We started achieving better results not just in terms of performance metrics but also in terms of the overall well-being and satisfaction of my team.

This book reminded me that true leadership is not about power or authority but about serving others and creating an environment where everyone can thrive. "Leaders Eat Last" has had a lasting impact on my leadership philosophy, guiding me to be a more compassionate and effective leader who genuinely cares about the people I lead.

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

If I could offer just one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: "Embrace lifelong learning."

Leadership is an evolving journey, and the world is constantly changing. To thrive in this dynamic landscape, it's crucial to cultivate a mindset of continuous learning. Here's why:

1. Adaptability: The ability to adapt to new challenges and circumstances is a hallmark of effective leadership. By committing to lifelong learning, you equip yourself with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the ever-changing business and social environments.

2. Innovation: Innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Learning continuously exposes you to new ideas, perspectives, and technologies, enabling you to innovate and drive your organization or team forward.

3. Problem-solving: Leadership often involves tackling complex problems and making difficult decisions. Through continuous learning, you sharpen your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, making you more effective in addressing these challenges.

4. Empathy and communication: Effective leadership is not just about giving orders; it's about connecting with and inspiring others. Learning about different cultures, communication styles, and emotional intelligence can help you relate to a diverse range of people and build stronger, more inclusive teams.

5. Resilience: Leadership can be demanding, and setbacks are inevitable. Lifelong learning fosters resilience by teaching you to bounce back from failures, adapt to setbacks, and maintain a positive outlook.

6. Personal growth: As a leader, your personal development impacts your team and organization. Committing to lifelong learning not only benefits your professional life but also enriches your personal life, making you a more well-rounded and fulfilled individual.

7. Leading by example: By demonstrating a commitment to learning, you set a powerful example for your team. When your team sees you actively seeking knowledge and growth, they are more likely to follow suit, creating a culture of learning within your organization.

In conclusion, while there are many valuable pieces of advice for young leaders, embracing lifelong learning is the foundation upon which you can build your leadership journey. It equips you with the skills, mindset, and adaptability needed to succeed in an ever-changing world and empowers you to lead with excellence and purpose.

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

One meaningful story that comes to mind from my time as a leader is the tale of a young team member who taught me the power of resilience and determination.

Early in my leadership journey, I was entrusted with managing a diverse team working on a high-stakes project for our organization. Among the team members was a young individual, her name was Mahwish, who had recently joined the company and was relatively inexperienced compared to the rest of the team.

As the project progressed, we encountered numerous challenges, setbacks, and unexpected roadblocks. The pressure was intense, and at times, it seemed as if the project might derail. During one particularly trying period, Mahwish faced a significant setback. A critical component of their work was deemed unsatisfactory by our client, and they were asked to start over from scratch.

I expected Mahwish to be disheartened, demotivated, and perhaps even consider resigning from the project. However, to my surprise, they did the opposite. Instead of dwelling on their initial failure, Mahwish dove headfirst into the task at hand. They sought guidance from more experienced team members, tirelessly researched best practices, and put in long hours to rectify their mistake.

Over the next few weeks, Mahwish's work showed remarkable improvement. They displayed an unwavering commitment to the project and a determination to learn from their mistakes. When the project was finally completed, the client not only praised the work but also singled out Mahwish's contributions, highlighting the transformation from initial setbacks to an outstanding performance.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson about leadership: the importance of fostering a culture of resilience and learning. Mahwish's story reminded me that setbacks are not failures but opportunities for growth. As a leader, it's crucial to support team members during tough times, encourage them to bounce back from setbacks, and provide them with the resources and guidance they need to succeed.

Mahwish's journey from initial failure to outstanding achievement remains a constant source of inspiration for me as a leader. It reinforces the idea that with determination, a growth mindset, and a supportive environment, individuals and teams can overcome even the most formidable challenges and achieve remarkable success.

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