By Thomas Shambler
For Sheikh Saeed bin Obaid Al Maktoum, CEO AJSM Investments, leadership comes from within
What's the story behind AJSM Investments?
AJSM Investments is a privately owned family business that used to be mainly based around real estate. My brothers and sisters decided to bring our respective businesses together as one unit in 2012. With the modern business world changing rapidly, this allowed us to invest in bigger business ventures and today, I am proud to say that AJSM Investments is public, and has opened many new avenues to the team and myself.
If all goes well, where do you see AJSM going over the next decade?
I want us to be one of the best investment companies both regionally and internationally. Interview me in ten years, and I'm sure you'll see positive results.
What's the biggest challenge facing your industry today?
There are many challenges that all businesses face, whether they are large or small. Things like hiring the right people, building and investing in the right brands and projects. These challenges are unavoidable, but what's most important is knowing how to deal with them. I think ever business challenge represents another opportunity to compete.
Where do good ideas come from in your organisation?
Innovative ideas come from small thoughts aligned with a larger vision. And they come from everyone, in administrative roles or middle management. My senior management – who I work closely with on a daily basis – are the pillar of my strength, and are supremely talented people. We're constantly brainstorming new ideas.
What's your decision making process?
First you need to identify the purpose of the decision – why it needs to be made. The second thing you need to ask yourself is if the information you have gathered has come from a good source. I like brainstorming and analytics also, they help me arrive to a sound decision.
Do you believe social media has impacted your organisation?
I think it has had a huge impact on businesses. Take LinkedIn for example. I have people contacting me with business ideas or simply to ask advice. It's a low-cost way to broadcast information about your business and yourself to a large audience. From a company standpoint, social media is an extension of our brand identity.
What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
I love doing my job – as long as I do it right, of course. What I mean by that, is that every project, investment or decision I make, bares my footprint. I also love meeting different people who come to the office with amazing ideas. I enjoy harnessing talent and directing people to reach their full potential, which ultimately has a positive effect on the company's growth. That's obviously beneficial, but the best payoff is making a positive impact on the company.
If you were to explain your job to an eight-year-old in three sentences, what would you say?
My job is to create a friendly and fun atmosphere, where people want to come every day. A place where leadership skills are honed. It's a bit like being the captain of the football team, and I have to get the team geared up for a big win.
Is there someone who has had an impact on you as a leader?
My late father had a tremendous impact in mentoring me. His commitment and his integrity were inspirational. I learned from him that integrity is about making your actions line-up with your word. Above all, it was his gratuitous nature that has always inspired me. He was always grateful for what he had, and did because of it. And while he was a successful businessman, he was never too busy to stop and thank those around him.
Let's say you have two equally qualified job candidates. How do you determine whom to hire?
I find that to be a rare problem, as some candidates may have the technical skills but lack leadership required for the position, and vice versa. However, we look at both the motivations behind a candidate's interest for the job, as well as their job expectations. That's always a good way to differentiate between the two.
What are three characteristics every leader should possess?
Every leader should have vision, communication and inspiration. A great leader is one who takes action. They don't sit around all day talking about or wishing for something they want to do. They go out and do it.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
The best leaders inspire others to realize their own leadership potential, and push them beyond what they believe they are capable of doing. These leaders have an inherent ability, through their own energy and enthusiasm, to inspire others and strive for excellence rather than mediocrity.
What's one mistake that leaders make more frequently than others?
I would say that listening is a lost art. Some leaders spend more time preaching rather than listening. Listening is as important as talking, and an effective leader certainly listens more than they talk.
Do you have a fear in business?
I don't fear things like failure, rejection or being wrong. My true fear is letting down others around me, those who have followed me and bought into my dream.
What's the best way to prepare for uncertainty in the market?
In today's market, not all events can be prepared for, it's true. However, I can equip my company with the right tools needed to fend off potential threats by developing specific plans for each situation. It's always wise to stop assuming the most likely outcomes will turn up at the conclusion of every situation. A successful company prepares for multiple outcomes, regardless of what they might expect to happen.