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Sun 1 Apr 2007 05:07 PM

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My first CEO: Kamran Siddiqi

Think big; Trust your intuition; Take risks; Build a vision for the future; Do not assume that you have all the answers.


Kamran Siddiqi


GM Visa International, Middle East

Length of time in position:

Three years, six months

Previous jobs:

• MD Emerging Business, ANZ Banking Group

• Business Development Director, Asia Pacific Consumer Bank, Citibank

Who was your first CEO or mentor?

I have been very fortunate to have worked for, and with, very many talented people in my 20 plus years in banking and finance. Apart from the current President of VISA CEMEA, Anne Cobb , who is an amazing entrepreneur, the person who had the greatest influence on my career in the first ten years was a gentleman by the name of Rana Talwar, Chairman of Sabre Capital.

What three things have they taught you?

If I had to pick three things these leadership ‘Truths' would be: Think Big, Trust your Intuition, and Take Risks.

Think Big.

For me this is the most important ‘Truth' about leadership. If you aim for the stars, you may fail, but you will surely rise above the clouds. If in the first instance you fail against a very high target, you will still have achieved a lot more than you would have by succeeding against a mediocre target.

Trust your Intuition.

Intuition is not a wild guess. Intuition is finely honed experience and observation, the greatest asset of a leader. Great business decisions in corporate history often come from intuition rather than ‘data'. Data is important, but should not replace intuition.

Take Risks.

Thinking big and trusting your intuition will not translate into big achievements if you allow fear of failure to stop you. It is very easy for one to go for the safe option and to try and avoid failure. When one takes risks, one will make mistakes, but if one is diligent in assessing situations and in implementation, then although there will be mistakes, the successes will outweigh them.

How have you applied this to how you work today?

I have tried to apply these ‘truths' to whatever role I have occupied. Have I had my share of mistakes and failures? Yes - but the successes of the businesses have far outweighed any failures.

Name one example of when you have made a difference to your business?

Prior to joining Visa, I was Managing Director of the Cards Business for ANZ Bank, at their headquarters in Melbourne, and while there, in a two-year period, we doubled profits. The CEO of the bank told me that he did not think that it was possible to have that sort of profit growth in a cards business considering that ANZ Cards was the market leader in a ‘mature' industry (credit cards in Australia) in a fully developed economy.

What makes a good CEO?

The CEO as a ‘Manager' has two basic choices: do you blame people or do you fix problems? If the latter, then the CEO will likely be more successful over time.

A good CEO must be able to:

• Build a Vision for the future.

• Staff correctly. The good CEO hires, positions and re-positions staff that are best able to deliver the company's strategy.

• Build the systems and processes that will track, guide and enable corrective action with regard to implementation of strategy to deliver the vision. This enables the CEO to be hands-on and hands-off depending on the need to guide the company.

• ‘Unleash' management talent. In the twenty-first century, when speed and empowerment is vital for success, the leader does not ‘manage' the company, the leader ‘leverages' the talent in the company.

What three things should a CEO never do?

• Assume that he or she has all the answers.

• Not have a clear vision for the future.

• Only look at the short term or the long term.

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Varun 8 years ago

very inspiring!!