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Leadership is probably more fantasized than understood. Everyone seems to carry a highly personal and individualized concept of Leadership in her/his mind, of which some thoughts are more common.

The first thought which is associated with Leadership is ‘Power Over Others’. Power ranges from ‘autocratic dictatorship’ to ‘benevolent dictatorship’. The thing to note is that ‘dictatorship’ would be there in any case. All other versions of Leadership are nothing but a variation on the same theme.

I really wish I could profile some of the old guard with whom I had some encounter, or I had the opportunity to work under them. I also wish that I present them with their real names so that the credit goes where it is due.

Anyway, with some limitations, I would like to share the Leadership Tales from which certain inspirations can be drawn. We all learn here, in the world, and assimilate various things in our person through inspiration, which could be positive, or negative. We have positive inspiration when we pick up a good trait and adopt; we have negative inspiration when we decide that we shall not act in the same manner that we saw in the leader. Personally, I have learnt more through negative learning rather than positive one. There have been many things which I saw and decided that I would not do the same.

There are as many leadership styles as there are leaders; and there are as many theories about leadership. However, most of what is doled out as Leadership is not sustainable.

During my long career, I had had the good fortune of working with so many outstanding people. Let me tell you some tales about them.

I left Hoechst in October 1979 after working for four years (tenure 1). For the next two years, I was restless and unsettled. I joined another large MNC and left quickly. Within our fraternity, we knew everyone, and someone referred me to Lederle. Sheikh Ejaz Uddin (late) was the District Manager at Multan where I was also located at that time. Sheikh Ejaz met me briefly and said he was ok. He asked me to go to Karachi for final interview with Mr. Shamshad Ahmed (late) who was Manager Lederle Division (Lederle was division of Cyanamid and was headed by Shamshad sahib).

I took a train to Karachi which was supposed to reach Karachi at 10.00am next day. I would have enough time to go to office for interview. It so happened that the train got engine problem on the way which kept us stranded in the middle of nowhere for several hours. When I finally reached Karachi, it was almost 5.00PM and it was raining heavily; unusual for Karachi. I called the number given by Sheikh Ejaz and it was picked up by Shamshad sahib himself. I told him my name and the purpose of my visit. It was already late and raining, but he asked me to come over. I took a taxi from Karachi Cantt station and started to go to Hawksbay Road where Lederle office and plant were located. I reached there a little after 6.00PM. The office was closed, and all staff had gone. Shamshad sahib was sitting all alone. He asked about my journey. He said I must be tired and made me a cup of tea himself. He ‘interviewed’ me for 10-15 minutes, the time I took to finish tea. He said I was ok to join. He said we would leave. Then he asked me where I would like to go so that he could drop me there. I requested him to drop me at Nazimabad, which he did. In an encounter lasting about 90 minutes, Shamshad sahib taught me discipline, humility and sense of purpose. He waited for a junior, medical rep to come over whereas he could have easily asked me to come next day. Shamshad sahib later became MD of Janssen and retired from there. His leadership was about doing what mattered most. His successors, who followed him, had some similar traits. In a long career, there might have been some people who would be unhappy with him, but the point is not happiness or unhappiness; the point is the Leadership philosophy of the person. Prayers that Allah Blesses his soul. Aameen.


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