2nd Bahrain International Leadershift Conference
Following up on last year I attended Day 1 of the 2nd Bahrain International Leadershift conference, this years line up of speakers was impressive and varied with leadership gems coming from the health, education, business and diplomatic sectors.
The conference kicked off with the expected pomp and ceremony, Conference Patron H.E. Dr. Hussain bin Ali Mirza, Minister of State Electricity and Water Affairs (EWA) opened with his presentation. In reference to the recent political unrest in Bahrain and the rift he said, that ‘had been created within society along sect, race and origin’, he urged leaders to listen and understand people and to judge fairly according to their ability and competency in the workplace. His leadership gems included:
‘Become softer and replace the hard to reach, tough leader image that only breeds low morale in employees’
‘Leaders are the ones at the front taking control moving the situation forward, they should not panic and ‘never, never quit’ in the face of situations.
He gave a personal example of how following the forced clearing of the contentious Lulu roundabout he proceeded to the BAPCO Refinery to speak to the workforce in order to reassure them and keep them motivated to continue their work.
‘Turn challenges into opportunities through innovation!’
‘Leaders should be thrilled with opportunities to lead and break previous records’
After playing a video clip of the moment Felix jumped from the edge of space down to earth he urged leaders to show similar strengths of leadership through challenge, innovation and pushing oneself.
The leadership advice felt different from last year
In my opinion it was more self critical, frank and direct.
I felt I was witnessing a ‘leadershift’, as respected leaders from Bahrain openly spoke of rifts, weaknesses and problems this in itself felt like a refreshing shift from the perfect, glossy image that is so often projected out of the region. Integrity, compassion, encouragement, development and rejoicing in the success of others were all mentioned as goals for success. Dr Ali Mirza stated,
‘In our society if people are successful they try to point out his failure’
He advised leaders to set the standard and move away from pulling each other down, to one of support and lifting each other.
‘Change the mind set from that of job seeker to that of job creator’.
Was the message from Mr Barhoumi representing UNIDO, he spoke of the necessity for change from the present Arab culture and mind preferring employment over business, entrepreneurship, creativity or innovation. He argued that demographic data showed that there are 355 million people in ME and North Africa with 30% population under the age of 14. In 2027 this is predicted to rise to 445 m so there will be limited jobs for the youth hence the need to build a culture and confidence of entrepreneurship.
Professor Abdulla al Hawaj, CEO of Ahlia University spoke of leadership in the university sector and his experience of witnessing some Eastern universities previously off the ratings radar now becoming desirable and leading places of study. He attributed their success to their commitment to research and innovation; he mentioned that these universities’ research budgets ran into millions even exceeding research budgets of economies in the Arab region. His message was clear:
‘More research, more change, think out of the box!’
Adnan al Mahmood, representing GPIC gave examples of how GPIC maintains a culture of leadership ‘by training employees to go against the crowds’, recognising and rewarding employees who show bravery, courage and leadership outside of work as well as inside.
He gave the example of Prophet Solomon who prayed to god to grant him a listening heart his leadership advise was:
‘Listen using your heart and mind’
Refreshing and interesting twist to the conference came via leadership advice from a diplomats perspective. The Indian Ambassador to Bahrain, argued that it wasn’t possible for us to be leaders in the same way because ‘you have to use style that will give you best result’ and that:
‘Not all leadership styles work so we cannot assert that one style is inferior or superior to another’
He questioned traditional management thinking such as Maslows hierarchy of needs and Mr Gregor Theory X & Y. His argument was that in some parts of the world people did not have basic needs and security however they achieve greatness and display leadership.
His leadership advice:
‘Don’t ask of others what you won’t do yourself’
‘Don’t demand, see if you can command it’
‘Know everyone’s job in the organisation’
‘Leadership roles and styles are evolving leaders have to respond to the aspirations of its peoples’
The CEO of American Mission hospital Bahrain, believed that leaders were not born or made, they are leaders because of their passion to give, concern for people and production. He believed that we are only leaders if we have followers and that,
‘the greatest failure of leadership was to not develop people’
He was of the opinion that performance evaluations were charades as everyone generally is recorded as outstanding and that this was a huge disservice to individuals as not telling them their weakness holds them back from developing.
Eye opening fact – the share price of well led companies’ increase by 900% whereas poorly led companies’ increase by 74%
He gave examples of how leaders preserve the legacy of the past and move forward, combining humility with will power to change. He believed the best time for a CEO to come in to an organisation is when it is in a downturn and not when it is achieving its full potential at the top because this is where with good leadership progress would be inevitable.
My wish list for next years conference would be to see more home grown leadership quotes and case studies, otherwise a thought provoking and refreshing day!