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The Leadership Mindset

Aramex’s groundbreaking Global Change Leaders program reflects both the company’s desire for talented, motivated leaders and its commitment to ongoing learning

The ability to lead is one of the great intangibles in business; much like entrepreneurship, the debate is ongoing about whether the ability to inspire a team is the result of nature or nurture. Aramex is certainly trying to shift the evidence to the latter column, unveiling an innovative learning program that seeks to develop the next generation of leaders – each equipped with the tools, experiences and, perhaps just as importantly, corporate values to lead the company to greater successes in the future.

The Global Change Leaders program, which accepted its first intake in September 2010, is a year-long learning experience in which Aramex managers are wrenched from their comfort zones, and also their immediate areas of work, and exposed to global business issues, company growth challenges and wider community responsibilities.

They address these either individually, in collaboration with virtual teams made up from leaders from across the Aramex network, wherever they’re located, or with mentors from the Aramex’s top management tier. “This isn’t simply a management training course,” says Reem Khouri, Manager of CEO Operations, who not only helped develop the program but is herself an enrollee.

“We have business courses, internal and external, for that. This program is about investing in our talent, exposing them to all aspects of leadership and instilling what it means to be a leader at Aramex. It’s a holistic, project based learning experience, in which senior managers share knowledge to develop new ideas, products and service solutions, commit to voluntary work and also gain invaluable lessons from mentors, leading business schools, and seminars/conferences.”

Nurturing and supporting the most capable employees will provide continuous, long-term benefits to the company, but there are more immediate goals the program seeks to meet. As Aramex expands into new markets, particularly in South Asia and Africa, its essential there is a wide enough pool of managerial talent to oversee each new development. “We want to align the people strategy to the business strategy,” says Dima Khoury, coordinator of the Global Change Leaders program. “The inescapable fact is that good leadership reshapes the future of the organization and also shapes the way societies evolve. It is extremely important for the leaders to understand the forces of work and paradoxes within their own country and beyond – and this program will instill the global mindset.”

Understanding teamwork
The 31 future leaders who gathered at the two day induction at Petra in Jordan were drawn from ten countries, mainly in the Middle East, Asia and South Asia regions. They were each invited by the Aramex management to apply for the program, having been selected for both their talents and potential, but also because of the Aramex values – entrepreneurship, initiative, stakeholder-centric – they have been displaying in their daily work.

They were each assigned a mentor, who will be on hand to guide their development, offering advice and motivation throughout the year, and then placed in teams to work on devising, or rethinking, an Aramex product or service, with the results to be presented by the course’s conclusion. Importantly, each task was assigned to teams with minimal prior experience of that Aramex function.

Nader Museitif, Aramex’s Mergers & Acquisitions Manager, is for instance working with his team on the implementation of a new e-commerce strategy. “Of course, this is some way from my daily role, but I am really like the collaboration between all the people in the company. The team is made up from people all across the world, from Mediterranean countries to Hong Kong, and I am learning a lot about their region’s challenges, business culture and working methods. I have learned so much in just three months!” Nader is also fortunate to have Fadi Ghandour himself as a mentor, who first initiated the Global Change Leaders program. “He’s obviously an incredibly busy man, so I am fortunate for every minute he gives me. But just sitting with him for half an hour, he asks such penetrating questions that he challenges every conviction you had about your work, provide new insight and ideas so you can reevaluate it, and really motivate you to succeed.”

Another component of teamwork concerns not the company, but the wider community in which the company operates. Corporate activism is key to the stakeholder-centric model that values social impact as much as customer satisfaction and shareholder returns. “Deliver every promise every day,” is a mantra that Fadi Ghandour has sought to instill in every Aramex employee, and it forms a crucial part of the leadership program.

During the year, but also with the expectation to continue beyond, each leader commits to a number of days per month to volunteer in one of Aramex’s community projects, working alongside leading NGOs to deliver lasting change to some of the more disadvantaged sections of society. “Being a leader is more than business ability,” say Reem Khouri. “It’s also about the duties and responsibilities that come with representing Aramex. We believe that your job title has to be earned; it’s not something that you are given.”

Additional insights
In addition to the direct engagements and challenges of the program, the leaders have the opportunity to enroll in a three-week leadership course at one of the world’s leading business schools, including INSEAD, IMD and Cambridge University. Yasser Zahreddine, Aramex’s country manager for Morocco, has already completed his course at the latter’s Advanced Leadership Program, in which he underwent intensive workshops on leadership, innovation, negotiation skills, finance, people management, sales and marketing and even developing a proper work-life balance – much of it geared towards executives in emerging markets.

“It was three weeks of hard work but it was certainly one of the best experiences since I joined,” Yasser says. “It took a holistic approach, working on our strengths as well as weaknesses and providing challenges that have really enriched my leadership skills. I have learned how to build my team, and also how they can be inspired and motivated.”

It’s clear, then, that the program is already bearing fruit for Aramex, underlining the company’s belief, as stated by Dima Khoury, that “the real value of our company is the people we have working with us” and that “leadership is intertwined with the development of our company.”

“Aramex has long understood that investing in talent is the best investment you can make,” says Reem Khouri. “It has been proven over and over again, and this program is intended to deepen that investment and create a leadership that is flexible, creative and able to help the organization grow.

“It’s a win-win situation,” she adds. “The leaders are able to grow, personally and professionally. And the company gets the benefit of motivated and skilled leaders who understand the Aramex culture and display its values.”

 
  Copyright 2011, Aramex International