In the Search for A True Leader

Professor Sherif Kamel is the Dean of School of business and also teaches at the American university in Cairo.  He acquired both his bachelor and Masters Degrees from AUC and then his PhD in Management of IT transfer to Developing Nations from London school of economics.  His background is in the intersection of IT and management. For 15 years he worked at the IDSC and as a part-time visiting professor at AUC until the mid 90s.  He then moved to Ritsec for 4 years, and then in 2000 became a full time professor at AUC.  In 2002 he was chosen the management center director at AUC and currently he is the Dean of School of Business.

I happened to see an interview conducted with Dr. Sherif by Ms. Monda Mahmoud from ITWorx, for the company’s quarterly magazine Insight.  Seeing the interview I decided, this is one true leader and I must share some of the lessons learnt from his speech with my readers.

These are only 10 minutes out of a whole hour interview.

Dr. Sherif gave us a valuable lesson in the qualities of true leaders just by listing what he does and what he believes in.  In the few lines below I will list some of those points:

  1. “No body succeeds alone; it is a team work”, this is what Dr. Sherif said in a comment about his achievements.  A true leader believes that without a qualified hardworking team, he will never achieve his goals.  Once you believe that all the success and all the achievements are because of you only and your efforts alone without the help of your team, then this is the beginning of your failure.  This is the lesson we get hearing him say this statement. This also shows that true leaders create leaders not followers, because definitely if you want to succeed and achieve you’ll make sure your team is capable and will produce future leaders.
  2. Dr. Sherif stressed in his interview about the importance of having a strategy in everything you do, even simple matters. He even mentioned that short, medium and long term strategies are needed, especially in today’s fast moving world.  A true leader has to have a strategy. And with technology advancing everyday and altering the way businesses are run, then a leader must have a vision.  Having only a short term strategy will render obsolete very fast, this is why true leaders must always have a strategy for tomorrow and consider all the “what ifs”.
  3. No one can manage and lead these days without being fully aware of the latest technology.  “You have to have a strategy that has IT as an integral part of it”, Dr. Sherif said.  He added that people in IT are the ones who can make a difference using technology.  One of the examples he mentioned was ERPs and how they can transform the way non-technical people work and convince them of the magnificent results that can come out of using IT.  So what we learn from him is that a true leader must have his eye always on the latest in technology.
  4. A leader must always be ready to adopt to change. Dr. Sherif said that one must broaden his spectrum of knowledge and focus on number of different areas and not only his field of focus. This way he trains his mind to think out of the box and he helps ignite his creativity and ability to deal with change.
  5. A true leader never stops reading.  Dr. Sherif highlighted that everyday something new comes up, and if you are not a constant reader your knowledge will become out of date after a while.  He added that even if you acquire a PhD, after 2 or 3 years your research will be obsolete.  I like to put it this way: If you want to lead you have to read.  He also said that it is not only reading, but attending courses, seminars and workshops is important as well because you always need to stimulate your brain.
  6. Once you believe that you know everything and that you don’t need to learn anymore because no one knows as much as you do, then know that you have failed and you’ll never be a true leader. A true leader believes that he will never stop learning.  This is exactly what Dr. Sherif believes in, and this why he is currently studying to acquire a Masters degree.  After all those years and working experience and after all what he achieved and his PhD and being the Dean of school of business, yet he goes and attends classes to acquire a Masters degree.  The amazing thing is that this degree is in Islamic art and architecture. It has nothing to do with his field of work, but the way he sees it, it is a hobby that “broadens his spectrum of knowledge” (his exact words) and helps refreshes and stimulates his mind.  He said that after learning some things about the art and architecture of different parts of the world he was encouraged to visit some of the countries he studied, like Turkey and Jordan.  This helped him gain more knowledge and learn about new nations, which in itself is a tool of igniting his innovative and creative abilities.
  7. A true leader has self-confidence.  A couple of the students attending Islamic art and architecture classes with Dr. Sherif are his actual students at the school of business.  He sits next to them in class, just like a regular classmate.  And this point is not causing him any embracement or any trouble, as he says “I don’t care because I am there for the knowledge”.  This is a man who has self-confidence and this is why he is a role model and a true leader.
  8. Dr. Sherif believes that you need to learn from other people’s experiences as well as yours.  A true leader stays in connection with the industry and shares experiences with others in the field. This is why Dr. Sherif is always keen to attend events organized by the AUC for alumni to communicate with other people and share experiences.  He also attends an event organized by London school of economics every two years.  It is a leadership forum where nearly 3000 people from around the world travel to London to attend and share knowledge and experiences.  It is critical to stay connected and be always open to learning new skills and new methods.  Never isolate yourself or be happy with what you know, or else you will fail to lead.

I loved the interview, Dr. Sherif was speaking very simply, talking about himself, his experience and his beliefs but just listening to him speaking opens a broad spectrum of knowledge.  He is a rare figure these days, you always find people with his status and experience so conceited and acting so busy and important to the extent that they could have declined doing the interview with Ms. Monda.  But this man is different, he is a model that we are trying to build and I hope that this article of mine would shed the light on some of the important lessons we need to learn to become true leaders.

I believe that he is a role model and a true leader and his students must know how lucky they are to have him and hope that they can learn from him to become future leaders.

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