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efreshingly candid, and not in the concept of sustainability should be embedded


habit of sugar-coating harsh truths, within curricula at schools. The next generation
Issa Al Mohannadi refuses to will hopefully grow not only reading about sus-
hide behind cultural comforts and tainability, but make it part of their everyday life
stereotypes. and action.
He sees in people, the struggle Equally important, we need to work with regu-
to keep up with the socio-economic development lators to enforce a few sustainability aspects –
of the nation, and says the pressure on nationals hopefully you will see some of the Green Build-
to be ‘managers’ is unhealthy for the individual ing Council requirements becoming a part of the
and the country. mandatory regulations.
Over a cup of strong coffee with Qatar Today
Managing Editor Vani Saraswathi, the CEO Personally, when did your interest
of Dohaland matches the caffeine kick drop for in eco-conservation begin?
drop, with his strong and untraditional opinions. I’ve been interested in it since my schooling
Armed with a degree in natural gas engineer- days, but serious work started with the idea of
“Maybe six years from ing (from Texas A&M, Kingsville) Al Mohan- ‘Heart of Doha’ project some three years ago.
now you will come back nadi thought he had found his niche on the tech- One of the aspirations of HH Sheikha Mozah bint
and sit at the same nical side at RasGas, till a fateful combination of Nasser Al Missned was to build green and mini-
table and tell me ‘you quick career growth; a natural knack to manage mise the impact on the environment. When we
were right’ or ‘you were people and projects with ease; and not to men- were putting together the master plan for Heart
wrong’ (about Heart of tion societal pressure to become a ‘manager’, of Doha, we started deliberating on what ‘green’
Doha project)... We can found him donning a different role. meant. It triggered a lot of thoughts – then we ar-
only guess and predict Though reluctant initially to shift from techni- rived upon the idea of establishing a Qatar Green
based on the facts and cal to the management side, over the years he has Building Council (QGBC) here.
information we have held a variety of leadership positions, primarily Everything just fell in place; all work-
now.” in oil and gas and real estate sectors. Now as the ing towards achieving Vision 2030,
Chief Executive Officer for DOHALAND (a which has sustainability as one of the key
subsidiary of Qatar Foundation) and the Found- components. QGBC will be a vehicle that will
er and Chair of Qatar Green Building Council facilitate our journey towards that. The focus is
(QGBC), he says he wears his engineer’s hat only also on bigger picture of sustainability, not green
when technical counselling and discussions are buildings alone.
required. ‘Sustainability’ could mean anything – it
could be revenue, green, development. Qatar
‘Sustainability’ is the word of the wants to be a sustainable economy by 2030, and
day. Do you think in wealthy, af- if you don’t plant the seeds now, it’s not going to
fluent countries like Qatar, this be- be possible. We need more people to be aware of
comes more of a challenge? how to protect the environment, and give them
Yes. Definitely. But things may change in the options so they can choose the method that suits
next few years, and it may change in favour of them best.
sustainability. I strongly believe we could put
a lot of effort into creating awareness. We need The building boom started at least
to stress that wealth comes with responsibility eight years ago. A lot has already
too. Then we need to go beyond awareness. The come up. What goes through your

Glassy buildings to ‘manager’ syndrome

What Qatar “And I don’t like glassy


buildings... in this region.
I like it in Europe, but not in
Doha. It’s out of context here.”

needs to do diffe rently


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mind when you see what’s al- ing, precision and scientific thinking of an taken, based on the information available. or your family or anyone; or if you are
ready built? engineer to that of a leader. That’s how. Maybe six years from now you will come stressed because others think that if you
I feel sad at times. The question in my back and sit in the same place and tell me are not a manager you are a failure, then
mind is: Was it done properly? I am not Then how does one make the ‘you were right about the Heart of Doha the problem is with them, not with you.
claiming I would do it right. Yet, when I right moves, to get it right? project’ or ‘you were wrong, you should There are various skills we can develop;
see how some parts of the city has been As a leader, you are merely predicting not have gone ahead with it’. We can only management is only of the many.
planned, it does upset me. The mistakes an action or a reaction. You get it right guess and predict based on the facts and
are obvious, you don’t have to be an ex- by how well you understand people. information we have now. But why this obsession?
pert to identify it. No public amenities, no You need to constantly reinvent your- This obsession with being a manager has
parking, no walkways. self, within your organisation, the way You are a role model on how been handed down the generations since
And I don’t like glassy buildings... in you look at things; you have to be able to use education as a platform the time we were a British protectorate.
this region. I like it in Europe, but not in to take a call on what’s best at a certain to reinvent yourself and go Managers were viewed as the one with
Doha. It’s out of context here. point of time. You may evaluate some- ahead. You think there is a lot power, the one who made the decisions,
That’s a personal opinion, but what one’s decision three years down the line, of pressure on Qatari young- he was English, and everyone respected
makes me sad more than the buildings it- and say it would have been better if it sters to all be ‘leaders’ and him. So our forefathers thought if you are
self is how poorly the areas surrounding it had been done differently. Hindsight is ‘managers’, whereas there are of any worth or need to have power, you
have been planned. When you go wrong the President of India. Yet, the British were after all 20/20, but the important thing so many other critical roles, at have to be a manager. But somehow, we
with a building, it can still be corrected; Issa Al Mohannadi is also forced to negotiate with him. is the situation when the decision was different levels. did not see the worth or the power of the
but when you plan the streets wrong, the the Board Member of Turner To me that’s very strong leadership. Yes, everyone wants to be a manager. technician (for instance), and handed that
setbacks wrong, it’s difficult to rectify. I International Middle East The style of Gandhi, how he forced the That’s a cultural problem, and will thinking down over generations.
am not saying this is true of the entire city,
but you have to admit that we have got it
Qatar, Board Member of Qatar
Leadership Academy and Vice
colonialists to sit across the table and talk.
He had an entire nation behind him, and Quick Takes change with the changes in education and
the corresponding opportunities that have
Without people being effective and
good at all the levels below, the manager
wrong in some parts of the city. That’s the President of Al Thakhiera the way he was able to lead them. To me come up. counts to nought. Little credence is given
other thing that bothers me; we have to Youth Centre. that’s very inspiring. Qatar in 10 years... Traditionally, the thought is, if you to the people who build the foundation of
own up to our mistakes. Stephen Covey is another man who in- Development/Infrastructure: Hope are not a ‘manager’ after a certain time an organisation, the ones who make ‘Mr
This is a role that the media and the spires me. I learn a lot from his books. they get it right. We need to take served on the job, you are a failure. That Leader’ look good. It’s not about being
public have to play – in raising their Then business people like Jack Welch, serious action on how we do things. is totally wrong. You cannot expect ev- good alone, you have to create leaders at
voices in times of concern. If we blindly GE CEO and Steve Jobs of Apple. Society: That we don’t lose our iden- eryone to be a manager or a leader. A sus- levels below you who in turn will inspire
accept everything or keep silent, things and leadership from a book? tity. That we be known as an educat- tainable society needs to have the citizens and motivate.
will go real bad.. Though we have good Leadership? No, it cannot be learnt. If The last names you mentioned ed and open minded society, without employed in different disciplines and
visionary leadership at the top , we need a you don’t have it within you, no book are not traditional leaders losing the core values. at different levels. We are a society that What would you do differently
second, third and fourth layers of leader- will help you become one. There has to really... has some gaps. Vision 2030 cannot be to reach out to the youngsters
ship that will translate this into action. If be some innate leadership qualities within You need to keep in mind there is no one The most satisfactory achieved without people being more open now?
we get this right, a lot of our problems the person. Books, education and training ‘kind’ of leader. assignment in my life: about employment possibilities, and be- I cannot adapt the style or principles of
will go away. can then help hone that. But you can’t They each create a style...Take exam- Career-wise, I have been lucky in ing more accepting of the fact that maybe the leader who inspired me 20 years ago;
become a leader without that core under- ples from the old economy, then during getting challenging tasks. The shift for the next 15 years you will continue to to reach out to the Qatari youngsters to-
Talking of leaderships, for you standing of humans. Not everyone can the period of industrialisation, to post from technical to management po- be a technical person; not everyone is go- day, I have to think differently – their in-
how easy has the transition be made into one (leader), though I am World War economies, to globalisation sition was a turning point. But Do- ing to be a manager. fluences are dramatically different from
been from the technical side to aware that there are theories that state the – each era had its own assumption of haland is probably by far the most Let me be frank. I did not wish to be what was prevalent a decade ago.
what you do now? opposite. I am not convinced. how leaders should behave. The global interesting assignment so far. a manager at one point. I was hoping to Each generation – X, Y or whatever
Before my current role, I was involved It’s like training 22 people for a foot- economy – which is what we lived in till continue what I was doing, because I else we have now – has a unique char-
in project management for the last sev- ball team – all receiving identical train- a year ago, there was a different take on The person who has made me loved what I did as an engineer, as a tech- acter. It’s about speed of information and
en-eight years which was a leadership ing, under similar conditions etc. Only leadership. what I am: nical person. The turning point in my ca- living, about instant gratification, online
position. three or four will shine and excel, the rest What we live in now still defies a defini- My mother, and my wife reer was when I was ‘forced’ to accept a presence – you have to understand what
If you peel away all the other leader- will be average. You need to have the in- tion – that will come two years down the leadership role. Everybody looked at me drives them to inspire them. Accord-
ship skills, the core of good leadership is nate talent already, to soak in the training line when there is a better understanding of A clićhe I dislike: as an oddity – ‘who on earth will reject ingly, we have to provide opportunities
how well you interact and motivate oth- and reach a different level. That’s my take what happened. But the current situation re- People using ‘I’ all the time. ‘I’ did being promoted to a senior managerial that will interest them, unlike some de-
ers working with and under you. That is on leadership too. quires a radically different leadership style this, ‘I’ did that... I don’t like to hear position?’ I told them I was one of them. I cades ago where people were happy be-
something I like doing and am good at and thinking. The meltdown, among other it. I prefer ‘We’. liked what I was doing. That’s the whole ing part of a factory line, doing routine
too. I wear my engineering hat when I As a leader, who inspires you? things, has proven many leadership theories point isn’t it? If you like what you are do- monotonous jobs every day. The fact that
need to counsel or give direction to my Outside of Qatar. wrong. Places I like to visit: ing, you can be innovative. You will be we create machines to take care of these
team. But normally it is the leadership hat Quite a few really, but one person above all One thing is clear, though. Leadership Anywhere with my family. Prefer- happy.Having said that, I ended up enjoy- jobs reflects this generation’s reluctance
that I enjoy wearing. else – (Mohandas Karamchand) Gandhi. is all about innovation, thinking on your ably places where nature is rich, with ing the new role too. However, young- to accept those jobs. Youngsters are now
It’s incredible how he was able to achieve feet – it’s an art, not a science. You asked camping opportunities. sters need to realise that if you do things looking for something that challenges
Can you learn management his goal without an official role. He was not how I adapted from fact-oriented reason- because of pressure placed by the society their mind.

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How would you make your or- you go to another country, it’s then about about maintaining our identity.
ganisation an attractive place a global community. That is sustainability.
to work in? Not merely be- We will invest in you, in your training and What about your life or job do
cause it’s a big local name or development. We will also take back all you love the most?
has important connections, but we can from you, from your time with us. You can always do things better, and there
because they see an opportu- You will be productively employed. You are things I would do better now. Having
nity for career development, or gain some, you give some. And if you said that, a continuous improvement cy-
due a dynamic work culture. reach a point where you feel you need to cle is always built into my mind. Building
Soon we will be launching a scheme en- move on, that’s okay. Regardless of posi- something from nothing is fascinating.
compassing not only what you’ve men- tions, we will help you become market- There is an image in your mind, a vision –
tioned, but much more. We are looking able in whatever career you have chosen. you can describe the details, it’s that clear.
at leaving behind cultural stereotypes. If Others may not be able to see that. There
you join us (DOHALAND) thinking in You don’t fear a large employ- is no better feeling than to actually realise
four years you want to be a manager, then ee turnover? that vision.
you are in the wrong company. But if you We need to understand that an organisa-
have a career plan, and what you want tion that challenges its employees will And what is it that you wish
to achieve in four years is not merely a not have much attrition. If you are leav- you could change?
‘title’ but a growth plan, then we will give ing the organisation it’s because it is not I cannot put in words the frustrations I feel
you the right environment. We will not providing you with what you want, or be- at times. I feel emotionally down when I
promise you titles. And my advice is not cause you are unhappy about something. see how Qatar has everything, and yet we
to go to those who promise you that. Who Either way, you must leave. When your are not one of the leading nations – why
knows in what position that company will organisation is innovative and progres- are we not a country that excels in what
be in, and God knows if they will even sive, and the people working for you are it does; why don’t we learn from others’
exist in five years. Don’t bank your career part of those values, they will stay. If not, mistakes, instead of repeating it? If I am
based on promises on your positioning in you automatically go. Creating the right to describe what I see around me, it’s that
the company. Look for a company that we are reinventing the wheel, and actu-
tells you that in five years we will help ally doing it wrong! When something has
“It’s incredible how he
you build a,b,c skills. been developed by a certain country or
I understand that traditionally, things
(Gandhi) was able to by people somewhere, instead of con-
are done differently – promises-based ca-
achieve his goal without tinuing from what they’ve achieved or
reer development. I feel that is the wrong
an official role. Yet, the taking to a different level the concepts
approach. I was no different either, when I
British were forced to they’ve initiated, we start from scratch.
started off. But I’ve learnt that things can
negotiate with him. That’s We make most of the mistakes the
and must be done better. You can demand
inspiring leadership.” other country or people have commit-
a road map, but not on what titles, when; ted... that saddens me. Let’s leave ego
the road map should talk about skills that behind. Let’s contact these people and
you need to develop. Then we should tell them, ‘good you did this and know
leave you to find your way. Say normally culture at the workplace is a key issue. In what, we are going to take those initia-
it take two years to develop an accoun- any case, attrition is not a bad thing. Ev- tives and escalate it to another level’.
tant, but if you are able to achieve that in ery few years you need to weed out those The other thing that bothers me is that
six months, you should be allowed to. who don’t match your organisation’s the Arab contribution to humanity has
values. You need to be concerned only if been so minimal in recent times. We
But with how things work, how your attrition is beyond acceptable indus- hardly find ‘experts’ from our region,
much mobility will there actu- try standards. 2-3 percent is probably a even on subjects that we ideally should
ally be? cleaning process. know more about.
For our (or any) company to be sustain- Why aren’t we the experts on deserts
able, we will have to ensure that we don’t And this holds good for Nation- or camels? Why aren’t we being sought
‘jail’ our employees or force them to stay als alone or...? out to provide solutions and insights on
on. I personally believe, if we help you I believe in mixing your team. And people issues connected to this? Why aren’t we
develop your skills and then you want hate me for this. With just one nationality, being asked how best to treat natural
to go outside and market yourself, it’s innovation will not flourish. To achieve gas? What about solar energy – why
fine. We won’t stop you. You will leave that ‘wow’ factor, you need different aren’t we the experts on that?
DOHALAND and you will probably go minds and ideas coming in with different This is unfortunate, and we need to
to another company in the country; you reference points. The local minds will add ask ourselves why we are not contribut-
are still serving the community. Even if local flavour, and we need to be cautious ing to the world in general n

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