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Ahmed Rafi B Ferry, CEO, University of West London RAK Branch Campus Image Credit: Supplied

How do you define leadership when it comes to overseeing the fortunes and growth of a company or brand?

Leadership according to me is to have three things: 1) A vision; 2) Great relationships with all your stakeholders; 3) Achieving results through these relationships

We have very ambitious dreams. Hence, we are investing in meaningful relationships with our teachers, students, parents, and corporate and community stakeholders to achieve them.

How do you see leadership adapting to change as the world becomes smaller thanks to technology and the human interface gives way to AI?

AI helps you to make better decisions. This can come very handy in these uncertain times. Today its futile to make long term plans. We have to foresee scenarios and run short prints. AI can help leaders to base their choices on well churned out data.

Remote access is the new normal as homes become office workspaces. As the head of your firm, what’s your take on isolated work environments and the resultant obstacles to oversee production schedules in the short term?

I beg to differ. Several studies have shown that remote working has boosted productivity. We have the same experience here. Instead of slowing down or reducing projects, we have rolled out more initiatives. And our experience shows that our team members communicate to each other more often in the WFH space. And this has contributed to their well-being. From a Leadership perspective, I endorse the Tight- Loose- Tight model in managing teams. Be tight or clear about expectations, then let people work in a flexible environment, finally be tight or clear while reviewing. By adapting to the needs of the hour, we can achieve our goals even when WFH prevails.

Hiring staff today is more an exercise of how adept you are at sourcing talent through social media sites rather than through face-to-face interaction. Would you agree?

Yes. There are several ways to source talent today. LinkedIn is a very good platform to connect with and source talent. And Social media scans can now easily ascertain whether a prospect is aligned with your values or not. But we also prefer face to face or virtual interviews before the take the final call.

Training staff and especially talented workers to stay abreast of trends is a regular challenge that companies face, with budget allocation etc. How important is regular staff training for your brand?

As ambassadors of Life Long Learning, our teachers must walk the talk by continuously upgrading themselves. We actively encourage our teachers to conduct research and publish. We have mentoring system to support our youngsters. Our Blackboard platform provides access to the full range of LinkedIn courses and a plethora of learning elements from the University of West London. Learning is one of our top priorities and we use several formal and informal models to support this drive.

As a leader of your firm, you may constantly be battling between peer consensus and intuition when making critical decisions. How do you choose between the two?

Intuition is helpful. But I strongly believe that none of us are greater than all of us. When it comes to important decisions, I always rely on my leadership team. We have created a safe space for people to debate and dissent. So, we ensure that the all options are examined. Once we take a decision, we unite to execute it flawlessly.

The UAE is an incubator for entrepreneurship. As the head of a leading regional university that mentors entrepreneurial minds, what advise do you have for entrepreneurs hoping to make a mark in the sector?

Ensure you understand the domain you are entering. Have mentors. Learn. Get to know best practices. Develop deep bonds with your customers. Respect your team members. And finally, endure. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to handle failures and move forward.