Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: Business, as we knew it, cannot be recovered. It will need to be reinvented.

Now is the time to redefine the workplace; how leaders take their companies into the future and how teams are glued together. We need to focus on innovation and turn challenges into opportunities, says Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri, CEO of the TrustWithTrade Group and Senior Advisor to the Royal Family Office, UAE. In these unprecedented times, those who see the benefits of change will be the winners, and their teams and companies will surely benefit from their vision. In our exclusive interview, Arshi defines what makes a leader, how they grow and how they instil their values in their team members and close ones.

How do you define a leader in business? What are their main traits – professional and personal?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: I learn and am inspired by H.H Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces. His leadership is imbibed with strong principles, character, empathy and pragmatism. To lead well in business, you need to focus less on the impression you’re making on others, and more on the impression you’re making on yourself. The latter serves the former, because if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?

You don’t have to be loud to stand out as a leader, but you do need to have a presence. Presence as a leader is important because, without it, it impacts how influential you are.

Executive presence is about the way you show up, the way you are perceived and the impact that you make. It includes gravitas; exuding confidence, acting decisively, showing integrity, exhibiting emotional intelligence, having an outstanding reputation and being able to project your vision.

To lead in business, focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself. The latter serves the former, because if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?

How does someone become a leader? What are some of the things that they absolutely must learn along the way?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: To lead, do what’s right, always. Questionable decisions start small. Since your people are watching, doing what is right under pressure will always be something that builds sincere respect. Knowing who you want to become as a leader will help guide these tough decisions and help you to do what’s right.

Cultivate a culture of respect. Remember, respect is earned and without it, you can’t lead. Also remember, that it can be eroded in an instant. Don’t take it for granted.

Build strong relationships. Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.

Stay hopeful. Hope and belief in the future can be incredibly important in propelling the positive actions toward change.

How does a leader become successful? What defines that success?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: Every single one of us is a leader, whether a leader in our homes, our local communities, our businesses or our governments. Each day we are making decisions about how best we can choose to lead through this crisis, and every decision we make is being watched closely by those we impact.

I had a mentor once say that your career path only seems linear when you look back at it – when you are going through it, it can feel like it’s all over the place. It’s important to remember that. You are not alone. We have all been through career crises, we have all had career setbacks, we have all struggled and been lost and afraid. It’s normal to fail, for failure leads you to success.

How would you describe your leadership style? What are the things you have learned along the way, that feed into who you are in business – as a leader, as a colleague, and as a trusted advisor?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: I believe in a consultative approach. We heed to stimulating creativity and innovation with the freedom to share, via robust brainstorming sessions. This has always worked for me. One of the things I’ve learned as a business owner/advisor is to always be investing, to always be in search of the next opportunity, and always be pushing for better.

Most businesses probably aren’t in a place right now to make heavy capital investments. But we can all use this time to reach out to others, strengthen our professional relationships, and search for the next opportunity, leaving no stone unturned. Now is the time to see the opportunities in areas where others do not.

You must constantly plant seeds, especially when things look bleak. As a leader, it’s also your job to figure out the right plants to harvest and understand how to harvest them.

Most businesses probably aren’t in a place right now to make heavy capital investments. But we can all use this time to reach out to others, strengthen our professional relationships, and search for the next opportunity, leaving no stone unturned. Now is the time to see the opportunities in areas where others do not.

How did you put your team together and what do you look at when you add a new member?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: I look for individuals who are smart and efficient, likeminded, and who share a similar work ethic. We leverage our human strategy to get consistently high results from our people. The Route to Results is that: High standards produce behaviours. Those behaviours, when practised repeatedly, become a habit, and those habits lead to results. If you have been in a position of leadership for any length of time, you know your people are watching your every move and listening to the words that come out of your mouth.

In these unprecedented times, the workplace has seen significant changes. What do you believe the workplace of tomorrow looks like, and how can employers ensure the wellbeing and productivity of their employees, while still having a sustainable and successful business?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: The workplace of tomorrow is made for leaders who don’t just rebuild but reinvent. The problem is that business, as we knew it, cannot be recovered. It will need to be reinvented. Full meeting diaries aren’t something to be revered anymore, it’s become more apparent that it can be deflective or harmful to productivity. Of course, when we are in survival mode and have a lot to do, this can’t be helped. But the difference is now, we are being more honest with ourselves and our communities about which connections and meetings are useful or enjoyable, and what simply is just a meeting for the sake of someone feeling like they’re doing something, anything.

We are becoming braver, and being given the room, to assess what is ‘quality’ and what is simply ‘quantity.’ By taking this time, we can assess what we really value, whether it is quality or quantity, which can be the lightbulb moment to take that next step in your working life.

What are some of the things you have put together in your team in order to motivate and engage with your colleagues?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: We don’t celebrate numbers, we celebrate the names attached to those numbers. People give success a reason to be celebrated. We gained a ‘new normal’ in terms of work and I mean ‘gained’ indeed, because this is the time to show we’re made of good, sturdy stuff; that we’re resilient, caring, passionate, eager to rebuild and smart enough to put humanity at the centre of it.

The idea is to discuss and contract actual ways of working – hours, processes, personal preferences to work from home, flexible hours, impact-driven work, collaboration, and communication.

Collectively, we brush up our EQ to drive psychological safety in the teams. It is imperative to become a trusted, safe harbour, for there to be any productivity possible in any company, in the wake of this pandemic. To do this, we all need to work on honing our EQ skills. We need to send our people or ourselves to learn all we can about emotions (empathy is paramount), and then collectively set constructive and hands-on actions, to encourage positive behaviours and discourage toxic ones in our teams. If we manage these, we are in a good place.

What are some of the pieces of advice you would give to someone looking to sharpen their leadership skills?

Arshi Ayub Mohamed Zaveri: You have the power to change the course of every day from one of monotony and tedium to one of opportunity and development. Now is the time when you grind; reinvest in your relationships, focus on innovation, and develop your skills. Today is when you get to start anew.

If you find yourself in a position of leadership, whether that be at work or at home, now is the time to take advantage of your current reality. You are right where you are supposed to be, so lead like it.

Now is the time when you grind; reinvest in your relationships, focus on innovation, and develop your skills. Today is when you get to start anew.

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