The UK’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, once said: “Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you”. However, when it comes to leadership, one should not simply take that quote at face value, at least not in the eyes of Amin Amiri, founder and chief executive of investment management firm a2e Industries, who believes that although leaders must be able to convince people to follow them, those people must follow on with conviction and confidence, rather than doing so blindly.
Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, Amiri reveals his wider views about leadership and explains how the Covid-19 pandemic has served as a learning curve for him in his leadership role, while news across the Atlantic emerged this week that the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention are pushing for states to ready themselves for a Covid-19 vaccine roll-out potentially as early as November.
Leadership in Focus
In conversation with the Leaders Council’s Matthew O’Neill, Amiri shared his view that “a leader is somebody that has such knowledge and stature among their followers that people follow them not blindly, but with conviction”.
It is a view that has underpinned Amiri’s own personal leadership style, which he described as “leading from the front” with transparency and taking decisions in consideration of the wider business and in the best interests of all of those working within it.
He said: “I always lead from the front. I allow everyone to have their say. All decisions are completely transparent and are taken very visibly with the best interests of our businesses and the people within our businesses at all times.”
In order to be in the best position to make key decisions, Amiri explained how in his leadership capacity, a portion of his time is spent analysing how the world may change in future, in order for his businesses to be able to stay ahead of the curve by planning for future challenges and future-proofing themselves.
“I do spend a lot of time thinking about how the world will change, so I like to think we are a few years ahead of the curve and I can guide our businesses through the next challenge that may arise and prepare them in advance.”
However, the Covid-19 pandemic posed a challenge that none could have anticipated years in advance, but nonetheless Amiri said that he, a2e and all of its business interests were determined to come through the test.
Outlining his approach to handling the impact of the crisis, Amiri said: “We are invested in a lot of medium sized businesses, and the lockdown has resulted in many of them facing situations where suppliers stop supplying and customers stop ordering. We had to firstly make sure our employees were safe, so the initial lockdown called in March led to the closure of a lot of our factories.
“First of all after that happened, we ensured that we remained connected to our suppliers and customers and other stakeholders such as bankers, and of course our employees. We then partially opened many of our factories and offices within a week of lockdown when it became clear that we were considered essential business.
“As a result of this, our customers and suppliers did not notice any tangible closures, even though we were working at reduced capacity. We were one of the few in our sector that operated throughout the lockdown and we adapted to having to work under these new procedures.”
Having received the boost of continuing to operate through the pandemic and having adapted to reduced capacity, Amiri not only saw the positives in how the business was able to cope, but the experience of having to work under new restrictions also turned out to be a valuable learning experience.
He said: “We can take some positive learning experiences from this. The biggest is that we found we can run our businesses far more efficiently with fewer people than we imagined, and that certain luxuries had been built up in many of our businesses over recent years that we could actually do without.
“We have therefore restructured and re-balanced our business during this time, but out of choice rather than necessity, which has been a major positive.”
Amiri added that the wider effects of lockdown have left business and political leaders with plenty to consider, particularly around the environmental impact of having higher volumes of people working from home.
“Globally, less people are travelling into work, less cars are on the road, and productivity has much to gain from people not using up copious amounts of time commuting to office premises. Employers are understanding now that there isn’t a need to have all employees in the office every day, even though there is a need for team meetings and training, which you do need a base for. But reducing the amount of people coming in every day could have a significant impact on environmental issues, pressure on public transport networks, costs for the individual going to and from work, and productivity.”
The Telegraph has reported this week that US states are being told to prepare for the potential roll-out of a Covid-19 vaccine in November, just two days before the presidential election.
In a letter, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention [CDC] have asked state governments to resolve red tape issues that could impede making a network of vaccine distribution centers “fully operational by November 1, 2020”.
The US presidential election is due to take place on November 3, and the close proximity of the two dates has raised concerns that President Trump’s administration is looking to fast-track the roll-out of a working vaccine before US citizens head to the polls.
The US has registered over six million Covid-19 cases throughout the pandemic, with 185,000 deaths, prompting backlash over the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis.
In the letter dated August 27, CDC chief Robert Redfield wrote: "The normal time required to obtain...permits presents a significant barrier to the success of this urgent public health program.
"CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities."
Three possible vaccines are currently in Phase Three of their clinical trials. One is being developed by a partnership of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in the UK, and another is being developed by Moderna in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health. A partnership of Pfizer and BioNTech is developing the other.
It would normally take months for test administrators to verify that a vaccine works and is safe for use following extensive trials. However, the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has suggested that a vaccine could be given emergency authorisation before trials are completed.
The move has been greeted by speculation that the body is being pressured by the president, who has previously said that a vaccine could be delivered before election day.
The FDA’s head Stephen Hahn has denied that he is being pressured by the government to approve any vaccine ahead of time, stressing that the choice to authorise any vaccine will be purely a “science, medicine, data decision”.
The New York Times has reported that priority for any authorised vaccine will go to essential workers, national security officials, the elderly, and members of vulnerable racial and ethnic groups.
Leadership in History
On this day in 1997, the world mourned the death of Mother Teresa, who passed away at the age of 87.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner who made helping the ill and poor her life’s work died of a heart attack at the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, shortly before 17:00 BST. She had suffered from ill health for several years.
By the time she died, the order which Mother Teresa had run was established in 130 countries and treated around four million sick people every year, as well as caring for 7,000 children.
A week later, the route of her funeral procession in Calcutta was lined with tens of thousands of mourners.