Asad Umar

CEO, Engro Corporation

By Wali Zahid 30.06.2011

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

One of the luckiest people in Pakistan.

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

My first leadership opportunity came at a very young age, when I was made captain of my Grade 1 cricket team.

Were you ready for it? (H, M, L, no)

Yes, I believe I was.

What was your readiness factor? (luck, will, skill, network)

I would say both luck and skill played a part in preparing me for the role.

How did you perform then? On a 1-5 scale?

3 is what I recall. 😀

Your all-time most significant leadership opportunity so far (if different from this)?

I believe my current role has been the most significant of my professional career so far.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

I actually look forward to leading myself to a very relaxed retirement!

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?

I most certainly hope so!

Today in your current role: Where are you on Wali's Will-Skill Matrix (high, medium, low)?


What drives you? (one-word driver)


Candidly speaking, have you been happy about growth numbers in the past decade?

Yes, I am satisfied.

In an uncertain and ambiguous world, how can you make sure that your plans are achievable?

Plans can only be achievable if one remembers to be realistic during the planning phase, having taken all internal and external factors into account. This then needs to be followed up by a constant focus on achieving these plans.

How easy or difficult is it to manage the Gen Y/Millennials (people born after 1982)?

N/A for Pakistan.

Your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? In your industry? In your organisation?

I will hopefully be remembered for having inherited and sustained the institutional ethos of a great organisation.

What would you want to see in your leader (i.e. your leader to do)?

Vision. Integrity. Fairplay.

Your learning:where do you turn to for learning – both daily routine, and time-off for courses?

I continue to learn all the time by working with a diverse group of people and dealing with new situations that challenge my intellect and problem-solving skills. Having said that, I have not attended a formal training session for many years now.

Are there sufficient opportunities for C-level learning here in Pakistan or in the region?


Learning and development of your team – what opportunities are available here? Your rating of these programmes? (1-5 scale)

Locally the only training and development programs we use are by LUMs. These programs are reasonably good for functional level managers but not for senior level leadership programs.

What would you want different about these programmes?

Have better programs for the development of leaders.

What are three core competencies or skill areas you would want your team to develop for this year? Next three years?

Entrepreneurship. Decision making. Leadership.

What is your biggest time eater at work?

That would definitely have to be the time spent resolving government related issues.

Information overload:What is your coping mechanism?

I have a firm belief in the constructive power of delegation. I ensure that I am never overloaded, but provided information only as per my needs.

Do you have a stop-to-do list?


How can we give up control (and do more empowering)?

The first step towards relinquishing control is to accept that one is not the most competent human being on this planet. And then place the right people in the right jobs and it will become much easier to delegate anything to them.

What kind of personal or social networks do you use to enhance your presence and the chances for success?

The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?


Ever thought that how could the Prophet (SAW)'s personality be a guiding factor for you in doing business, making decisions, empowering others? If yes, in what ways?

Yes. His message of dealing with fairness and justice with others including in business transactions provides a great foundation for an ethics based business model.

CEO derailment? Have you seen colleagues derailing/going down? What was the cause?

Yes. Most often the cause has been over reach.

Any other cause of CEO derailment in our part of the world?


Your messages to new generation of leaders: What leads to success?

A desire to contribute to a cause or an institution rather than seeking personal glory which makes for the most successful leaders.

Your messages to new generation of leaders: Can you create your own luck? How?

No. Luck is a real element in life. All we can do is make the most of the opportunities we get with our luck.