Muhammed Amin

CEO, Mondelēz International, Pakistan

By Wali Zahid 5.04.2011

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

Ambitious person. Hyperactive. Proactive. (These traits may cause problems!)

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

This was in 1996 when I became head of sales division in Gillette.

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

Yes. Ready. H.

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

Desire to move to the next level.

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


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

Becoming CEO of Cadbury in 2004, turning it around from a small company to a large company, with increasing market share.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

I would want to achieve a scale – 10 times more. I am open to any possibility anywhere.

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?

Can happen – in a natural manner.

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

High will. Medium skill.

What drives you? (one-word driver)


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

Yes. During the past six years, we achieved over 30% growth.

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

Do the basics right. Play to your strengths. Work logically. There may be some impact of external environment but businesses are growing faster and moving ahead.

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

It helps if you know where they are coming from. Gen Y executives are ambitious, fast learners, more energetic and informal.

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

A person who made a real difference in the business landscape and in the lives of associates. Am trying to achieve over 75% engagement levels.

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

I report to GM Developing Markets based in Dubai. Want him to be inspiring with a clarity of purpose and thoughts.

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

We have an elaborate in-company learning process. Most executives pick their own L&D (learning and development) courses and leadership development programs or seek coaching. I recently received coaching from an Indian coach based in Singapore which was very powerful. I also learn from business meetings.

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

Depends on which organisation you are working for.

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

Mostly on the job. There are very few good public-run programmes.

What would you want different about these programmes?

The in-country training programmes haven’t reached a world-class level yet. We need courses on managing performance, managing people, strategic leadership. Also, functional skill development.

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

3 A’s perhaps. Ensuring Accountability. Aggressive drive for results of stretch targets. Adaptability to environment & people.

What is your biggest time eater at work?

Set of priorities; things to be done: today, this month, this year. 25% of my time is eaten by emails. Would prefer to spend that 25% time on planning instead. We have a no-meeting culture. At max, we have two half-day meetings in a week.

Information overload: What is your coping mechanism?

I like to read a lot. I have created folders and follow-up folders. This is how I manage my readings.

Do you have a stop-to-do list?


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

Depends on individual leader types. The best could be to set objectives, give clear instructions, and then expect people to deliver results. You also need to ensure accountability.

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

Not using any networks for business. Results speak for themselves.

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?

Faith is a very personal matter.

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?

We are not at that level yet. I have no knowledge in this area.

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

They are not good listeners any more. Or, not tuned to the changes spreading in market.

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

Trying to do too many things. Spreading too thin. But actually not achieving much.

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

Basics are the same everywhere. Play to your strengths. Have a differentiated product or service. Execute well, what we call execution excellence. Need to focus (although the technology, with a lot of clutter, has impacted this area). In summary, the message is: get the basics right, things will fall in place.

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

As above. Work hard. Have faith. You’ll get reward. The lucky ones get extra reward.