Taher Sachek

MD, EFU Life

By Wali Zahid 18.04.2011

Your one-sentence description of yourself?

Someone who does not manipulate. Frank and honest. Someone who has a reputation of being fair and firm. Someone who doesn’t get clever or devious!

Your first leadership opportunity? When? What was it?

Being a shy person, never considered myself as a leader. Wouldn’t have blossomed if not given the opportunity. My first opportunity came when I was appointed a training manager at a UK insurance firm back in 1980.

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

Not ready.

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

Hard work in earlier jobs.

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

The position was very competitive and the fact I survived could make it 4.

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

EFU Life as DMD in 1994. It was an open landscape.

Your ideal, future leadership opportunity?

My future plans are linked to this company. We have ambitious growth plans as well as overseas expansion.

Is it likely to happen in your remaining work years?

Yes. The Bangladesh business plan is already in the motion.

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

High will. High skill.

What drives you? (one-word driver)

Making a difference to people’s lives. Helping people develop a generational change: their expectations from life are different for their children.

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

For the last two years, no. previously, yes. Security situation is to be blamed. For life insurance to thrive, a feel-good factor is required.

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

By being totally focused. Everyone in the team has the same goal. Using processes, having quarterly review meetings, by making midcourse corrections and imposing some discipline.

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

Gen Y is a generation of commitment. But they get bored easily.

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

Someone who helped build a strong, stable institution with a high degree of integrity. That this institution made a difference to the industry.

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

Let me get on and run the show. Generous, with no double standards, gives me freedom and is farsighted.

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

I attend whatever courses I can. A McKinsey fan, I read a lot of articles. I also learn from other people.

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

No.

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

We send our senior people to overseas courses and conferences, mostly on technical areas. This also gives them exposure in soft skills.

What would you want different about these programmes?

I do not have sufficient data to comment.

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

Interpersonal relationship building. Think long-term. Cost-consciousness.

What is your biggest time eater at work?

Meetings!

Information overload: What is your coping mechanism?

If I receive useless information, will ask people not to send me.

Do you have a stop-to-do list?

No conscious list. Generally, cut on travel.

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

Delegate. Key reports may come back on your desk. Develop accountability. Be blunt with sales people.

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

No deliberate attempt to join a network. I enjoy being with a group of friends.

Faith? Is faith an inspiration for you?

No. I want to be just a decent human being.

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?

(skipped)

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

Ego. Carried away by success. Start to believe they cannot do anything wrong.

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

Double standards. They say something and do something else. This is when their good people start to leave.

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

Have a vision. Hard work. Feet on the ground. Never feel that you have arrived; it’s a journey!

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

Yes, you can. By building credibility. Good things will come to you.