The Value of Patience: Rashid Zayed Al Zayani’s Lessons in Leadership

Rashid Zayed Al Zayani, Managing Director of Zayani Motors and Euro Motors talks about navigating challenges during the COVID pandemic, earning a leadership position in the family business, and his love for the automotive industry in this interview with Gulf Insider.

What was the best lesson in leadership you’ve learned?

The key lesson I’ve learned is the importance of understanding different cultures. In our business, we have a predominantly Bahraini workforce, but we also have employees from various nationalities. Dealing with diverse nationalities requires a different approach. It’s crucial to comprehend their backgrounds, and motivations, as each culture has its own unique nuances.

This experience has taught me the value of patience and the need to listen and learn from those around me. It’s not about exerting control but rather about mutual understanding and persuasion to arrive at the best decisions. By taking a calculated and pragmatic approach, we can foster an environment where employees feel valued and empowered to share their opinions.

What was the greatest challenge you have faced in your business?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was taking over the motors business during the Covid pandemic. This was particularly difficult because a significant portion of the brands we dealt with were from China. China imposed strict restrictions, leading to delivery stops and delays for both cars and parts. Managing customer expectations and aligning them with the actual situation of the manufacturers was a constant struggle. It’s worth noting that MG, the top-selling Chinese brand, was also affected by these challenges.

To date, what has been your proudest moment as a business leader?

In my family business, I didn’t automatically receive a directorship role just because my father co-owns the company with his brothers. I had to go through a three-year assessment period as a manager. As the marketing manager for BMW, I had to prove to the board that I was deserving of a seat on the board and a directorship position. Gaining the trust of my uncles, cousins, and especially my father was a significant achievement and my proudest moment. It meant that I was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing both the companies.

Speaking honestly, what do you consider are the major difficulties in your industry?

Fortunately, we have resolved the stock issue, so that is no longer a concern. However, our biggest challenge now lies in the highly competitive market. There are numerous excellent products available, and while I firmly believe that our products are top-notch, we must acknowledge the presence of strong competition.

What do you most love about working in your industry and what do you most dislike about it?

Motor trading has been a part of my family for nearly 75 years, if not longer. It’s a passion that runs deep within me, as I have a genuine love for cars. It’s important to work on something you truly love. As a company, we’ve introduced prestigious brands to this part of the world. We were the first importers of Rolls Royce in the region. Challenges are a part of running any business and we try to overcome them.

What according to you are the key qualities or skills that every leader should possess in order to thrive?

Leaders need to approach their surroundings with a level of maturity, taking into account the different cultures and backgrounds of their staff. It’s crucial for them to have a comprehensive understanding of the business landscape while also having clarity about their own goals and aspirations. Setting proper KPIs and targets is essential for effective leadership. Additionally, decision-making plays a pivotal role. It’s important to make prompt decisions and avoid opportunity costs while maximizing productivity. Furthermore, ambition is a key attribute for leaders. They should have a genuine passion for what they do and continuously strive for greatness, not settling for the status quo.

Can you describe a difficult business decision you had to make and how did you handle it?

One of the most significant decisions we faced was during the COVID-19 pandemic when we had to downsize our workforce. It was undeniably difficult to let people go from their jobs and go a step back. Until then, we had been focused on a constantly progressing target. However, we had to adapt and reassess our strategy. Overcoming this challenging situation required patience and perseverance. We continued to set targets and work towards them, albeit at a slower pace, while patiently waiting for the market to recover. Eventually, as the market started to pick up, we resumed full operations. We were able to rehire some of our talented employees who had been let go. Unfortunately, not everyone could be brought back, despite their skills and contributions.

Is there a particular saying or motto that guides you?

I believe in keeping my intentions pure and trusting God’s plan.

To read more stories of business leaders in the Middle East, check out our latest special edition


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