Q&A with Sabga Robert M.
Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Sabga Robert M., Executive Director @ TAAJI-TELL GROUP OF COMPANIES
How could you describe your career path in a few words?
I can describe my career path in one word: unexpected. I have had the rare opportunity to be many things at once: CEO, Chairman, Special Advisor to Government, and even Ambassador. Nobody can plan that trajectory - as my former Prime Minister used to tell me, I became a victim of my own success.
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
Without question, it was the years I spent in the diplomatic service as High Commissioner (which is the same as Ambassador, but the protocol required that instead of being called Ambassador, my title was High Commissioner as I was posted from one Commonwealth country to another). You do not serve in the capacity of being the Face, the Voice and the Hand of an entire nation and a government and emerge at the end the same individual. I became more worldly and definitely more aware of the exigencies and peculiarities inherent in international diplomacy, and I had developed a truly global network of contacts that has served me well in the years since demitting office.
When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain contexts, what do you think?
This will require some explanation. I am one of the people who has been credited with having coined the phrase “Think outside the box” (see: Mind Trip of the Week #20: Thinking outside of the Box | Mind Tripping Show) [FYI I am also the one who first came up with “Death By Chocolate”, but that is a story for another time}. I am a psychologist by training, and a great many years ago I developed a problem-solving method I called The Youngman Technique (read the article linked above to get the full context). When I am presented with unusual or
uncertain situations or events or developments, my default is to ask myself “Where’s the bicycle here?”
What’s the most important key success factor for you based on your experience?
It may sound cliché, but not every failure is a failure. The great Paradox of Life is that you can only live life forwards and experience it in reverse, which is to say that you have to experience something – good or bad – before you can learn from and adapt because of it. Success is measured not just by the things you got right, but also by the mistakes you made along the way. Thomas Edison once opined that it was a good thing he was not a metallurgist, because if he had been he would have known that it would be impossible to heat a wire filament and not have it melt, and as a consequence the light bulb would never have been invented. Sometimes it is the things we do not know that allow us to achieve otherwise impossible things.
What would be the major pitfall that may undermine the success of a leader?
I believe that there are 2 kinds of leadership. The first is leadership by direction, which is the kind that everyone understands: one person in authority telling everyone else what to do, regardless of what is the right or wrong way of doing things. The second kind is rarer, and it is leadership by support: there is still direction, but it is not absolute, and it is goal-driven and flexible, not rigid like the first. I hold to the second as much as possible in everything I do. I believe that rigidity and inflexibility are often the things that undermine success, especially when you are working in dynamic and economically volatile enterprises that are subject to high degrees of unpredictability. The old adage about “Adapt or die” holds absolute. By encouraging the ingenuity and insights of those you lead can only ferment success, as opposed to assuming that you and only you hold the answers and solutions to everything, an assumption which in my mind is a recipe for disaster, and sooner rather than later.