Modelling better business

Sustain Leadership Consultancy provides leadership strategy to firms along with guiding startups in the quest for success. Hanane Benkhallouk, Executive Director, explains how

By Nisthula Nagarajan

Published: Mon 24 May 2021, 9:13 PM

Tell us about Sustain Leadership.

Sustain Leadership is a boutique strategy, leadership, transformation and innovation consulting firm. We engage and align stakeholders to create measurable and impactful business strategies that solve organisational problems, maximise profits, and contribute to sustainability goals.

As a solution partner, we have embraced a lean and agile business model. The idea behind our approach is simple: we believe that the best and most successful businesses are both human-centred and long-sighted. A business's culture isn't defined by its product or services, but by the people who innovate, imagine, and create for its sake. At Sustain Leadership, we aim to align a business' aims and goals with practical strategies, sustainable processes, and innovative mentalities. 

I have been interested in Sustain Leadership's core goal of helping clients achieve their true potential for years. I have a strong belief in the saying: 'We don't build a business, we build people and people build the business'. 

However, the idea of setting up Sustain Leadership officially was triggered after my experience at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, where some of the studies I was involved in, showed the need for new business models and organisational solutions. Sustain Leadership came to life to engineer change in business and society. 

What, in your experience, is the largest gap between leader and employee? How do you propose to bridge that gap? 

A leaders' job is to build more leaders not followers, and the simplest way to do so is by role modelling the behaviours they want to see in their employees. People hear what you tell them, but also observe what you do, so the most credible leadership model in my view, is being the change, you want to see in people. We encourage leaders to show empathy and vulnerability which builds trust. Trust will always remain the most important value that can bridge the gap between leaders and their employees. We work with organisations to help them build human-centric business models and work environments.  

How do you evaluate and study a startup's profile and give them the best course of action?

We might think that startups success comes from great ideas. But great ideas are only great if they solve an existing problem or satisfy a valid need, so I always start with an unexpected question when a startup team start pitching a 'great idea': "Who cares? And why should they?' Answering this with confidence is a good start to validate if there is a value proposition that has market potential.  

What has changed in leadership strategy with regards to the pandemic?

In today's world, with volatility, uncertainty and ambiguity (VUCA), business strategies must keep adapting to the ever-changing world. There is a need for a new model of leadership - it is no longer possible for one individual to manage the complexity and intensity of modern institutions. Power has decayed - it is held collectively and socially. Individuals and institutions who fail to see this will be left behind. Leadership is not necessarily linked to authority or a senior role, leadership is embedded in every one of us. The key is creating 'leaderful' organisations, where people's passion and true purpose can be expressed in their work. The rapid changes are significantly reducing the skills 'shelf life', creating a continuous learning culture - moving towards a learning organisation, will be crucial.

What are some key projects the company has been involved in?

Our projects are exciting and diverse. We have worked with government institutions and ministries to support their teams to ideate on the future of health, economy and aviation. We worked with large multinationals in the FMCG and financial sectors on their culture transformation. We have also worked with large telecom companies to embed innovation and entrepreneurship cultures. In addition, we are very active on diversity and inclusion strategies and programmes.

We have accompanied young entrepreneurs on incubation and acceleration programmes and designed complete entrepreneurship and employability programmes for universities and NGOs. Our interventions cover mainly the Middle East and Africa, with some engagement in Europe and Asia. Our name and slogan are explicit about what we stand for. We support business leaders and organisations of all sizes, remain relevant in an ever-changing world, so they can sustain their leadership and contribute to driving a positive impact on their business and society.

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