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Leading from the front


I read an article recently about how over 50 percent of employees in government offices are either late or do not turn up for work and that their productivity leaves much to be desired. I am not surprised, because there are factors that not only contribute to this deplorable situation but also help to make it worse . 

While the world around us is speeding ahead we seem to be caught in a still timeframe. And the reasons are many. Among them are an educational system that has yet to reach the stage where it can turn out graduates who can play a role in the building of society.

There is also the lack of an effective role model espousing the values and principles associated with progress and a decade of parental neglect, during which parents instead of instilling in their children the value of hard work, knowledge and other noble ideals, have themselves behaved in a fashion contrary to our own ideals. When children grow up watching a parent who fails to go to the office on a routine basis and who has no goals except to put in time and gain a pension, we can imagine what kind of effect it has on them. Therefore, I am not surprised at the office attitude report.

Newspapers speak of Saudization and Nitaqat programs, and you hear people talk about the right of Saudis to get a job. We also hear unjustified criticism of business people. At times those with little knowledge attack them. However, they should remember a line of poetry written in the early 18th century by Alexander Pope: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

However, the problem is much deeper than that. It is about productivity, speed, attitude, professionalism, goals and inspiration. More than that it’s about leadership and good management. If the head of a department comes to the office three hours late in the morning, and he does not produce, is bureaucratic, and does not take decisions, then what would you expect his employees to be like?

Therefore, I am glad that the people who made the report publicized it, because it should be an eye opener for all. As a citizen, it is my right to expect good and prompt service. If government offices start functioning at 7:30 A.M. and I go there at 8 A.M., I expect to find a wide awake employee with a smile on his face offering service to the public. I don’t expect to find an empty desk.

One of the major reasons for the failure of companies and organizations to achieve their desired objectives is the level of managerial expertise. Managers should lead by example, from the front. Before leading, they should first live the principles associated with their position.

I still remember that in the mid-1970s when Saudi Arabian Airlines was located in the green building near the old airport in Jeddah, it was almost an act of shame to stroll into the office after work commenced at 8A.M. 

In those days there were many American managers (and Saudi managers too) because of the TWA contract. And these people led by example. And that’s why Saudia was then among the top teninternational airlines.

Absenteeism was unheard of. There was excitement, and I remember that when there was a shortage of labor at the airport, some managers and executives went there to help load the planes! Such was the spirit at that time. Where is that spirit today? What has happened? Employees are delaying people’s business affairs, projects are delayed and the reasons are many.

It seems that we are always moaning and complaining, but some things have to be changed. I don’t, however, believe that there is any justification for us to be left behind as the world progresses. Remember, it’s not the big that eat the small – it’s the fast that eat the slow.

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