Mr. Mir Salim is a Principal at the Boston Consulting Group’s Kuala Lumpur office. He is a core member of the firm’s Strategy, Public Sector and Energy Practices. His work at BCG has ranged from crafting industry blueprints and trade agreements to engineering optimal market structures and designing policies to reduce market volatility. He has advised clients across Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

Prior to joining BCG, Mr. Mir Salim was a business school professor at UVA-Darden, where he taught the core MBA sequence in Economics and also Executive Education classes on Financial Access. He holds four economics degrees, including a PhD from Yale and graduated with first-class honours from LSE where he was a CS MacTaggart Prizewinner as one of the top three students across the school.

Mr. Mir Salim was a keynote speaker at the “Leadership Summit 2018” held earlier in April. In this interview with Bangladesh Brand Forum, Mr. Salim shared his takes on leadership.

Bangladesh Brand Forum: What is leadership in your opinion and what are some of the must have characteristics of a leader?

Mir Salim: Leadership in my mind inculcates a number of things together. I think there is an element of passion, understanding what the leader needs to do and being very upfront and passionate about what that is. I think the second very important point as a leader is to know who the right people are in the right positions who are going to unlock a decision and move it forward; it is having that people perspective to make things work. The third is the ability to bring out performances from others and that requires the quality of being inspirational to others. I think as a leader you have to acknowledge that we cannot do things alone and we need a team to be able to do it. So beyond just being able to reach that team and inspiring them, it’s about how you bring out performance in that team in order to deliver the results that you need.

What is the one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

That is a difficult question. I think many leaders make a lot of good judgements but many make poorer judgments on occasion. If I were to pick one that happens a little bit more often than others, I think it is when leaders are not confident or bold enough to take the right decisions at the right time. Opportunities come by and move away and then it is too late to act. So it is being bold enough to take the decision when the opportunity presents itself by very quickly and judiciously making a judgment on what the right decision is at that point in time.

What are the most important decisions you make as a Principal of your organization?

The role of a Principal in a management consulting firm comprises a few elements. The first part involves building relationships with our clients. This includes understanding the most fundamental questions that puzzle our clients and helping them navigate the right way forward. By answering those questions, we can unlock their potential. The second part of it is also being inspirational to the team. It is about understanding where within the team we have the pockets of expertise and how we can bring those to bear by bringing out people’s individual and collective strengths. This also contains the element of playing to areas that people can develop by collaborating, and then unleashing that diversity to be able to unlock it. The third, as we are getting closer to partnership within the firm, is an understanding what the different pieces are that we need in order to shape the culture of the firm.

Have you ever been a mentor to another inspiring leader? How did you go about establishing that relationship?

In my view, one of the first things a leader needs to have is trust.  Trust is earned, it is not something which is inherent and you cannot establish trust from the get go. Trust takes time to develop, but once it’s established, I think people open up and are able to take advantage of mentorship for the purpose of what it is. So, one inspiring leader I think I personally helped to mentor would be a consultant I met in probably my first year within the firm. He has gone to do quite spectacularly, not just within the field of consulting, but even beyond, in social impact to the environment and the communities around us. He has also managed to inspire the next generation of people who have placed themselves in very good positions within the rest of the country. So, if you boil it down into what aspects of that mentorship I helped to develop, I think it was firstly the earning of trust and then the mutual respect and natural role modelling. Once someone can see the qualities in another person, they want to emulate aspects of it. As I mentioned trust gets to unlock a lot of the real questions you can then articulate and you can then start to think about how to apply the guidance in different situations. In this particular context, this person came to me many times and talked about his plans and asked what I would do if I were in his shoes. He would often question decisions and I think part of leadership is to have an open conversation around that. It’s never a one way, top down discussion that happens. It’s always a conversation where being able to understand that perspective and then come to a decision that then moves the person forward and I was fortunate enough to do this.

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