What does it sound like when the CEO of a company operates from an Islamic framework?
I was surprised to hear Rami Abu Ghazaleh, CEO of AlBaik (yes, that AlBaik), share his approach to running his company.
There are quite a few gems in this video, and I will highlight three of them here.
1. It's Never About You
Typically, we expect a CEO to lionize their own narrative. They'll share the difficulties they faced, highlight their underlying passion and resilience, and then (with a token dose of humility) show how they ultimately succeeded.
The CEO is always the hero of his or her story. This level of narcissism serves them well - as I highlighted previously in How Bad Leaders Rise to the Top and Why We Keep Following Them.
We find that the Prophet (s) never made things about himself. Humility was one of his hallmark characteristics. This is shown through his focus on others and dedication to the message.
Rami tells the story of literally everyone else except himself. In a moment when others could justifiably talk about their own accomplishments and hurdles, he turns the spotlight to his parents, his brother, his team, and his customers.
As Islamic organizations try to copy business practices in the name of professionalism, these character traits often get overlooked. I have even seen the website for one major Islamic organization describing its own history by continually mentioning the CEO by name, lionizing his narrative, and completely neglecting literally everyone else who contributed to its success.
What we build is for others, not ourselves. It is only after understanding this that we can genuinely embrace servant leadership - as the Prophet (s) said, "The leader of a people is their servant."
2. Amanah is Everything
Talking about motivators is popular. People are obsessed with finding their "why" - as the viral Simon Sinek talk popularized, "People don't care about what you do, they care about why you do it."
We strive to do the things we are passionate about. If we don't love it, we don't want to do it.
Rami shares a different passion, and a different motivator - amanah. It is the realization that whatever you are given is a trust from The Creator. This creates purpose far more potent than passion.
Abu Dharr said once asked the Prophet (s) to appoint him to a position of authority. He (saw) put his hand on the shoulder of Abu Dharr and said, "you are weak, and it is a trust, and on the Day of Resurrection it will be a source of humiliation and regret, except for the one who takes it and fulfills all obligations and does all duties required (Muslim).”
Understanding and fulfilling the amanah one is entrusted with is the basis of trust.
3. Abundance Mindset
Rami shares how they refused to raise prices when food costs went up to do right by their customers. They gave employees raises and bonuses when finances were tight, and most others would have done a round of layoffs.
The Prophet (s) said, "None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."
It is easy to say we would want a raise instead of being laid off. It is far more difficult to implement while in a position of leadership.
When people are short-sighted or focused on money, they will inevitably operate from a scarcity mindset.
Trust is built on giving more than you take, and when you do, you will be showered with blessings (barakah) from Allah (swt).