Excerpt: As published in ‘A Passion for Adventure’ 

When I resigned as CEO of Zain Group in February 2010, I was humbled to receive a torrent of text messages, telephone calls and emails from employees and many colleagues from all walks of life in Africa and the Middle East who were palpably unhappy at my decision. Some expressed anger, others bewilderment or sadness and some all three. But many said to me, in an almost matter-of-fact way: ‘Fine, what’s our next step?’

Their question had nothing to do with career, pay or pensions, the usual concerns of most executives and employees in such circumstances.

What we established at Zain in 2003 was a global business cult, comprised to this day of a group of people who believe in the same principles and ideas; a business cult that doesn’t think just about the smaller picture. It thinks: what is next? How do we move forward?

Zain people believe in dreaming big and making those dreams come true. They believe in their community and in the good of mankind and they want to do the right thing for both.

An explanation of our success at Zain rests on these fundamental beliefs and aims. Strategic conversations in the company were never about political interests, overt or hidden. They were not about the special pleadings of sections or departments within the company. They were about getting
things done, and how best to set about doing that.

What I am talking about here is creating a more effective way of making an enterprise work. It is more than about having a good career, or having a good day. It is about much more than personal ambition. It is a collective spiritual aspiration.

Members of the Zain business cult want to leave a legacy that contributes to the advancement of the world and of humanity in general.

Of course the success of such an approach is reflected in the financial results, but these are the outcome of the pursuit of higher ends. The bottom line is never the aim in itself.

How do you define the phrase ‘global business cult’? Humanity is my family and the universe is my homeland. If you can motivate people to aspire to the highest standards of commitment and dedication, then it is possible to realise your dreams. This is what I mean by a business cult.