By: Kamil Toume
The first job that I got after graduation was in Sept 2006, the first four months were fantastic. I was finishing my work, getting back home, very happy, very excited to wake up the second day and get back to work again. But all that happiness and joy went to a grinding halt shortly. The company was going through some financial difficulties, the board met at that time and discussed the proposal of budget cuts to save money for the business. They opted for layoffs which have become the business norm nowadays where management throw people out of the company to balance the books.
I remember that night, I was having a normal conversation with my manager, Safwan Sibai and with two other colleagues. An hour later, I was on my way to leave but Mr. Sibai asked me to stay for a while. I looked at him and I said: Is there a problem? Without saying anything to me, He gave me a letter. I took and read it but the subject line of the letter captured my eyes, it was: my termination notice without stating clearly any reasons clarifying why. I finished reading the letter wondering why it happened like this despite my dedication and my manager silence for challenging the CEO decision. I took the letter and decided to leave, I opened the door but he said: Do not be in a rush; I have something to tell you: To which I replied: “Why? I lost my job and nobody cares”.
He paused for a moment then he gave me another letter that he already faxed and sent to the CEO office and surprisingly it was his resignation letter. I stood in wonder for a while to understand what happened and to make it more complicated; he gave me the third letter which was an apology from the CEO about his decision in the first letter to terminate my employment.
Mr. Sibai rejected the layoff decision and resigned as he could not accept it nor enforce it. His resignation was a blow to the management and as a result, the CEO reconsidered his position, thus canceled the termination. I asked myself why someone in his position would resign and lose his job for one of his staff members. Mr. Sibai made the point clear the next day by telling me that true leaders are the ones who defend and serve their teams against dangers whether internal or external. He said, leadership is not a position but it is an action. “To lead people and hold the position of leader is first to face the danger for the people in your custody, not to sacrifice them for the perks of the position you hold”.
Mr. Sibai not only saved my job but shaped my understanding of what a great leader is. He taught me an important lesson about leadership. It is more of a responsibility than a position, Leadership is about caring selflessly for others. Good leaders are the same as good parents who strive passionately to raise and help their children to grow up and become better than themselves, no matter how many times they fail. This is what we need in business: people like Safwan who value and care for others the same as parents do. “Human beings who look after their fellow human beings where it is not about hierarchy and superiority but it is about each other “Human Beings”.