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Leadership Lessons with Raed Hergli, Head of Government Engagement MENA at Visa

This month we sat down with Raed Hergli, Head of Government Engagement – MENA at Visa. Raed shared his thoughts on the key qualities that leaders need today, and how flexibility and resilience have helped him to succeed.

What drove you to forge a career in government relations? 

My posting in Washington DC as a diplomat at the age of 27 opened my eyes to the power of advocacy and I was impressed by that world.  I thought I could do the same thing for corporations through building connections and relationships and ended up working for General Electric. In that role I was able to marry the corporate sector with the world of government.

What personal attributes do you think have helped you to succeed?

Flexibility has been very important, especially when moving from a government entity to a corporate. The pace and culture and objectives are entirely different and without a good amount of flexibility and adaptability I would not have been able to make that switch.

The second attribute is a hunger to learn and curiosity, and that includes not underestimating any task that is thrown at you. The third is a constant quest for perfection.

Who or what inspires you?

Two people have really inspired me: my father and Habib Bourguiba, the founder of the modern Tunisian state.

My father, because of his integrity and his saying that, ‘it's easy for people to respect you, but it's difficult for you to respect yourself.’ He’s a man that has overcome many obstacles in his life and I have seen that same resilience in Habib Bouguiba who fought for Tunisia’s independence against French colonialism with almost nothing.

From these two people I have learned integrity, resilience, and the importance of strategic thinking.

What words best describe you as a leader?

Flexibility and resilience – as a leader you need to be resilient because the corporate word can be a tough place to work and lots of challenges will be thrown at you. The external environment is also tough with all the geopolitical changes that are happening at the moment. I also like to have fun while I’m working – you have to be serious without taking yourself too seriously!

What do you think are the key qualities needed from leaders in 2022?

 Leaders in 2022 need to be extremely aware on the geopolitical front – without that understanding, you’re missing something in the big picture. Secondly, leaders need flexibility and adaptability in order to move with the changes happening on the geopolitical, geotechnological and geoeconomic front. You need to flexible in order to know where the ship is headed and how to steer it there.

Thirdly, empathy is hugely important. Good leaders need to acknowledge the challenges that people are experiencing in their everyday lives.

What skill sets do you think businesses within the technology and IT services sector will be looking for now, and in the coming years? 

We’re at a time where specialization is moving to new frontiers, and as an expert your technical knowledge needs to be deeper to give you a competitive edge. It’s important to think in terms of the big picture and the trends that are happening both within and outside of the industry – curiosity and openness is key.

Technologies tend to make us less empathetic and more closed off in our spaces, but that human element still needs to continue to develop. Flexibility and agility, in order to respond to changing demands and requirements, is also really important.

What is the biggest challenge you've overcome during your career?

Moving from one sector to the other was a big challenge for me. Of course, there are always those initial doubts about ability and being able to succeed and leaving one’s comfort zone and it’s also tiring to have to learn about a whole new business. Keep the faith, and when you are there know that you are there for a reason and you have what it takes to succeed.

What career advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?

Curiosity is extremely important. As a government engagement person, you need to strike the right balance between the technical knowledge of the sector but with the horizontal skills that can apply to any other industry. If you’re coming into an industry, do so with the spirit of learning about it vertically while also keeping your mind open to learn about other things. Never stop learning!

Communication skills are also extremely important in our roles, be that verbal or written. Lastly, your network is one of your biggest assets so be sure to nurture and develop it.

Posted on 28.11.2022

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