Issue - July/August 2022


My Leadership Journey So Far

Vaibhav Sood, Manager Qatar & Kuwait, ISS Relocations

It was circa August 2007, New Delhi India, and I was getting ready for my Undergrad Convocation ceremony. Having chosen to opt for Business Administration with majors in Sales and Marketing from University of Dublin (Formerly known as DIT Ireland) in collaboration with IILM India, batch 2004-07, I had surely made up my mind to start my own business post completion of studies.

Well, destiny had a different chapter written for me and I ended up in Kuwait within a few months (mid-2008) to visit my cousins, where I began my career in the field of shipping and logistics, and soon joined ISS.

It’s been a tough ride so far to work up the ladder, from where I began my career with ISS as a customer service and internal sales executive to what I’ve achieved so far, though I know there is still a long journey ahead of me. Some tough times kicked in professionally towards mid-2013 and work was getting the better of me. I was putting in 12–14 hours per day as the department was short staffed due to strict visa regulations within Kuwait. However, that phase of my life laid the initial foundation of learning the art of becoming a leader where I was solely managing the Kuwait relocations department (external sales and customer service desk) for a period of 7–8 months, not knowing what more challenges I had ahead of me; however, I was mighty proud of the result in the end.

I clearly remember it was May 2014 when I was promoted to my first managerial position within ISS to officially head their Kuwait station; Abhilash Nair, CEO-ISS Relocations, gave me the good news from Dubai. The operations team we had and the amount of work we were doing was the experience of a lifetime. Working with ISS was and is a learning experience on daily basis and has taught me to always say ‘Yes’ to the right and ‘No’ to the wrong, and made me stand by my principles and values to face challenges head on. An experience second to none.

It's very important to understand that every team member cannot offer the same performance or desired result, but what they offer differently could be a winning factor for the team to grow and for a leader to succeed. All the fingers are not the same size, hence recognizing and appreciating what every team member can put on the table and giving them the platform to showcase their talent is what makes a team successful and a leader to stand out in the crowd.

Having been a member of the customer service and sales team (2008–2014), compared to leading a team, having the full P&L responsibility and reporting to the CEO (2014–current), is a different ballgame altogether. Working as a mid-level executive from 2008 to early 2014, I believe I couldn’t comprehend the challenges and mental stress a leader could go through until I was given that role to handle and get a feel for the real-time experience of learning the true characteristics and qualities of becoming a leader and paving a path for a better future for my team and myself by overcoming obstacles which were unknown to me at that stage.

A very important trait I’ve learned during my career is the need to develop greater levels of patience and to listen more, with the latter being a game changer for me. It was around early 2015, when business dropped a bit for two to three months and I was becoming snappy and irritated; nothing was going correctly for that brief phase. I knew I had to take control of this immediately or else it would be too late, and I could end up seeing myself becoming a member of the under-30 hypertension club. As they say, one door closes and another opens; I figured out that I was doing something wrong; I needed to stop micro managing the team, build greater trust by letting them work in their natural free environment, put forward a deadline for the desired result and wait for the outcome. This was one of my greatest learnings ever. I believe that earlier, I was involving myself in every step my team took and perhaps restricting them from performing at their best, which was a hindrance in achievement of common goals.

Soon, things took a positive turn; our station was performing incredibly well and ISS Kuwait was again going in the right direction. Time flew, the team grew, ISS was everywhere in the Gulf region and it was time to step up the ladder again. Come early 2019, I was handed Doha Qatar as a station alongside Kuwait to tap the potential of the moving industry within this rich oil and gas country which will be soon hosting the FIFA 2022 world cup in November. So far, it’s been an educational journey full of ups and downs but also one of unforgettable memories and good friends I’ve made in this industry who have supported me through thick and thin.

Being associated with the moving industry for approximately 14 years, I can only describe with all honesty and humility that without doubt, A Leader is not Successful until he/she has his/her team’s Full Support, Backing and Trust. Having said all that, anyone who has worked closely with ISS for last 10–12 years knows exactly where ISS was and where it is now. It’s a brand which is made up of hard-working people who are the backbone of this citadel. At a time when the organization was at risk of being buried, a few good men and women stood out and said ‘Yes’ to the right and ISS is now back with its leaders carving its path to success.