For some years now, technology has been on the rise and it is showing no signs of slowing down. Owing to its meteoric rise, there has been a surge of interest, with many people trying their hand at startups. Everyone hopes to come up with the next big idea that will disrupt the market. The only problem is that every startup needs a good leader. In this article, we will be including some insights into successful leadership by Amer Deeba, who was dubbed a “rare executive” by Forbes.
Amer Deeba is currently working at Monad, Inc., where he holds the position of commercial officer. Deeba has had an illustrious career spanning nearly two decades. His background has played a large role in his leadership style. He immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon. Brought up during the civil war, he has battled with adversity and severe odds all his life. His determination and sheer willpower have kept him going all these years. The boy who came to the U.S. on a one-way ticket, with only $800 in his pocket, has established himself as a serial entrepreneur in Silicon Valley today.
People can find hundreds of books that talk about leadership. The problem is that they are full of clichés. There is no substitute for experience. And what one can learn from real life, a book cannot teach. Deeba does not have a fancy MBA from Harvard, but he has something much more: grit and confidence. That has made all the difference.
The nature of technology is such that it is constantly evolving. This is why it is important to continually adapt to stay ahead in the market. Deeba had worked as a coder for 10 years before the pursuit of a fresh challenge led him toward customer-centric roles. “I had this eagerness to be with the customer to create, to be the one who is actually defining, understanding the customer-use case, and defining how the product should do it and address it.” The switch to the business side was a welcome change for Deeba.
During his stint at Qualys, where Deeba had worked for nearly two decades, he was instrumental in making the company go public. That was probably one of the high points of his career. When asked about his leadership style, Deeba said, “Build a strategy, make people believe in it, and then bring it to life. So, it’s not just a vision; it’s not just nice slides. It’s something that people can touch, and you can then make it actionable.” It seems easy, but forming a strategy requires more than just brainstorming in a room. It requires leaders to have clarity of outcomes and a thorough understanding of the plan and how to execute it.
Whenever Deeba has approached a problem, whether formulating a marketing strategy or forming strategic alliances, he stresses the need to be a good listener. “Be a good listener, first. I think that’s the No. 1 thing — try to really understand the problem you’re trying to solve.” In making decisions, even though Deeba conducts his own research, he always welcomes the opinions of other experts in the field so that he can make an informed decision.
Deeba was introduced to the business side of tech by his mentor, Philippe Courtot. He appreciates Courtot for all that he has taught him. Working with Courtot has also influenced Deeba’s leadership style. Most executives make the mistake of approaching the problem from a fixed mindset, which often proves counterintuitive. Deeba has been trained to think outside the box. “I think my training with Philippe was to always look at everything with fresh eyes, with a fresh perspective. Look at it from a different angle. Try to understand what’s different and unique about it. Don’t try to take something and copy it.”
This mindset has lent Deeba a level of originality that most executives struggle with. Deeba continues, “Then second, make sure you have the right team around you that can, once they buy into it, actually deliver.” The team that surrounds an executive is invariably an important prerequisite. It does not matter how good a plan is; without a team it cannot be executed and will only remain a plan.
As most decision-making technology has to be done with having the customer as the focal point, the third step for Deeba is “understanding how you package technology to make it accessible and available, not just for one customer, but you make it ubiquitous.”
All these steps above would be a waste, though, if there is no clarity of purpose. From the get-go, executives need to be able to prioritize. Prioritization helps create clarity and gives the plan a structure. The process of prioritization is, says Amer Deeba, “not just for me, but for the whole company also, to understand how we’re going to get to the next level.”
While this might sound cliché, the most important part of decision-making is to be OK with the fact that sometimes you will make mistakes, and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Coming from someone who escaped his small town in the trunk of a taxi to safely make it to Beirut, this is more than just a cliché. It is important to trust yourself. You cannot become a leader without believing in yourself. Confidence is key. “If you’re hesitant and doubt yourself, you’ll suffer from ‘analysis paralysis’ and people around you will lose confidence. What’s worse, the people you manage will sense your lack of conviction and may become confused. I move forward with conviction, but if and when I realize I’ve made a mistake, then I pivot quickly.”
Lastly, no masterclass on leadership in technology would be complete without the mention of an app or software that makes decision-making easier. For Deeba, that would be cloud computing. “The cloud, this changed everything. It allows you to accelerate adoption. I feel even more excited right now about starting new companies because of that, because you can iterate much faster.” It might have started as a market buzzword, but cloud computing has rapidly transformed into a definable concept. It has immense potential and has revolutionized businesses. Listening to the customer and incorporating market feedback has become a lot easier.
Amer Deeba’s decision-making method has made him into the sought-after leader that he is today. It is the product of years of trying and failing. Deeba might have been dealt a bad hand, but he has played his way up the ladder with persistence and hope — and that’s a hallmark of a good leader.