Attributes of a Leader

April 8, 2009

Like many people, I followed with interest the succession drama following the recent death of Rogers Communications founder/CEO Ted Rogers. The process was delicate with selected family and management apparently vying for the top role. After several hand-wringing months, the well-liked wireless business unit head, Nadir Mohammed, was anointed as the chosen one.

Last week I was in the Halifax airport thinking about Air Canada and its uncanny ability to test the patience of its customers. Waiting to board flight 602 to Toronto I looked at the two lines available to me, one staffed by an attendant fawning over the 15 or 20 people in business class, and the other manned by a decidedly more exasperated individual inconvenienced by having to process the 200 or so stiffs in steerage class.

As I stood in the back of that long second line praying that Porter Airlines increase its service to Atlantic Canada, I happened to see Nadir Mohammed approaching the boarding area. Alone, with no entourage, he stopped and surveyed the situation. I expected him to quickly spot the red-carpeted executive class line and make a bee-line towards it. But instead, he stood there for a few moments, looked around a little more, and then he tucked himself in line behind me. He did not grumble about the long line nor did not move when a subsequent announcement reminded the important people that they need not stand in the unimportant line. He just stood there and waited until we got all got through. As I moved to the rear of the plane I lost track of Mr. Mohammed. I assume he went no further than business class but I do not know that for certain.

I have no idea whether Nadir Mohammed will succeed as CEO of Rogers. Some second-in-command types are able to transition from the shadows into the limelight while others struggle with those added qualities needed to be a CEO. Only time will tell. Nevertheless, as I witnessed a decidedly egalitarian, patient and understated act by this very important and senior executive, thin-slice that it was, I could not help but think that this was a glimpse into what got him to where he is today and how he is likely to mobilize Rogers through its post Ted Rogers era.