Get to know Open Medical’s Chief Commercial Officer, Dr Michael Shenouda, from what superpower he would like to have to his advice on key leadership traits.
What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am very superstitious but only for very specific things.
For example, my favourite number is 10, and everything I have needs to have the number 10.
It started when I was much younger because all my favourite football players wore number 10, and so did I.
There are also things that I have to do in a certain order.
For example, my breakfast every day is: coffee first, three eggs, and toast or an apple, without fail, in that order.
It’s not that I think bad things will happen if I don’t do them; it’s just, why wouldn’t I do them?
If you could switch careers for a day, what would you do and why?
I would be a Formula 1 race driver. The idea of driving around a racetrack at 200 mph where the slightest turn is incredibly important—that rush of adrenaline—I’d love to do that.
And I absolutely love how, at 200 mph, the drivers still have the cognitive bandwidth to make sarcastic comments on the radio. That just blows my mind.
Being a Formula 1 race driver also has so many technical elements involved where the smallest tweaks or changes can make such a difference to the balance and pace of the car.
It’s also a team sport, where you rely on precision and attention to detail from the whole team in order to be successful. It’s so much more than just the adrenaline rush.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?
In everything you do in your life, do it passionately. Or, as my wife says, have zeal in everything you do.
Do it meaningfully, thoughtfully, and properly; don’t do half-hearted things; and live your entire life with zeal.
This makes you reflect on everything that you do and ensures that you commit to it wholeheartedly.
You learn to prioritise activities while also identifying the time-consuming activities in your life that are not contributing to a full life because you can’t do them passionately.
That doesn’t mean you ignore commitments; there will always be mundane tasks that you have to do.
But even then, do them passionately. They’ll get done more efficiently and you’ll be better for it.
This advice has allowed me to get fulfilment from everything I do and perhaps enjoy it a little bit more than I otherwise would.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?
There’s this Arabic saying that basically means, “Why bother?”
Essentially, when you want to do something, someone responds with, “What’s the purpose?”
They’re not saying it’s the wrong thing to do, but rather, “it’s not worth the effort so don’t bother.”
It sets the tone that the only things you should do are things that are absolutely essential for life.
But a lot of the things you do in life, like your hobbies and passions, aren’t ‘essential’ for survival, but they sure as hell are essential for you to thrive in your life.
It wasn’t specific advice per se, but it’s a mindset I don’t agree with, which almost ties back to doing things passionately.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
I’d love to be able to fly; maybe that’s just because of London traffic, but there’s also this certain serenity, away from all the cares in the world, free from troubles.
That would be the best superpower.
If you could have dinner with anyone famous, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
There is something that I find really attractive about a humble leader, and Nelson Mandela embodies that very well.
The strength and confidence in his belief and how right he was in what he was trying to achieve, and yet the humility to carry it out in the way that he did, effectively setting a whole nation on a completely new path through humble leadership, is something that perhaps a lot of today’s leaders can learn from.
We get hung up on the confidence side of leadership but ignore the humility aspect, which I think are two things that go hand-in-hand.
I’d love to ask him how he had the internal strength and fortitude to continue on that path no matter how many doors closed in front of him and how he continuously maintained humility.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from a mistake?
Honesty and integrity.
Perhaps that comes from my clinical background; there would be times where you would make a mistake and have to explain it to the patient directly.
I always find that when that happens, most people appreciate that you had the integrity to have an honest conversation about it.
This applies to all walks of life; you are much better off being honest and using your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
By taking responsibility for your mistake, you also ensure that the chances of making the same mistake are reduced.
You learn a lot less from a mistake when you’ve not dealt with it with honesty and integrity.
What do you consider to be the most important trait that a leader should possess?
The ability to tailor leadership styles to every different person and situation.
When you communicate with people, it shouldn’t be in the way you want, but instead in a way the recipient will understand.
Should you be harder or softer on someone? Do you try to inspire them or do you try to be more practical in your approach?
Leading people means you have to change the way you approach different conversations and situations.
How do you balance your personal life with your busy work schedule as a director?
I inherently struggle to understand the concept of work/life balance because, to me, it’s balancing your entire life—not just the ‘work’ bit.
It gives the impression that one is more negative and you need the more positive side to restore balance.
The way I see it, you have to balance your life across the board; every bit has to be balanced; every aspect deserves its own focus and dedication; otherwise, you’ll always feel like something isn’t quite right.
I think finding that balance comes down to prioritising. You have to identify what is important and make time for it.
I disagree with the idea that there are not enough hours in the day.
There are people with significantly more important responsibilities and priorities than my own, and they only have 24 hours every day too!
There is always enough time; it is about how you prioritise things.
I don’t always get that appropriate balance, but often those are the times I feel that something is not right, and it forces me to reconsider priorities and make the necessary adjustments.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring three things, what would they be?
A fishing net, because I need to eat; a water purifier, because I need to drink; and, of course, a football.
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