Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Hussein M. Dajani, General Manager - Digital and CX Transformation - Nissan Motor Co.
How could you describe your career path in few words?
During my 19+year career, I have been able to demonstrate astute leadership, career growth, corporate success, strategic thinking as well as building a personal brand (through thought leadership and conference presentations) – all of which were achieved by working for great companies and with great talents.
Over the past few years, I have worked with the likes of WPP and Publicis overseeing some of their largest regional clients (such as STC, Vodafone, Nokia, Visa and HSBC) and was fortunate enough to be recognized as a high potential leader by WPP being awarded the renowned ‘WPP Young High Potential Leaders' Award from Sir Martin Sorrell himself, as well as receiving regional awards from the likes of Gulf Marketing Review, which identified him as one of the 40 top marketing professionals in the region, being voted by the Huffington Post as among the 10 people changing the marcomm landscape in the MENA region, voted as being among the top 200 CX leaders globally to watch in 2021, and lately the BTX Top Executive Award 2021 which recognizes top executives who have accelerated digital and business transformation through the pandemic and created a better future for their business. I also sit on the Advisory Board of CMO Council Middle East and I am an Advisory Director with The Customer Institute.
Since working on the agency side, I have transitioned to client side and worked with some fantastic brands in senior leadership roles and I am always looking for my next leadership challenge that crosses the digital and experience divide.
My core expertise lies in the Digital Marketing and Tech space, evolving over the years from a pure player marketer. Starting my career with some of the worlds' greatest communication companies, today I am the GM for Digital and CX Transformation with Nissan Motor Co. for Africa, Middle East, India, Turkey, and Oceania overseeing some of the most dramatic customer transformations the company has had to go through in recent times. My contribution to the organization were recognized by senior leadership and lead me to winning the AMIEO Chairperson Nissan Way Award in July 2021.
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
I am never satisfied with easy answers, with simple explanations: there always has to be something else, something more interesting and complex beneath the surface of things. This is perhaps a defense mechanism: growing up in a country like Lebanon, in a city like Beirut, where the sectarian civil war colored so much of my childhood and taught me early on that much of the circumstances of life are beyond one’s control, and that loyalties are both multi-layered and multi-faceted, I also learned that knowledge is power. Exercising one’s mind allows one to travel beyond the personal limitations of borders, of place, of culture, of circumstance. And perhaps this gives a measure of feeling some control over a world that is so uncontrollable.
This curiosity then informs my entire life philosophy. I am highly motivated and ambitious, a good listener and highly social, and all of this flows from a genuine interest in all the circumstances of the world. In the same vein, I would characterize myself as an independent thinker, ethical almost to a fault in both personal and business dealings, and a perfectionist in all tasks I undertake.
As generally happens however, my weaknesses are the flipside of my strengths. Being a perfectionist, especially in the Arab world, whose rules are very culturally dictated, can be highly stressful and work against you sometimes. Being overly rigid in one’s demands sometimes comes at the expense of diplomacy in social, but particularly business relationships. I’m starting to realize the importance of the art of compromise – because it is an art – as life is never rigid or immovable, but ever-changing. I’m learning better how to go with the flow and try sometimes to adjust myself to situations and people rather than expecting them always to adjust to my own standards.
When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?
One of my former bosses once wrote down a phrase and asked me to meditate on it: “Maturity is the ability to manage uncertainty.” I find myself coming back to those words of wisdom again and again, and using them as a rudder to navigate this latter part of my life, which I hope can be characterized by this complex definition of maturity.
What’s the most important key success factor for you based on your experience?
In a world that has been cut up and defined by its differences, separated by its religions and traditions, which values money and technology at an unprecedented level, where incentives are highly self-centered, humans’ acknowledgement of interdependence seems to be largely missing. Yes, we Facebook, Tweet, and write blogs, which keep us in constant connection, but what we do with these connections is what makes the difference.
I am a “connector,” as Malcolm Gladwell defines in The Tipping Point. Coming from a family of many siblings, I am used to several personalities surrounding me at all times, dealing with them, and compromising. In the same way, I treat the people who I meet as an extension of my family. It is only natural for me. Thus, the connections I make regularly benefit me personally and in business, often simultaneously. And my success is capped by my ability to see the profound benefit of humans’ connections across all borders.
I believe excellence in any career stems from the ability to harness your personal neuroses, idiosyncrasies and particularities into a field where they can not only be liberally explored but will also allow you to shine. My central driving force would have to be my relentless curiosity – about people, about the world, about the secret life of the way everything works.
What would be the major pitfall that may undermine the success of a leader?
· Bad listener
· "Me" vs "We"
· Not have the back of his/her team at all costs
· Fail at managing expectations
· Fall into the trap of "Ego"
· Get used to a "comfort zone"
· Afraid to take "calculated risks"