'We remain humble but our plans are aggressive' - PRWeek meets H+K MENA chief Bashar AlKadhi

AlKadhi, recipient of the 2019 MEPRA Chairman's award last month, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the industry. He says being a great leader means being authentic and consistently seeking feedback.

H&K’s CEO Bashar AlKadhi
H&K’s CEO Bashar AlKadhi

With more than three decades of communications experience under his belt, Bashar AlKadhi, CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies for the MENA region, is one of the region’s most prominent CEOs - and knows a thing or about how to manage both a team and a successful PR strategy.

His experience and expertise were recognised at the recent 11th annual MEPRA awards when he was awarded the 2019 Chairman’s award for his outstanding contribution to the industry. But what makes a good leader?

"I would like to think I lead by example by being authentic and being true to myself and my personal values," AlKadhi told PRWeek Middle East. "Also, 'doing as I say and saying as I do', and articulating a clear strategy and ensuring all colleagues know precisely what to expect from me, and what I expect from them.

"Furthermore I continuously seek 360-degree feedback and aim to ’work smart', with a good work/life balance."

A ‘bad boss’, does exactly the opposite, said AlKadhi, saying receiving the MEPRA award was "naturally, a proud moment".

"As Jonty [Summers] said in his very kind remarks, I genuinely don’t seek recognition and, frankly, am a little embarrassed by it, but of course when that recognition comes from your peers, for decades of work both on the agency side counselling clients, as well as in-house roles such as the one I enjoyed at The Coca-Cola Company, it’s quite a fulfilling feeling and drives me even further to achieve more.

The MEPRA awards were "clearly a great evening for H+K", with the agency taking home 17 goings.

"More than anything it underlined our ethos that, above all, the work we do for our clients is what really matters," said AlKadhi. "[With] 17 awards for client work, plus the recognition for our own Sanjana Soman for the Dave Robinson Award, it felt very special. It was lovely to see so many of our teams receive recognition for the outstanding work they do.

What is next for AlKadhi after some 30 years in the industry?

"I love what I do and love being at H+K. I work with fantastic colleagues and with great clients. I’m learning every day. The satisfaction of seeing young talent from the region prosper and enjoy great careers at H+K is especially rewarding to me.

"The minute I stop enjoying all of that is when I’ll go do something else. I’ve recently been mandated with a wider geographical remit - including Africa and India – so you can imagine just what an exciting and large opportunity this is. We haven’t scratched the surface there yet."

When it comes to the next 12 months, H+K has "big plans".

"We’re still very hungry; expect a great deal of innovation," enthuses AlKadhi. "That doesn’t mean just introducing 'new' services or offerings, which we’re doing regularly anyway.

"The challenge is how to innovate within existing sectors - how our digital/studio/content + publishing offering plays a larger role in our public affairs, energy and industrials work and investor relations expertise, for instance; or how we bolt on our behavioural science offering to our healthcare practice, and so on.

"We’ve grown threefold over the past three years in terms of the number of people and revenues. We’re now also a very profitable business. This allows us the licence to invest even more heavily in our people and in innovation.

"We remain humble at everything we do; that, however, certainly doesn’t mean that our plans are not aggressive; quite the contrary."


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