In the Shoes of the Secretary General (Part I)

A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s very first insights.

 

Two months after taking office as Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport, I would say that I didn’t see the time passing. Whether it was to launch a new strategic vision for the association, to visit members, to meet sister associations or to spend time with colleagues, this kick-off period has been inspiring. Listening others’ views and expectations, and sharing mine has been a daily exercise. I am not new to UITP that I joined in 1999 and where I held various position, but people don’t talk to you with the same objectives and the same words; it varies according to your position and your capacity to act and follow-up on their expectations. For the majority of people, it is because they respect the position and give a special attention to deal with its top decision-maker. For some others, I must say a minority, you can easily notice they are opportunistic and are only looking to serve their personal interest, not to say their hidden agenda. All of a sudden, they notice your existence!

These multiple demands for meetings, delivering speeches at events or interviews need a careful organisation and a priority management. It is obviously very good for the ego. I call it the red carpet syndrome. This is precisely the trap in which you shouldn’t fall. That’s why I decided to involve the President as much as possible in representing UITP, and to share this task as well with my directors who, according to the topics, might be in a better position than me to speak on behalf of the Association. Not to mention the members who are very active and very involved: they have the practical experience and expertise that give their speech an indisputable credibility. This being said, it is important to personify the position and give it a face and a recognisable style. But this should be done naturally and with sincerity. It is something I learned from my theatrical experience: overacting is caricaturing, and this will make you lose credibility.

Wearing the shoes of Secretary General after four years as deputy implies a mix of continuity and disruption. Continuity in the values you always believed in, in your trust in your colleagues, in your passion for the mission of the Association and dedication for its members. Simultaneously, you are expected to show an indefectible sense of responsibility, a smart way of delegating this responsibility, a strategic vision and leadership skills much expected by colleagues and members. All the better, that’s suits me perfectly.

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