Gates, Branson, Buffet, Welch, Jobs? No, My Hero Is Omar

Most of LinkedIn articles give you “X Things How to…” be a good leader; a successful entrepreneur, ace an interview; improve your résumé; learn lessons from Robin Williams, Joan Rivers or whoever died recently. They are all clever, informative and interesting pieces, no doubt.

Just for once, I would like to celebrate an anonymous person who never set out to be a millionaire, lead a major organisation to phenomenal success, show us how to land that killer job, mentor anyone to greater heights, or do anything remotely exceptional beyond doing the best he could in his modest job.

I do not wish to embarrass my hero by disclosing his real name so, for the purposes of this post; I will call him Omar. I look up to Omar for three attributes I have always aspired to achieve in my professional life: integrity, professionalism and earned respect. You may be wondering what Omar does to set such high standards.

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It’s not what Omar does but the way he does his job that marks him out for me as a man deserving of everyone’s admiration and respect.

Omar does not run a company, division, department, or even a team. He works in a modest capacity for a company I work with. His official role is “Messenger”, a job that entails collecting mostly “paperwork” from one office and delivering it to other offices throughout a large building. When not delivering internal post, he is entrusted with serving beverages to staff and guests on the two executive floors of the same building.

So, how can a man who basically performs a relatively simple and limited in responsibility type of job demonstrate so much integrity, professionalism and earn the respect of the most demanding of people? Allow me to explain.

Omar is largely silent; only speaks when it is necessary. He listens to you intently, answers your questions fully without elaboration or embellishment. His face has a hint of a smile without breaking into a big and insincere grin. He never, ever over-steps his boundaries or becomes too familiar with anyone.

He will take on multiple orders without complaining. He is occasionally confronted with vague orders and contradictory instructions but he somehow always manages to find his way through this confusion without asking for clarification or showing frustration.

For executives who work on the two top floors, none of them has ever had to shout at Omar, admonish him, or express anything other than full satisfaction with his service. As far as anyone can recall, with more than 25 years service under his belt for the same company, no one has ever complained about Omar, and just as importantly, Omar never complained about anyone.

For executives and visitors, occasional and frequent, you only need to tell Omar your preference for drinks once: coffee, black with one sugar; tea with milk and no sugar; Green tea with honey, and so on. He hears it from you the first time and it is stored in his memory bank forever, even if you visit once every two years! I am one of the more difficult visitors where I sometimes ask for coffee with milk and sugar, sometimes for Darjeeling Tea without lemon, milk or sugar, and occasionally, I ask for room-temperature glass of sparkling water. He knows just from the look on my face which of the three I have in mind!

The most remarkable thing about the amazing Omar is that he walks in to a room with 20 people or more, moves around silently, making eye contact with each person, notes what they wish from their whispers or gestures, takes everyone’s orders and delivers them without disrupting the meeting or even making his presence felt. While he is doing all of this, he will deliver slips of notes from PAs to their bosses, take pieces of paper and make copies, collect printouts from printers and hand them to the persons in question; all done in almost total silence.

Very often, board meetings are held over weekends and Omar is the first in the building preparing the rooms in time for the start of the long sessions and he is the last to leave, all done unprompted, quietly, with dignity and consistency of dedication to do his job as well as he could.

If all of the above does not demonstrate these three qualities of integrity, professionalism and earned respect, I don’t know what does!

No doubt, we all aspire for these three attributes but, I wonder how many of us can say, with all honesty, that we achieve them consistently and without wavering; I know I cannot make such a claim and this is why Omar is as good a role model as I have ever met, or likely to come across in the future.

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