A stirring and enlightening narrative of Salar Khan’s life throughout the years, enveloping a sense of understanding of how leaders are developed and cultivated. With the author’s exceptional and top-tier storytelling abilities, it will undoubtedly engross the readers and keep their interest. Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé (2017) is a great literary work and an illuminating lens for understanding what it takes to become a great leader and to achieve success in life.
Salar Khan has shown his exceptional writing skills ever since with his two other books, Shaping the Future of Global Leadership: Finding a Peaceful Solution (2020) and Am I Burned Out At Work?: A Self-Care Solution (2019). He is no longer a novice writer, which is why this book holds a powerful impact on readers. Dr. Salar Ahmed Khan is both an excellent author and a physician who has accomplished a great deal throughout his career. He was able to work in three different countries, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United States, as a pulmonologist, chief of medicine, associate professor of medicine, merit grant administrator, and many more.
Why do you think this book is significant?
There exists today a widespread lack of confidence in leadership. Research indicates that a startling number of organizations are currently managed by people who lack leadership competence. I believe that the vision of self-confident natural-born leaders (NBL) is necessary for the betterment of the world. Based on my observation and experiences over the last 50 years, I define the NBL through an autobiographical lens, offering current and aspiring leaders’ insights on effective leadership. I went through many hardships and challenges in my life. This is a story of my experiences. Throughout my career, I found myself working under time-sensitive, high-risk, and high-pressure situations, which allowed me to uncover and develop my NBL qualities. There were many lessons that I learned that have allowed me to become successful. It is my hope that perhaps some of the things I have learned can be useful to the readers of this book. Everyone possesses the essential qualities and abilities of a natural-born leader. It’s simply a matter of bringing your hidden talents and skillsets to the surface. Dr. Khan’s book identifies the qualities and abilities of a natural-born leader so they can be refined and perfected through education, training, and experience.
NBLs possess a unique ability to deal with stressful situations confidently. They are creative, knowledgeable, and self-directed, and often establish norms. Another significant thing about them is their charisma, they have the ability to inspire and motivate others to accomplish their goals with positive outcomes. Many leaders choose to follow instead of leading due to fear of failure and being unable to take risks. A lot also play safe and keep quiet when things get worse. These Leaders do not have trust in their own abilities. When leaders become followers, they make excuses and blame others for poor performance.
What are two – three of the important values you want your readers to obtain from reading this?
My book can help leaders gain more confidence while performing a leadership role in any organization or institution. The book includes a self-assessment tool to evaluate your NBL abilities and identify where you ultimately fall on the spectrum. This book of mine also includes the natural-born leader abilities traits development in three phases, which are:
Phase I: Infant to Childhood ages (1-11)
Phase II: Adolescence to Midlife 50s
Phase III: Mature Adulthood Ages 50 Onward
PHASE I: Infant to childhood ages (1-11)
New-born kids are silent observers. When they grow up, some have developed stranger anxiety when they see new people. This is the beginning of fear and insecure feelings. Parents must spend time with their kids and give them the freedom to play under supervision. Always say positive words to kids like assurance to build confidence and never try to scare kids. Communicate with them and build a habit of listening. When a kid is 1 ½ – 2 years of age, start telling simple verbal stories to develop listening and thinking abilities down the road. As kids will start growing, teach them personal hygiene. It is also vital to start teaching them to help with parents at home for them to start getting involved and feel like a valuable and responsible person as a family member. It will further build confidence in his or her own abilities. Always appreciate their achievements at home or school to develop motivation. Teach respect for elders, honesty, and sincerity to build character and morals. Tell verbal stories for 10 minutes every day for several years, it will develop a bond between you and your kid(s). Parents should teach basic mathematics like addition, subtraction, and multiplication questions to sharpen memory. This helps kids build confidence in their thought processes and reasoning ability. Also, in the busy world we live in, finding ways to connect with our children is priceless. When parents go out with kids, always interact with the kid by asking simple questions related to the surroundings to build photographic memory. At this age, it is a fun challenge for kids, and kids would put their heart and soul into looking at objects with care so that they could meet parents’ expectations. I was helping my mother at home with laundry and cooking helped me develop my time management and organization skills, which have been the foundation of my career. By spending time with my mother, I noticed that I became more loyal, dutiful, hardworking, task-oriented, firm, direct, opinionated, and on-point. Because of the confidence I built and my significant improvement in my performance, my parents started to involve me in home decision-making occasions. Their sincere appreciation and respect for my efforts left an impression on me. I built self-confidence and understanding that I can be more assertive in decision-making. In this way, I gained inner control, inner calmness, and greater awareness that I could accomplish what I set out to do. As parents, we need to instill an environment for kids to develop these traits. My parents gave me the freedom to do things, make mistakes, and work independently. I would be scolded if I did things incorrectly, but overall, my parents were very supportive in showing me the right way to do things.
The impact of the above practices led to the gradual development of my NBL abilities. My thought process was fully charged moving towards positive thinking, building strength, eliminating weakness, and negative thinking which leads to laziness. These features gave me the power of intrinsic motivation to accomplish my daily tasks at home and school. In this way, I felt more energy and power to do extra work with high levels of competency due to strengthening my thinking. I started helping old people in my neighborhood to buy groceries, bring medicine from the pharmacy, and even helped in taking them to the nearby hospital for follow-ups. By doing this, my feelings towards suffering people became very strong. This led to the question by my father in 1970: “I wish to have a doctor at our home. Could you fulfill this desire?” My confidence in my abilities and my desire to help people coalesced into a profession that encompassed all of this, so how could the answer be nothing other than a resounding yes? In this way, I believe our actions and the confidence behind them lead us to our ultimate destiny.
PHASE II: Adolescence 12 years to Midlife 50s
- During ages 12-20, I was ready to accept more challenges and developed a love for myself and the people around me to help anyone who is in trouble as a part of life. My passion and my emotions were very strong and ready to do something extraordinary to satisfy my internal happiness.
- During the ages of 20-35, I developed strong courage and enterprise to perform job excellence. I took on more responsibilities and gained more confidence in my NBL abilities. If at this stage, your childhood has not gone perfectly, then make small targets and find ways to accomplish them. It is only by doing that that I was able to learn what I was capable of. And as I did more and fell more, I began to improve and develop confidence. At the end of the day, through the successes and failures, your belief in yourself to accomplish and to do something meaningful should never falter. No matter how small the success, be able to appreciate it as a step along the journey. No matter how great the failure, be able to see it as a learning opportunity3.
- During ages 35-50, I started focusing more and more on clinical and leadership intuition which enhanced my decision-making abilities. Reaching a certain threshold of strength and dominance begins by asserting and playing a prominent role in the organization. My multiple experiences in life helped me build an intuition of how to get things done as efficiently as possible. This phase for me was about taking on more responsibilities and getting a better understanding of what I was capable of.
Phase III: Mature Adulthood Ages 50 onward
In this phase, they need to develop compassion and kindness to be established in their work life and become contributors to the betterment of society through mentorships, and other forms of philanthropy. This has led to great internal satisfaction with my accomplishments. However, it is important to keep learning and remain motivated to continue to improve. We must combat complacency. It is important to seek opportunities to polish themselves and to lead a mark in this world. Place oneself into the shoes of others to understand any kind of human suffering. Have self-confidence, self-motivation, and clarity of vision. Be goal-oriented, honest, and sincere with others. Always be ready to sacrifice for the greater good and not be selfish because of greed and money. Money comes and goes, so it is not a great indicator of success.
What motivates you to write this book?
Currently, there is a widespread lack of confidence in leadership, whether in business, government, education, or elsewhere. Leaders are afraid of failure, and therefore, they cannot perform well. I believe the world is facing a crisis when it comes to leadership; our society needs more positive thinkers. We need the vision of a confident leader, that of an NBL, which is needed for the betterment of the world. This was my main motivation and inspiration for writing this book. My observations and experiences throughout the last 50 years of my life have also served as an inspiration. I remembered my parents provided a foundation for achieving confidence by teaching me to set smaller tasks or targets in my daily life. Having a clear goal in mind is imperative to achieve success. Be free to make decisions by yourself and analyze mistakes. After achieving a target or goal, feel happy and reward yourself. An incident made me realize how unpredictable life can really be. On Sunday, March 6, 2016, at about 6:00 PM, the thirty-six-year-old son of my elder sister was sitting on a carpet at home, working on his laptop. He had no history of any illness when, suddenly, he dropped dead on the carpet. There was nothing—no warning, no signs, and no symptoms. In two to three seconds, he had already departed. Life honestly doesn’t play on anyone’s timetable except its own. And so, I was compelled to start writing this book in December 2016.
How did your childhood experiences shape the person you are today?
I expound my belief that leadership begins in childhood with parental guidance through such methods as storytelling and will increase over the course of one’s life. I believe a NBL should have “an appreciation and understanding of as many perspectives and disciplines as possible.” He or she should recognize and develop intuition, which they shall use in the medical field to interpret nonverbal cues from their patients. A basic store of knowledge builds insightfulness and reinforces intuition, a process that leads to self-confidence. NBLs actually want to lead and will take on that role without being asked. This, in turn, will cause others to look up to the NBL, and that admiration will be enhanced by the leader’s capacity to communicate effectively at any level. I don’t think the NBL needs any particular incentive to fulfill their role: “Power, money, beauty, and health will not lead to happiness on their own.”
Among all the places you have been, which one do you believe retains the most sentimental value in your heart?
I completed my residencies in general surgery, genitourinary surgery, internal medicine, and neurology in 1980–82. Here, well-informed and swift decision-making was vital. I started my medical residency in general surgery, and after three months, I met Professor Dr. Syed Adib Hasan Rizvi, who worked in the urology unit at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, and who is now the founder and chairman of the Sind Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) at the hospital. Dr. Rizvi had offered me a one-year paid residency position in his genitourinary surgery department, assuring me that I would learn much in that short time and gain the self-confidence to manage patients and surgical procedures independently.
Throughout the course of this residency, I learned procedures such as peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis, and urethral dilatation, and how to manage the critical patients under him. Surely, within that short span, the independence he gave me to tend to the urology patients boosted my self-confidence. These two factors in my early career proved to be the stepping-stones of my success in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
What is the best accomplishment you’ve ever achieved that you want to share?
In Recognition of my Outstanding Efforts and Achievements in the field of Medicine and Leadership, I received “Lifetime Achievement in Medicine & Leadership-2022 Doctor & Leader of the Year by Top 100 Registry Inc. Business Leaders & Professionals” in the Magazine named “Top 100 Doctors 2022-Quarter 1” issued in April 2022.
Did you experience failures in your life? If yes, how did you cope with them?
I do not think that I have ever experienced any disaster or failure in my life because, since the age of 12 years old, I was trained by my parents to build confidence and clarity of mind to make good decisions without failure.
What strategies have you been using to keep your optimistic outlook?
My personal thinking of understanding optimism means thinking about positive outcomes as being an equal possibility of negative outcomes. Always have positive thinking to be able to convert a negative outcome into a positive outcome. My personal innovation and strategies led me to advance in my leadership role with strong confidence and also to success. To better understand, I will quote my previous optimistic outlook to save the life of a patient in Saudi Arabia while working as an attending physician. This positive outcome set my strategies for all my daily life events to think positively and achieve 100% outcomes, nothing less than 100%. This mindset enhances my success rate even when no one expects a positive outcome.
Optimism is the state of being where one always considers the most positive outcomes of any situation despite there being room for equally possible negative outcomes. A classic example to illustrate optimism is that of a glass of water. Imagine someone pouring water into a glass to about the halfway mark. Now, when you look at the glass, what do you see? Do you see the glass half full of water or rather half empty? If you look at the glass as half empty, then you are very likely a pessimist—a negative thinker—and likely to think of the worst outcomes of any scenario. On the other hand, if you see the glass as half full, you are more than likely to be considered an optimist—a positive thinker, who considers the best outcomes when confronted with dilemmas. For leaders, while it is important to consider both sides of the coin, it is far more crucial to be optimistic when making decisions.
In the same vein, optimism also entails having a lack of fear of failure and accepting arduous challenges. If a leader is pessimistic, he or she will likely make the incorrect, least optimal decision or make no decision at all. However, a true leader—a natural-born leader—thinks positively, lacks a fear of failure, and hence makes high-risk, high-reward decisions. He or she is ready to accept the consequences of making the wrong decisions and is willing to learn from these mistakes.
As a doctor and a leader, a fighting spirit always gives you good results. In November 1989, I received a call from a nurse who informed me that a patient of mine, a sixty-five-year-old female, suddenly went into cardiac arrest with there being a straight line on the EKG monitor. I was on call at the time and in my apartment, located inside the hospital campus. It was a five to seven-minute walk, but knowing the urgency of the situation, I remember I did a combination of brisk walking and running to get to the patient on time. Generally, after approximately ten minutes of cardiac arrest, patients are at the point of no return; and if they do return, they will be in a vegetative state. Very rarely do patients resuscitated after ten minutes return to their baseline health.
When I arrived, ten to fifteen minutes had already passed with cardiac arrest. I immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation by using a cardiac defibrillator and other supportive treatments. After another ten to fifteen minutes of persistence, some cardiac rhythm returned, and she started breathing through a bag valve mask. At that point, we prepared her for transfer to the ICU. The resident doctor only then arrived during the transfer of the patient to the ICU because he was busy dealing with another emergency case in the ER. During the next thirty minutes, I managed her arrhythmia back to normal sinuses and rhythm by giving antiarrhythmic medication, and she regained consciousness. That meant that the brain was not affected during that prolonged period of cardiac arrest. Later on, I was following up with that patient to see any onset of renal failure. I was surprised to find that both the brain and kidneys were functioning normally. During the monitoring period, the patient was fully conscious, oriented, and did not have any residual symptoms of cardiac arrest.
She was under cardiac arrest for thirty minutes before partial resuscitation. It was always my habit to work for a longer period of time to save the life of a patient as a true fighter. I could have easily given up on the hope of arriving at the hospital ten to fifteen minutes after her cardiac arrest began, knowing patients in her position were at the point of no return. But I persevered and continued to fight. She may have been 99 percent dead, but there was a 1 percent chance that I could save her. I took that chance. To this day, that patient case goes down as one of my most memorable and sentimental ones. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes that I was able to resuscitate her and return her to baseline without any complications.
In your opinion, why is it essential for people to hone their leadership abilities?
As a successful example of what I wish to convey, I use my own life as an illustration of what constitutes leadership in Unlocking the Natural-Born Leader’s Abilities: An Autobiographical Exposé. Carefully presenting an objective picture, I share my own memories to demonstrate the sorts of qualities a natural-born leader (NBL) would have, both innately and from training and experience. My early life was rigorous: My parents were forced to migrate from India to Pakistan a few years before I was born, and six of my eleven siblings died by the age of four. When I was eleven, my home city of Karachi was under air attack. My schooling began at the fifth-grade level after being home-schooled. In my spare time before classes, I helped my mother with housework. And from her, I learned about time and risk management. I excelled in school, seemingly blessed with self-confidence, and with my father’s advice, I decided to pursue a career in medicine. I became a doctor, a profession I felt I was born to pursue. I worked as a pulmonologist in Saudi Arabia before making the bold step of immigrating to the US where I initially had to work at minimum wage jobs until obtaining an MBA for a new career. Throughout my career and personal life, I have successfully overcome negative dynamics, promoted positive outcomes, and won numerous professional awards in the US and internationally.
Can you give us a brief overview of your book?
A fifty-year journey towards becoming a natural-born leader (NBL). This book is my vision of true leadership. Leadership is a habit we cultivate. It throws many challenges our way to rediscover who we are. Today, there is a widespread lack of competence in leadership in a number of organizations. But by accepting the challenges of life, you too can take the steps towards unlocking the NBL in you. My leadership guide presented through an autobiographical foundation delivers a highly readable mixture of motivational manual and medical memoir. While working in time-sensitive, high-risk, & high-pressure situations, I was able to overcome the hurdles that came my way, paving the path toward a successful, self-confident leader. With life lessons and a self-assessment tool included, this motivational blueprint will give you a new perspective on leadership. Learn from my experience: read each word, follow my lead, and do not hesitate to act. Only then can you awaken the NBL within.
I write with confidence, and with a gentle sense of humor. I am able to look at myself as a subject of my story without undue ego, while still extolling the many skills that have gotten me to my place in life. I provide useful charts and diagrams to underpin my points. The book ends with a simple, one-page self-assessment tool that the reader can use for exploring his or her own leadership qualities, including such simple statements as “I am insightful,” and “I have fearlessness in making critical decisions.”
I have walked the walk and now talk the talk, expressing my sincere wish that others might gain from my experience as a natural-born leader. Given the tumultuous path I have walked down, this book has much more to offer than the typical book on leadership, offering a unique and inspiring work of leadership training that can be used in both work and everyday life.
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