We had the good fortune of connecting with Abrar Ansari and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abrar, what do you want your legacy to be?
Our relentless focus on individualism and self-promotion has skewed our sense of purpose and has made us lose our sense of balance. As a result, we reward the preservation of self by promoting our own wellbeing at the expense of others and the environment.
I have realized over the years that it is the character of an individual that shapes the value system of their circle of influence; be it a principle of a school, a parent in a household, a politician who represents their constituents, a CEO of any organization and so forth. When people that lead us embody individualism and amplify self interest, the norms and the commitments that are perpetuated are void of compassion and respect of dignity for others. As a result we see the rise in polarization of ideas, extreme inequity, resource mismanagement, corruption, waste and pollution, destruction of ecosystems, and the loss of trust and respect of each other.
To truly transform the desert into an oasis, water is needed. Just having the wind blow around and shape the dunes, doesn’t cut it. Because the essence of the dune, in spite been reshaped by the wind, still remains the same, sand. What water is to desert, intent is to character. I believe it is only through sincere self-reflection that we are able to recalibrate our own psyche, to attain the right wisdom, courage, and temperance to deal with some fundamental challenges of life, of individuals or groups, including organizations, big and small.
My lifelong intent, from the time I gained this level of consciousness, back in my college days, was a search to bring this level of awareness to everyone I came across. I found what I was looking for, was in my own backyard, so to say. I reconnected with my roots in Sufi mysticism, through a great 11th century jurist, theologian, philosopher, and mystic, Al-Ghazali. What Rumi is to poetry, Ghazali is to the human psyche.
The legacy that I’d like to leave behind is of the one who creates a working system, incorporating systems approach with Ghazali’s teachings, to facilitate that conversion from wind to water, for anyone who wants to be a more conscientious leader.
In my book Management by Intent (MBI) the Five Principles, I provide one such framework – where life is safeguarded, dignity is preserved, reason is upheld and nurtured, wealth is protected, and decisions are evaluated based on their effect on future generations.
I strongly believe that until these five critical preservation principles (Life, Dignity, Reason, Wealth, and the Future) are firmly embedded in our daily decision-making, we will not see our leaders work for public interest promoting the greater good of our society.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have spent close to 30 years piecing together my MBI framework for personal and/or business transformation. Every success, every failure has shaped my thought process and molded my path forwarded. Writing a book, to share my journey with people was my only option to tell that story. I invite you to read my book to experience my journey (www.managementbyintent.com). This is how I intend to write my story and brand my ideas.
In my experience, it is the trigger events, such as major life disruptions, excessive risk taking, or external circumstances like a pandemic, that push us into a reactive mode where the symptoms get the attention, and not the root causes of the problem. Root causes, intent in this case, are deeper issues concerning our values, principles, and cultural norms, as opposed to symptoms that are behavior or practices. The deeper the analysis, the more profound the understanding of the “why” and the more long lasting the transformation becomes.
My approach to helping my clients transform, stems from the five preservation principles: preservation of Life, Dignity, Reason, Wealth and the Future. If these principles are applied justly throughout a decision-making process, they have the potential to become a driving force in refocusing the mindset from selfish self-centered pursuits to happiness into a broader and more balanced endeavor for the greater good; one dedicated to the cause of preventing harm and promoting good in society. Integrating these principles, therefore, provides individuals and/or organizations a more balanced and just playbook for working through the immense challenges we face today.
As I have faced obstacles and challenges in my life, I have found the following questions helpful in allowing me to make balanced decisions:
1) Is what I’m doing or about to do, endangers the lives of others around me?
2) How do I preserve and protect the dignity of people I interact with daily?
3) Are my everyday decisions based on sound reason and rationality, not drive my mere emotions?
4) Am I managing my wealth equitably? (i.e. do I invest it in ways that not only help me and my family but others in society who are less fortunate and needy).
5) What measures am I taking to safeguard and preserve the future for all generations to come?
Throwing challenges and obstacles our way, is nature’s way of helping us course correct our intentions. In my ‘Management by Intent’ (MBI) engagements with clients, my focus, therefore, is on intent. Clarifying our intentions brings clarity of purpose. In other words, if one can understand where the deeply seeded intentions germinate from, and why, we tend to overcome the challenge we are faced with. Asking the why questions open the possibility of re-evaluating deep-rooted norms, giving us the chance to realign our intentions. It is unfortunate that only in the aftermath of a dire incident or an accident do we tend to question our motives. Yet meaningful change need not come only from the outside. It can and often does happen when one has the foresight to self-analyze, the courage to identify the missteps, and the wisdom to navigate the internal biases to see others’ point of view beyond their own self interests.
The fact that we are losing heavily on mission critical issues such as environmental stewardship and climate change, social equity and justice, and income and wealth parity, disturbs me. It always has and will probably always be, till I die. Cause I can’t change the world single handedly. But I can leave a ripple in the pond. And if enough like minded people join the cause, it just may become the tsunami we need to course-correct.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When I first met my wife, and she came to visit me from Toronto Canada, I meticulously put together an itinerary leveraging the finest that the Washington DC metro area had to offer. In the end, it was not just me, it was also what the area had to offer her, that made her move to where I was.
The greater Washington DC metro area, offers people a very diversified recreational and learning experience. Whether you are a history buff, an art enthusiast or a nature lover, political junkie or a foody, DC and its surrounding areas offer something for everyone. From monuments, memorials and museums, to theater and performing arts. From hiking and biking trails, to touring some of the most prestigious institutes of our nation’s democracy, like the White House, The US Capitol, Library of Congress, National Archives, etc. With easy access to metro, connecting Northern Virginia and Maryland to DC, visitors have multiple options and choices to access all these attractions.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to all those who coach and mentor others in safeguarding Life, preserving Dignity, upholding Reason, justly distributing Wealth and protecting the Future of our younger generations by protecting the environment. People who shape intellects, mold characters, and uplift our spirits; stewards of knowledge who selflessly impart their wisdom to all who seek it, without judgement or agenda. These are the people who have made me who I am today. Without them as guideposts and beacons, I would not have been where I am today.
But if I had to pick the one individual to dedicate this shoutout to, that would be Al-Ghazali. As I mentioned earlier, Al-Ghazali, an 11th century Sufi mystic who lived a millennium ago, has profoundly shaped the MBI models I work with to facilitate the adoption of sustainable practices at organizations. In his book, Alchemy of Happiness, Al-Ghazali identified three systems that make up the human psyche: emotional, behavioral, and cognitive. According to him, if the human psyche is balanced, the intellect is endowed with the ability to think critically; self-analyze; and reason. Collectively, these three abilities form our moral compass, influencing our thought process (intentions) and the resulting behaviors (actions) to induce a sense of justice within us.
It is the sense of justice of an organizational leader that brings deeper purpose to the organization, inspires and elevates people, upholds moral values, and actively engages in questions of right and wrong. That, in turn, defines the organizational culture: the values and principles, beliefs and practices, rules of engagement, and the resulting strategic imperatives. The knowledge of self is, therefore, a critical first step in calibrating our compass to point to the two MBI proverbial poles: doing no harm and promoting good.