Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the legend

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GHAZI Abdulrahman Al-Gosaibi, the legendary former minister, poet, diplomat and administrator, is a name that will forever be engraved in the minds of people. In my opinion, such an astute minister and a diligent person comes once in a lifetime and blessed are those who knew him and those who learned from him. The later generations can only benefit from his experiences and examples, but Al-Gosaibi has done one better by getting his ideas penned into a book that is full of nuggets that one can choose and learn from. People must read his autobiography to understand him as a person, as a diplomat and as an administrator for it is full of positivity and a guideline to anyone who wants to start a career in life.

Recently, the Ministry of Education decided to include Al-Gosaibi’s book “A lifetime in Administration” in the high school students’ curriculum and I believe that it is one of the best moves by the ministry. For the book is sure to hone the minds of the young, just ready to learn and benefit from legendary person’s administrative skills. I’m a great admirer of Al-Gosaibi, who led four ministries — industry, labor, water and electricity and finally health — as minister, and I’m sure students, who once take interest in reading this book, would fall in love with it and use the many experiences as the dos and don’ts as they chart a successful life of their own.

I have read the book “A lifetime in Administration” three times, and have only gained with every reading. The book, apart from a good read, is one of the best gifts one can give a person, who is stepping into the cusp of taking over their own reins in life. I have given this book as a gift to many of my friends and their sons on different occasions. I cannot count the number of times that I have suggested to people to buy or read this book, while stressing the great impact it had on me and, knowing very well that it will positively affect people who read it.

The beauty of the book is its language, which is very simple. This ensures that those who read it grasp it quickly — with the hard facts and reality along with cold logic searing the minds and the sensitivity of the actions endearing to the hearts. The book is full of experiences and it is the conclusion of his life as an administrator and as a diplomat that emotes with readers. The personal benefit our students will gain from reading this autobiography is sure to be immense, for they will definitely find something that they will relate to and identify with.

His lifetime in administration and the huge amount of experience he gained, qualified him and his life to be written down in books such that it could be a beacon of knowledge to future generations. In addition, the book is most sought after as many academicians and researchers have based some of their own ideas, articles and research from it.

The book talks about his life as a young child and then takes the reader through his early years at King Saud University, then his administration life at the four ministries before painting his life as a diplomat —ambassador in both Bahrain and UK. Throughout his administrative life, the main enemy he fought was one thing and one thing only — bureaucracy. This is what we need to do the most in order to be efficient.

I wish that the book is given to anyone who holds a managerial position and ask them to closely follow the guidelines Al-Gosaibi penned down in streamlining work, getting over obstacles, overcoming challenges and most importantly, the willingness to make a difference and make the lives of people they manage easy.

One of the funny stories mentioned in the book is a real twister with a homily for people could learn from it. The book relates how Al-Gosaibi, who avoided lunch and dinner invitations from businessmen —since it was a waste of time in his opinion — put down a persistent businessman, who was constantly inviting him to dinner and Al-Gosaibi repeatedly kept gently declining. After a host of invitations, Al-Gosaibi straight away asked him why the sudden spate of dinner invitations, ‘is it because I’ve become a minister?

In the past before I became a minister, you never invited me,’ Al-Gosaibi asked. The businessman then openly told him that it was because of the chair (position) he was sitting on. Al-Gosaibi thanked him for his honesty, stood up and gave him the chair saying that his chair accepts the invitation and make sure you feed the chair very well.

Another story, when he was in charge of the railway, shows Al Gosaibi’s strong persona. The first decision he took was to ride the train from Riyadh to Dammam, a decision that he saw as normal since he wanted to get familiar with the services provided, but shocking to his associates many rail officials who tried to dissuade him from riding the train, claiming that it was an exhausting and long trip.

He found it extremely strange that a department that is providing services to people is trying to protect its head from it. Then he discovered that this was the bureaucratic norm prevailing all over, where a head of a health affairs department refused to let his family receive treatment in one of his own health centers, and an education official does not trust the education system he’s managing and sends his children to study abroad and so on.

In this trip, he got up close and personal with the passengers and listened to them. Some of them never thought a railway official would ever ride the train, let along the person in charge. Al-Gosaibi tasted the food offered to passengers and saw how dusty it was inside the train. In short, he learned so much from one trip that he would never learn from reading 1,000 reports. This is what our current managers need to learn.

The two examples I cited above are just a glimpse of what is written in this book. There are beautiful one-liners that are full of wisdom and I would like to share some of it here. In his book he said, “Nothing that can destroy administrational talents more than friends turning into workmates.” — “Accept blackmailing once and you will accept it forever.” — “I urge all managers not to surrender to resignation threat. You should tell anyone who wants to resign that the door is open.” — “I find it strange when someone complains that his friends deserted him after he resigned from his position. True friends do not come with positions and do not leave after the person resigns from it.” — “A student’s failure means it’s my failure in teaching the subject before it is his failure in understanding it.”

For more of these nuggets just read the book.

The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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