“Mentoring Has Been a Rewarding and Enriching Journey”

Former Diplomat Attiya Mahmood, from Pakistan, says that we witness the shrinking of the world in the palm of a hand literally, and that presents challenges for all governments, except the very naive ones who think that the world begins and ends within their own borders.

Q: What part of the world you live in and what is the thing you most love about it—and the thing that you would correct if you could?

A: I live in Pakistan, which is situated in the region known as South Asia and the developing world, where much has to be achieved yet to reach the standard of living of the developed world. While the colour, chaos and confusion keep the adrenal going, it also provides with an opportunity to make a difference - albeit on a minuscule level.  I, however, enjoy living in this area of the world simply because of this reason.

The one thing I would like to correct would be to inculcate civic sense and ethics of sustainability amongst the people.

Q: How did you learn to embrace risk taking?

A: The way I learned how to take risks was by taking the risks and not becoming inactive due to the hazards of risk-taking. I have always held that Risk is an integral part of decision making at any and all levels: personal, public or official.  But risk-taking becomes easier if one looks at the worst-case scenario and then adjusts the risk element to the minimum. Finally, after having done one’s homework, the final step relates to having a strong belief system which acts as an anchor and helps in taking that jump into the void known as risk.

Q: Which leadership skills were the most difficult to develop?

A: In my career, I learned that listening is a difficult quality to inculcate, but once done, it is a big skill which helps tremendously. A good boss will listen more and speak less, allowing for venting to take place and decision making to become a tad easier. Creating a balance in dealing with two sets of the equation, the above and below; the left and the right; is also critical for being a good leader - one who is trusted and looked up to. 

Q: Can you tell us about a time when you had a difficult boss? How did you handle the situation?

A: There was a time when I encountered an overzealous and highly charged boss who would keep all the staff working for me, at tenterhooks literally 24/7.  I had to go and confront him one day when an officer came to me in tears. The only way, I thought, of handling him was to be very direct in my approach and take responsibility. I laid down the lines with him and told him to confront me instead of the junior officers in the future as I was responsible for what was happening in the division and not the junior officers. I learnt that in senior positions, it is important to square off wherever required and not to mince words especially if you know that you are right. Taking responsibility for the actions of your colleagues and defending their right decisions inculcates a great sense of camaraderie and confidence.             

"Local and national issues gain traction only if attached to internationally experienced solutions"

Attiya Mahmood Former Diplomat & Ambassador of Pakistan

Q: What have you gained from your Mentoring Journey?

A: Mentoring was part of my professional life when one had to, occasionally, counsel and guide junior colleagues. Mentoring at GTF however, came to me post-retirement, and the novelty here was dealing with different nationalities belonging to different backgrounds. The emphasis has been to guide them on a “middle path”, balancing as they go amongst the myriad of choices and decisions they will have to take in life. I felt that nationality had no role in determining the ideals of the mentees. The issues they discussed with me related to aspirations of each one of them for their professional lives and choices to be made towards the pursuit of their goals. My own learning curve was getting to know the fierce competitiveness of present day job markets and the ambitions of today’s youth who have so much choice and opportunities before them. The pressure and angst that the youth of today feels are daunting and stressful as well. A part of mentoring has also entailed toning down their ambitions to doable targets rather than dissipating their energies in multiple directions. It has been a rewarding, enriching, learning and satisfying journey for me, where I learned to appreciate differences in opinions and choices and the way in which each mentee dealt with the challenges with their own peculiarities of character.  

Q: What is the one thing that impressed you in your mentee?

A: I have had three mentees so far and I was impressed by their motivation to succeed, to learn, and to achieve the best in their respective professions. They were focused and articulate, and all were kind of global citizens, who knew the ropes of the international system and how it works--- quite like any other hierarchy!

Q: Do you think that the concept of “global thinking” is important?

A: Most certainly it is. We see the shrinking of the world in the palm of a hand literally, and that presents challenges for all governments, except the very naive ones who think that the world begins and ends within their own borders. The cyber-world is present everywhere and the youth are hooked on to it. The alacrity with which information travels and affects minds, opinions and decisions precludes us from not taking global thinking seriously. Ideas are shared and discussed within seconds and global issues become national issues as well and vice versa. Local and national issues also gain traction only if attached to internationally experienced solutions. Climate Change is a big example of the concept of global thinking as is the volatility of the financial markets.

Q: What is your Motto in life?

A: I have lived by two Mottos in my life, one has been to “Live and Let Live”, and the other is not to be judgmental. 

Local and national issues also gain traction only if attached to internationally experienced solutions. Emulating good practices is a buzz word.           

Attiya Mahmood

Former Diplomat & Ambassador of Pakistan

Attiya Mahmood has served as a member of the Pakistan Foreign Service for over 35 years. Was appointed as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Republic of Indonesia. Besides serving in Canada, Turkey, the Philippines, and the UK.

Academic Qualifications: 

Masters in Journalism from Punjab University, Lahore. Also qualified from various in-service training institutes. 

Current Interests: 

  • Member of the Executive Committee of the All Pakistan Music Conference Karachi, since 2014.www.apmckhi.org
  • Non Executive Board Member and Mentor in the Global Thinkers Forum London, since 2016. www.globalthinkersforum.org
  • Advisor and reader on “The Joy of Urdu” platform since 2017. www.joyofurdu.com
  • Voluntary member of an advocacy group “Kasur Hamara Hai” (KHH) constituted in 2018 following the heinous murder of young Zainab in Kasur and working for legislation on creating a Missing Child Alert System. https://m.facebook.com
  • Member of English Speaking Union
  • Certified Director from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan.

Published: 26/11/2019