Why I’m Leaving Al Qaeda, by Ayman al-Zawahiri
GREG Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Others soon to pen their resignation letters from organisations bent on world domination and a win-at-all-costs mentality:
Rupert Murdoch from News Corp
Ayman_al-Zawahiri from al-Qaeda
Samir Nasri from Manchester City
Tony Blair from Heaven
Phil Mitchell from The Arches
Today is my last day at Al Qaeda. After almost 21 (!) years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at the Muslim Brotherhood, then in Bosnia for 3 years, and now in Melton Mowbray — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Al Qaeda’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients in Iran, Afghanistan and Leeds. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for years. It wasn’t just about murdering; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2000 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 19 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about al Qaeda, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer and HR director lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Al-Qada-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to al Qaeda. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque terror groups with a three-letter acronym.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making death will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
(Replace Al Qaeda with Goldman’s and you get Greg Smith’s letter)…