People with gifted leadership skills show early signs of their exceptional charisma. In fact, leadership, like talent, may be an innate quality that some folks are born with, a divine gift.
Of course, anybody could learn leadership skills, but a few men and women walk among us who take to leadership with such ease that we could only conclude that they are of a special breed, empowered with a divine gift for leading society.
Such a leadership gift resides in the heart of Ashmeed Khan.
Khan stood out in high school, when the teachers and Principal chose him to be the Head Prefect of the school. His leadership quality showed up at a young age, and he never looked back.
Born and educated in Guyana, Khan migrated to Canada 16 years ago, and adopted Ajax, Ontario as his beloved home. Now, he’s a household name in the town, commanding deep respect among politicians, business owners, community activists, and residents.
Yet, he’s the humblest person one could encounter. Modest, self-effacing, with a ready smile and an infectious enthusiasm, he exudes great energy as extrovert, inflencer, and connector in Ajax.
The Millionaire Mindset interviewed Khan for this feature story at the G Center in Ajax, and the interview became a conversation of how Ajax functions, why networking is crucial to business success, and how Khan – in a short 16 years as resident of Ajax – became a powerful household name in the town. Brushing off any reference to his immense popularity, he instead insisted that we write of the marginalized youth who show up in the community, but find a hard time getting by.
Khan throws weight behind his words: he hires marginalized young men at his print shop, and mentors them to launch their own business venture. He genuinely cares about his hometown, with little interest in his country of origin – so immersed is he in his love for Ajax.
Khan could easily hold the title Mr Ajax. And he’s the quintessential Canadian.
He serves as Director of the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade, networks with the Mayor and Town Council of Ajax, and with organizations and charities of all stripes.
And he’s a man of immense style, known for his immaculate dressing, and fine grooming. Such excellence spills over into the car he drives, a black Mercedes sports model.
Khan operates a franchise print shop in Pickering, a short distance away from his home in Ajax. But his energy reaches far beyond that role, for the entire town knows him. He sets out to connect, share, give back. He’s not a business owner who just sits at his desk to manage a business. Instead, he goes the extra mile, out on the streets, engaging society as a model corporate citizen.
In this recent Municipal election, he threw his hat into the race to be Councillor for the Town of Ajax, and spent the last month knocking on doors, meeting Ajax residents in person, as he asked them to vote him into office to make a difference for the future of the community. His heart for the community is big, magnanimous, on a servant-leader’s mission.
How did Khan become such a dynamic force in Ajax?
“When I migrated to Canada, I launched my print business because it’s what I’ve done most of my adult life. In Guyana, I owned a print shop, and I saw I could do the same here. But getting jobs at first was difficult. I started knocking on doors across the town, soliciting printing jobs. It was tough work. For every 20 doors I knocked on, I got request for quote from one. And an even fewer number actually gave me a job. But I kept at it, even using up my savings to keep things going. But I persisted, and eventually it all paid off, and my printing business became a success story,” Khan said.
Over time, Khan kept building personal relationships, and eventually everybody got to know him. He’s now the go-to name in Ajax, a networker of extraordinary popularity, a connector, and his client rolodex includes 3,000 print clients. He became a Director on the Board of Trade, and set up a Diversity Committee within the Board, which resulted in diversity among the membership.
In fact, Ajax is now the most diverse community in all of Canada.
Khan loves the diversity of his town. But he’s a leader, and reaches for ever-higher ideals. So he’s developed a new vision, to connect new residents in Ajax to the multitudes of programs and services available to newcomers and business owners in the town. “I want to help people know the tools that are available, which they could use to develop. I want to be the gateway guy,” Khan said.
Khan embodies the classic role model image of the ideal corporate citizen. He lives with strong family values, and never indulges in vices such as alcohol. He lives according to Muslim values, giving back to society through charity and other causes.
Khan married his childhood sweetheart in 1995, in Guyana, and they have five children, two now in college.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote about leaders like Khan in that famous book, The Tipping Point. Khan demonstrates all the signs of a Connector, as Gladwell defined the term – a leader who could, purely through word of mouth, generate action, influence and connections. Gladwell defined such gifted souls as people, “with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances”.
Such leaders fascinate us. In fact, Forbes magazine featured an author, Judy Robinett, who wrote a book titled How To Be A Power Connector. Forbes quoted the author saying: “A power connector is someone who can make things happen quickly for themselves and others. They are often the go-to person. Their network is rich and robust with critical resources – money, information, connections, opportunities – that, when accessed, can help others achieve their personal and professional dreams.”
For anybody in Ajax, that’s the power and humble service that Khan could be the gateway for, and with his heart of service and love for Ajax, his leadership is already making a great impact on his community.