“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.” The above quote by Peter Drucker, the Guru of Management sums it up well on the new expectations of leadership. In the new business model, organizations have to utilize and leverage effectively their resources, both internal and external especially in relation to human capital development to achieve increasing customer satisfaction.

With the emphasis on the Asian growth regions of China, India & Indonesia, including Malaysia, new opportunities also bring a new era of cross cultural challenges and opportunities in the environment. There will always be the argument, that should the new Asian growth regions emulate the Americans, Europeans or stick to the traditional Asian concept of leadership based on Confucian values or integrate what is best. The choice is obvious as we have to utilize universally accepted best practices, hence, it would be a fusion of both, better known as global best practices of the East and West.

Malaysia is seeing a lot of changes in this field of human capital development especially being played by the Ministry of Human Resources via HRDF in raising unprecedented skill levels including to SMEs to benchmark against the best.

What constitutes a good leader in this challenging business environment?

Below are some globally accepted traits that leaders must emulate and practiced by some of the key Fortune 500 leaders including GE, Kraft, Boeing, Microsoft and Samsung:


Leveraging and harnessing the creativity of your employees

They generate a corporate climate that encourages rule-breakers, unorthodox thinkers and outside-the-box thinkers. “The best way to create value is to innovate your way ahead of the competition in order to create temporary monopolies where yours in the only show in town. You can do this by harnessing the creative power of your human capital. The goal is to turn them into opportunistic entrepreneurs who are constantly looking for new ways of doing business”, says Paul Sloane, lateral thinker and innovation author.


Individual professional goals that fit to the strategic objectives.

All organizations today have a vision followed by strategic and operational plans. Simply translated, an individual need goals too that will serve as a road map. A leader knows exactly

what he wants. Towards this direction nothing happens until a goal is established whether written or conceptualized. When the goal has been established all the energies, efforts and thinking can be directed towards this poignant aim. This was evident when Robert Kuok turned his simple business to one of the most significant contributions in the early industrialization of China. He could not have done it alone but worked in partnership and also motivated his staff on the alignment of professional goals to that of the company.

Likewise how corporate leader Tony Fernandez turned Air Asia into a household name in the aviation industry. It was a feat that no Malaysian may come close to in a short space of time.


Preparation and Urgency in Planning.


A good manager knows that to win they have to plan ahead where preparation is the essence. The battle is half won with a concrete plan. Many Malaysians are not aware that one of the reasons for Lewis Hamilton (F1) and Lee Chong Wei’s sensational success (despite his age) is the work rate seen during training. Chong Wei, just like the Korean and Japanese sportsmen trains so hard physically and mentally that his preparations gives him the cutting edge over his competitors. The manner Chong Wei beat Lin Dan in the 2016 Olympics Semi Finals, which had the hold nation in tandem unity and celebrations, echoes this work rate factor. An effective individual will always have the burning urgency to achieve and meet or exceed their expectations and this can only be realized by detailed preparations involving their people – their greatest assets.


Personal development and learning.

To grow, a leader needs to change in accepting new environments, concepts, competencies and knowledge. He/she needs to understand his strengths and weaknesses and development needs in order to put himself ahead of the game and capture a bigger slice of the growing business opportunities. Reading, networking and application of current know-how is vital. Linking, reading, attending courses, listening to management tapes are some of the avenues that they will pursue. They have mentors. A leader will need to review his attitude and remove any “baggage” that he carries. Knowledge is dynamic and changing rapidly. Conceived ideas of the past are no more acceptable.

Taking risks.

The best companies allow some risk taking as executives know it has to take some newer unthreaded paths. GE practices this, so does Siemens. What made the Samsung phone ahead of its business rivals? What failed the plans of Kodak and Nokia is known to all. It can be in the form of not going to new markets, unwillingness to riskier product development, approaching new forms of training and the adverse effect of not utilizing diversity and cross functional teams. “Walking and going after the extra mile” is absolutely indispensable to ensure the processes and mechanism of the business is in place to compete with the best. For example for an R & D director this entails doing market intelligence on your competitors to understand where are they heading? To analyze and review his competitor’s progress and “best practices”, are vital.  For a CEO it means taking time off to spend on the strategic issues of the company instead of just embarking on daily operational issues. This requires shrewd planning and attending to strategic issues that include risk taking.


Networking and Building relationships

No business, just like Governments can survive in this brutal business world without networking. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The need to form partnerships with your stakeholders requires good networking skills. Today’s business environment requires adequate people skills with good relationship with your direct and indirect stakeholders. Being politically savvy, practicality and a “good presence of mind” to reach out to the masses in good or turbulent times are vital. Jack Ma, the rich Chinese industrialist epitomes this trait well.

This requires industrial and business acumen with some psychology especially emotional intelligence (EQ) to develop and sustain relationships.


Integrity and Values.

Integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your consciousness. Remember that your mind and body are permanently integrated. If your actions contradict your convictions you are on a path to self-disintegration, i.e. self-destruction

Integrity today is a major issue affecting third world economies, banks and their businesses. Integrity is a firm belief in ethical management with a business model that believes in sustainability with regards to accepted practices including to the stakeholders such as the customer, moral uprightness, local population and the environment.

It is honesty and a firm adherence to a code of ethical and moral values. In simple basic terms it is doing the right thing when you don’t have to.

Big successful firms like Public Bank are strong advocates of this standard and expect it to be of second nature to all their employees. No wonder Public Bank is among the most solid and valued companies in Malaysia. Integrity leads and lasts!!


Entrepreneurial Leadership

In the increasingly turbulent and competitive environment business firms face today, a new type of “entrepreneurial” leader distinct from other behavioral forms of managerial leadership is required. Entrepreneurial leadership is leadership that is based on the attitude that the leader is self-employed. Leaders of this type take initiative and act as if they are playing a critical role in the organization rather than a mostly important one and energize their people,

They demonstrate entrepreneurial creativity, search continuously for new opportunities and pursue them; they learn from these failures and use them as a stepping stone to ultimate success and strategic achievement.


Change Management

The business world is evolving so fast with the new era of rapid changes and knowledge-based enterprises. Hence, managerial work becomes increasingly a leadership task. Successful leadership is the core force behind successful change. Leaders empower employees to act on the vision. They execute through inspiration, role modeling and develop implementation capacity networks through a complex web of aligned relationships.

Change is a continued process and reviewing of existing concepts and mechanisms. The change leader takes responsibility to assist the organization in creating such conditions so that, instead of being controlled, the organization generates its own order and responds creatively to the environment. This role is not only more productive for the organization, it is liberating for the leader as well. Hence, leaders are executing change directly and indirectly.


By Harban Singh

MIHRM Senior Consultant/Trainer