Leaders: Made or Born?

Upward mobility in an organisation creates the next generation of leaders.

“A leader has to share his dreams with his managers. The managers should lead and teach the skills to others in the departments, but the leader will lead the company by selling them his dream.”– Dato Tony Looi

A Greek historian, Polybius once quoted,” A good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible”. Arthur Tan, founder of WeStyleAsia brainstormed that a few leaders in their own industries gather resourceful information regarding leadership, education levels, experiences, strategies and support from family and co-workers.

Seah Kian Hoe, founder of Heng Hiap Industries, said he believes firstly in gaining knowledge and respect from society through education. In his own terms, he refused a ‘recycled’ mentality. An engineering professor during his varsity years opened his mindset to have an in-depth-view of nature, in relation to engineering.

David Heng, co-founder of Global Leadership Dynamics Asia credited his mother who hailed from China as his mentor. Valuable life lessons included teaching others well and always learning to give back to others.

Dato’ Tony Looi, group chairman of Ban Him Group of Companies, owes his father on mentorship. Although his father was a school dropout, his hard work and experience in life through difficult times has shaped him to execute and implement wisdom in his business.

The success that Loi Tuan Ee, founder of Holstein Milk Company and Farm Fresh, has reaped over the years is owed predominantly to his mother, as she has been an instrumental and pivotal entity in shaping his mindset to make sound judgements in life and business too. He also looks up to the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew as his mentor as he has a set of strong conditions practised in life to counter challenges during his governing days.

Leaders today have a cohesive say and way in their organisations, in achieving their goals and being impactful in forward thinking. Tony agreed and said “A leader has to share his dreams with his managers. The managers should lead and teach the skills to others in the departments, but the leader will lead the company by selling them his dream.”

“A leader is able to create more successful leaders. The same in business too, to create more successful businessmen,” said David. Upward mobility in an organisation will inherently create the next generation of leaders. The core values reiterated here lead to working in silence and creating the noise of success.

“As for me, grooming leaders means to give space. A different champion will be given a different space to test their resourcefulness. There are two types of people in the workplace. One are good followers who live by the rules, the other are growers. They operate in creative and resourceful modes. Once they have grown, we lead them further,”.

Seah relates to Commerce International Merchant Bankers (CIMB) group chairman Nazir Razak on how he sold the dream and got others committed to that dream, when over the time it becomes a shared dream through powerful leadership to make the banking services regionally. Loi mentions that a good leader is to know the challenges of their company. It is a learning curve by defining the core values of the company. The core values are derived from a quality marketing team, interactive with the clients and methodical communication to achieve the objective of a certain organisation.

Arthur added on that generation-Y (gen-Y) are less conventional in terms of work ethics and lifestyles. Even on business platforms, gen-Y’s working mode are digitalised. The core values which drive the team towards achieving the vision and mission of companies depends on how the factors are being communicated.

Tony reiterated that all businessmen want to make more money. He feels that companies need to sell love to their teams too. A fun platform and good working environment must be created with a different dimension in mind for the employees. The same applies when customers would be happiest when the desired product sold is exactly as wanted or more than expected. “To sustain a workable culture is not an easy feat, but politics are a sure killer in any organisation,” he affirms.

To set a healthy working culture inherently leads to alignments with the vision and mission. Loi said the agriculture industry is a non-glamorous field for gen-Y and failed to attract them, despite that over the years, students from agricultural studies have been more receptive and adaptive.

“When it comes to vision, a new lens should be handed to the employees to look at a different angle. Core values should be consistent with the company’s direction,” shared Seah.

David said at the end of the day, the matter is to earn a living and to foster good relationships between employees and employers. It also involves day time used productively and timely to meet the vision and mission of the company.

The baby boomers used to complain on the easy-going attitude of gen-Y’s, despite being gifted in many ways. “But when you were at their age, didn’t you have the same thoughts and issues that they faced in their climb to success? They realised that the issues faced were the ones they faced in their younger days,” said David.

Deriving from different insights, Arthur affirms that the leaders carry a heavy responsibility on their shoulders to reach to the height of success they have earned today. But teamwork and surmountable sacrifices are the points to determine the end results of any organisation, as the saying says – “diamonds are created under pressure.”