[By Charmaine Au]
Everyone has been a leader at some point in life. Be it heading an organising committee of an event or simply being the leader of group assignments or even being your very own leader. A leader’s core responsibility, that is to guide and motivate the members to achieve a common goal, is regardless of the scale of the project or number of subordinates in a committee.
Taylor’s University through its Life Skills Development with the support of the SHINE Award Centre organised the 2nd iLead Conference on the 3rd of October 2015. This event follows the tremendous success of the 1st iLead Conference held in June and as per its theme, aims to ‘initiate future leaders’ among students. Below is my take on the speeches made by the three distinguished speakers:
For those who are not TV junkies, Mr Jonathan is the Season 1 winner of the hit reality TV show The Apprentice Asia. In his speech, he spoke in detail of his gruelling experience during the filming of the season and dished out gold nuggets of advice to us. He told us how much he prepared for the show to the extent that he brought along his steam iron to avoid ‘competing’ with his fellow participants over the only iron there. He was the only one who showed up in crease-free clothes for production the next day.
Mr Jonathan who has watched all 150 episodes of The Apprentice thought he was well-prepared until he met his potential employer Mr Tony Fernandes, the host of The Apprentice Asia. Apparently the business tycoon was not very well known in the Philippines. Mr Jonathan took proactive measures by watching all of Tony Fernandes’ interviews and concluded that the group CEO of Air Asia was only interested in leadership and accountability. He then went on to impress his potential employer by displaying these qualities during his time in the boardroom.
According to Mr Jonathan, grit is the secret to success. He describes ‘grit’ as living life as a marathon and not a sprint. He also exhibited his passion for cooking by tossing a French culinary phrase into the picture –mice en place, which means to set in place. What it literally means is to have all your ingredients prepared before cooking. Likewise even if some of us are not aspiring chefs, we should always prepare for even the smallest things in life. Quoting the Roman philosopher Seneca, Mr Jonathan said: “Success is when preparation meets opportunity”. Preparation being a predictable aspect while opportunity being the unpredictable aspect. His session opened my eyes to deeper insights on how one should develop and nurture personal leadership. I believe discipline is crucial in reaching our goals. We become more determined to achieve something.
*Mr Jonathan’s book, From Grit to Great, tells of his life journey to winning The Apprentice Asia.
Mr Nazrin is the CEO of Cradle Fund Sdn. Bhd. (Cradle), an organisation that manages the Cradle Investment Programme (CIP) and provider of early stage funding for technology start-ups. During his session, Mr Nazrin described in detail his journey from uncovering his entrepreneurial flair to seeking funds for his idea (which later evolved into Cradle) and finally, his bittersweet memories while being with Cradle, which he referred to as his ‘baby’.
When he first won third place in the first nationwide business plan competition for high technology ventures, Mr Nazrin was expecting to obtain funding to turn his idea into a reality. Unfortunately, he must have made Lady Luck upset for he did not receive even a single cent. Mr Nazrin then visited Putrajaya many times to try to convince the authorities that his proposal was of substantial value. Finally, after what seemed like forever, a ministry official took pity on him and allowed him to lobby his idea in front of the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad along with other participants who were much older and more experienced than he was.
The outcome was successful as RM 100 million was given by the Malaysian Government to fund this project. During his time with Cradle, Mr Nazrin was fundamental to its growth and success. Everything was smooth sailing until a proposal came in to convert the funding for technology entrepreneurs into loans. Mr Nazrin vehemently objected to the idea as he knew that this would bring about the downfall of Cradle and even threatened to resign should the plan go through.
The plan got the approval and with a heavy heart, Mr Nazrin parted ways with his brainchild. Just as he predicted, the good name of Cradle was tarnished and its growth came to a rumbling halt. Left with no choice, the higher authority of Cradle asked for Mr Nazrin’s return as he was the only one who could salvage the situation. After much hard work, the image of Cradle was restored and things went back to being smooth.
The key points delivered in this session made me reflect on my past experiences of being a leader and how different it would have been if I could turn back time. You know you are in the lead when you see there is no one in front of you. In this perspective, you have to grasp the opportunity and cannot afford to waste time. Mr Nazrin also taught us to put aside our egos in order to learn effectively by trusting the judgements of more experienced people.
In imparting the knowledge of leading others, he told us to start by keeping small promises if our team is highly demotivated. A leader must also be the constant positive energy when the team is down. Although people say learning is best ‘hands on’, I would say that in some situations, learning from the experiences of others is just as effective.
Mr Andrew is the founder of Content Design Experience (CODEX), a recently established leadership training company. Being the energetic person he is, his infectious vibes washed all over us in the room as he taught us all about ‘change’. From what ‘change’ is and is not, to telling us about sustainable change before rounding up the session with the three elements namely cause, leadership and passion.
A leader has to make changes at times, possibly fuelled by a heart of dissatisfaction with the current system or desire to revamp it to make it into something better. However, what drives the success of a change is the action taken, by stepping up to the plate and not volunteer someone else to execute your plans.
People are most likely to be drawn to a cause they believe in and not to the leaders. A cause capable of uniting people usually sees people who are willing to sacrifice for something perceived by them as the greater good. Members of an organisation who are devoted to its cause are the key drivers to its success because they are willing to go out of their way to see it accomplished. Of course, once a leader has started a cause, there is no backing out. To be an example to your team, you have to believe in your cause in order to have your team remain with you along the way.
A leader must be one who is able to influence others and is result-oriented. Consistency is key to an admirable leadership. To be on the right track, one must first find out the area in which he has influence in. People often judge based on the execution of a project and not the intricate planning of it.
One would know he has a fantastic team when the members stay on because of their passion. Passion is a guaranteed long-term fuel to keep someone going even if there are times when all is not well. As Marc Anthony once said: “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. If you have people with this trait in your team, rest assured that they are worth investing in.
The 2nd iLead Conference has met and went beyond my expectations. To me, the clear take home message is the three elements of cause, leadership and passion. I believe from my own experience, team members who are not passionate about the cause they are working for are more often than not throwing a spanner in the works. But an excellent leader capable of encouraging the team all the way is just as important to the success of the team.
*Photo credits to ETC. Magazine photographer Kelly Tan Jing Hui*