Traits of a True Leader

In an organisation, opinion is like a two-edged sword. Too little of it and you will have a non-functional group; too much of it will turn your group into something not less than ants without any direction. This is the reason why we need someone who is able to prompt a discussion within a group of people on top of being able to listen to the opinions of the people in order to make the best decision — a leader. But, to be a true leader, it certainly takes much more than being able to lead as your other capabilities are also being assessed. Let’s proceed to answer the question of the century: what makes a successful leader?

Being able to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the team members

A leader must be equipped with a certain amount of human resource knowledge. This idea is similar to the talent management system being taught at most of the business schools. Frankly put, a good leader will have to act like a bus driver who must be able to get the right people into the right seats on the bus so that he can drive it safely and efficiently. In any organisation, a person who sits in the wrong seat is a waste of resources and time, apart from possibly deterring the right person from doing what they are good at. By not taking any action to solve the aforementioned problem, a ‘leader’ is actually being selfish because he is wasting the employee’s time and opportunity to possibly land on a more suitable job offer. Before you could even realise, your organisation would already have lost the perfect opportunity to make a major leap.

Let even the smallest voice be heard

In a team, inevitably, there will be some people who hold their ideas too dearly and they refuse to listen to the other members, especially those with a shy and quiet nature. To be able to filter out the noises and to get to know the opinions of every member before an unbiased decision can be made is something that we would expect from a true leader. If a leader is a noisemaker himself, then I would like to send my deepest condolences to the organisation that he is involved in, because this would mean that it will not be long before everything falls apart. A leader does not necessarily have to be the smartest person in a team, as long as he is willing to listen to the other people before making any decision.

Lead with an iron will, speak with humility

In the business world, a true leader needs to have an iron will to be able to convince the shareholders that he has the capabilities to deliver what he has promised. An iron-willed leader can also pave ways for the organisation and be more ‘wolf-like’ rather than ‘sheep-like’, which is essential for the survival of any organisation. On the other hand, he needs to stay humble to be respected by his teammates. A leader who speaks with humility is also more likely to show his results through his actions rather than his words. As we always say, action speaks louder than words.

Look out of the window, look into the mirror

A leader will always look out of the window when he is giving credit, and look into the mirror when something goes terribly wrong. This might seem to be counterintuitive at first, but if you really look into it, it makes perfect sense. A leader receiving credit on his own not only is despicable, but he also traded away the trust of his fellow teammates. If he credits his teammates instead, it acts just like rocket fuel, encouraging his team and motivating them to go a mile further while working for their own organisation. By looking into the mirror, a true leader will have to take full responsibility for a catastrophe even though he might not even be involved in it. By doing so, he can prove himself to be trustworthy and dependable within his organisation and this can make the good workers stay for a longer time. Right people are the most valuable assets of an organisation, to lose them is just another way of sending your organisation to its own demise.

These are a few uncommon traits which inexorably propel a common ‘leader’ to become a truly world-class leader. Jim Collins even went as far as classifying them as the Level 5 Leaders to attribute their uniqueness.

 

That’s it from me this time.

 

Talk soon,

Abel

 

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A Letter from the Generation Y to the Generation Z.

Before I start talking on this topic, I thought it’d be better for me to explain the meaning of generation Y and generation Z. The internet defines the generation Y as everyone who’s born between 1977 and 1995 while generation Z covers the rest who were born after that. I was born in 1996 and I’d say I belong to the generation Y but to be honest, there is really no clear-cut between those 2 generations. Let’s proceed to the letter:

Dear Generation Z,

We’ve all been through the stage in our lives in which we feel lost. Some of us did not manage to get out of the maze and we started doing things aimlessly, either by picking up a random subject that we’re not even interested in or by going on to pursue an idea that seems too good to be true. Sometimes, this ends quite well but most of the time, it ends in a catastrophic failure. Frustration gets onto you and you don’t feel motivated to keep on walking the path that you’ve chosen yourself and finally, you decide to give up, losing precious time, resources and efforts that you’ve put in along the journey. To save you from falling into the pit, I’ve written down some of the most common mistakes that young people make nowadays.

‘Follow your passion’ is impractical.

Now, you might be thinking that there are examples of individuals who are incredibly successful in what they’re doing and also being passionate about it. Take the founder of Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg as an example. He is passionate about Facebook and he’s operating one of the greatest companies in the world that seemed like an overnight success to most of us in its early days (More on this later on). Guess what, I’m still adamant on my statement that ‘follow your passion’ is indeed impractical. Let me ask you one simple question: What is the biggest difference between Mark Zuckerberg and a person who can code? Mark is a genius. Combined with plenty of hard work, he was able to achieve a breakthrough that rocketed him to become the next big thing in Silicon Valley years ago. The next question is, why is this relevant to my statement? To answer this, you have to first confront the brutal fact that ‘follow your passion’ rule will only work if you could be one of the best in that particular field. Otherwise, you’ll end up being mediocre in whatever you’re doing and when you’ve come to realise this, you’d have already wasted a large amount of time in it. (Though I’ve seen some people who’ve settled on mediocrity because they really love what they’re doing. I have no objection to this, but first, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’ve really tried on various things to identify your passion.)

What if you don’t know what you’re good at?

Determining something that you’re good at can take a while if you had not started trying out things early. In Mark Zuckerberg’s case, he was lucky. His family had a computer when he was young so he could find out what he was capable of doing at an early stage (Being a genius coder and has an insatiable passion for it combined with a family background advantage, a pretty lethal combo isn’t it?). Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is that if you still haven’t found out your strengths, it could be due to the fact that you haven’t tried hard enough to identify them. Go explore the world. Read more books. Talk to more people. There are endless possibilities in this world. Some people just went for one of the mainstream courses offered by the universities even though they could be one of the greatest data scientists in the world. Sadly, they would have thought that ‘data scientist’ is just two words being put together randomly from a jargon bank. That’s just how gullible some of us are that left us with no choice but to seek the others for advice.

The Asian parents.

If you’re not a doctor, an engineer, an accountant or a lawyer, then you’re a disgrace to the family. – 21st century Asian parents

American comedian Jimmy Ouyang once said: “I was an economics major. Because that’s the easiest major that would still please a foreign (Asian) parent.” To be honest, I’m one of the victims who fell into this trap. My parents started brainwashing me ever since I was 5-6 years old to become a doctor. This went on and on until I’d finished my A-Level that I’d finally decided that medicine was not what I was passionate about. I can still remember vividly that I was really interested in economics and I used to borrow books from the libraries to read about them. I also spent my free time searching for economics-related knowledge on the internet. The only difference between me and Jimmy is that my parents won’t even let me study economics. For them, it is a learn-it-yourself kind of thing. Also, I remember back in the days, I did not even have to study hard to get the highest mark in chemistry exams. I was also very passionate about it. The idea of studying chemistry at the university once crossed my mind but my parents were telling me that I’m very likely to end up being unemployed upon graduation. Left with no choice, I took a gap year to figure out what I really wanted to do and even picked up accountancy (Yeap, I took the suggestion from my parents) for around 3 months before deciding that it’s not for me. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do when the UCAS application deadline during my gap year was approaching and I risked losing the opportunity to pursue higher education. That would mean that I would have to wait for another year to apply for a place at a university. I was really afraid of losing the chance so I only did a little research and eventually choosing a course that seemed to be the closest thing to chemistry and still falls into the Asian parents’ ‘Golden Career’ category. Little did I know that chemical engineering, similar to chemistry as it may sound, is actually not quite related to chemistry. I can be a very competent chemical engineer, but I’ll never be the best. My advice is, if you really love something, go for it. There is nothing that can stop you but remember, stay within practicality. You wouldn’t want to pursue a degree that will leave you jobless. If you are not sure about how to ‘stay within practicality’, you should consult other people in the field and hear what they have to say. I’m a strong believer in self-learning and I believe that your educational background will not hinder you from doing what you want as long as you have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. you will eventually pick up the knowledge after years of learning either by reading books, observation or by practising.

“Be My Own Boss.”

First, please ask yourself these questions: how much do you know about doing business? Do you have any experience in selling products, advertising and marketing, managing a group of people, negotiating…? If you don’t, the truth is that the likelihood of you being successful right away is almost non-existent. It’s also important to know that most of the tech giants and other big companies did not strike gold straight away when they first started out. A successful business is not something that can happen overnight. Media coverage often only comes in after a company has been enduring for years to achieve greatness. This creates a false impression of those companies being successful overnight. Traits like being responsible, curious, hardworking and persistent are also very essential to the success of a business. There is a reason why most of the companies are always looking for graduates whenever they’re hiring. Graduates are presumed to have a greater sense of responsibility and they are also presumed to have useful skills which are beneficial to the companies. Afterall, a company is not an education centre which aims to educate you. Rather, it is playing a survival game with many other companies in which only the strongest one will remain in the end. A crude example of Darwin’s theory – survival of the fittest.

I chose chemical engineering blindly instead of pursuing the subject that I could possibly be the best at. Have I ever regretted this? Well, my answer is no. Although my major is not even close to chemistry in the slightest bit, it offers me the opportunity to pick up many useful skills along the way. When I had (at the point of writing this, I was still working there) an internship at a Japanese company in Tokyo, I could leverage my skills to generate greater profits and also improve the efficiency of my company. This would later help me to find out that I’m actually very talented in management and also in the corporate world, which sets the path for me to continue pursuing my MBA (Master of Business Administration) in the near future. My point is, as long as you don’t give up, your mistake could possibly be a blessing in disguise.

I hope this article can benefit my young readers and also the parents by changing their perspectives on how they view a successful individual. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Some of the most successful businessmen did not even complete their college. Provided that you have the right attitudes, you really shouldn’t worry too much about your future.

 

Best regards,

Abel

 

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Reasons Why I Love Living in a Share House

During my fresher year at my university, I stayed in a flat. We had a common room in which we used to hang out whenever there was any event. We also had a shared laundry room. I managed to get to know a lot of people in my first week. It was all nice chatting with people from different countries but this blissful experience did not last until the second week of my stay. The common room had become so dirty that I had to lift my foot for each step I walked in the room. The laundry room was so full that I had to dry my clothes in my room. Worse, bottles of milk in the refrigerators leaked, releasing unbearable odour each time I opened the refrigerator door(s). For the rest of my stay, my fresh groceries spent most of their time with rotten food. When I moved out in September 2017, I could even find food which had already expired in November 2016.

First month living in my hall, I had already decided that I had to move out in the upcoming semester. I simply couldn’t stand this anymore. All those nights of my indirect marijuana intake due to flatmates smoking them in the corridor have to come to an end. At that time, little did I know that my future housemates were the most awesome people I could have ever meet in my whole life. Below are a few reasons why I prefer living in a share house:

  • Develop your sense of responsibility

When I first moved into a share house from a flat, there was no longer someone to take care of the cleanliness of my kitchen and bathrooms. No one will replace all those used toilet paper rolls for us. We had to make an inventory list for our share house. It might sound a little bit intimidating at first, but in the long run, you are going to become more self-reliant and responsible. Personally, I feel that living in a share house is the first step towards adulthood.

  • Build a family-like friendship with your housemates

Living far away from my country, it feels good to have a group of people celebrating festivals such as Chinese New Year, Christmas and Mid-Autumn Festival together with me in a foreign country. My share house also has a really cool dining area in which we always invite our guests over to have dinner together. It also helps me to broaden my network of people, helping me to get to know all those people who I would have never met throughout my university life. Occasionally, we’ll organize a trip to visit other places in the United Kingdom.

  • You’ll be more motivated to try on different things

Throughout my stay in my share house in the UK, I was more willing to try out different kinds of dishes to impress my housemates. They also gave me the motivation to do things which I would not have done otherwise, such as going as far as Tokyo to have my internship. They were always there to give me support whenever I felt lost. Having them around me gives me the energy to take on more difficult challenges.

  • I loved the diversity

Since we were all studying different courses at our university, our skill was one of the things that I enjoyed the most. We had an architect, an electrical engineer, two chemical engineers and a pharmacist. For a curious person like me,  there was always someone who could answer my questions, though my pharmacist-to-be always returned my question with 10 more questions. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed talking to every single one of them and if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for being with me in 2017-2018.

  • Greater exposure to different cultures

Let me be honest with you, sometimes it can be quite difficult for you to blend yourself into a group of people with a similar cultural background. Guess what, staying together in a share house could very possibly solve this problem for you! Ideally, you wouldn’t want to stay with a large group of people who have already known each other for a long time because you might be left out in conversations and group activities. A group of 5-6 is ideal because it offers diversity and also leaves everyone plenty of opportunities to get acquainted with each other.

BUT there is still something that I want to tell you. My experience could be highly unique and you might or might not experience the same thing when you move into a share house. Despite that, you should open yourself to other people. I wouldn’t say I’m an introvert by birth, but I am definitely not the kind of people who talk much. But, I’m willing to take the first step to approach other people when deemed necessary. I wouldn’t have known my best mate at the university if I didn’t initiate a conversation with him when he was alone. It still saddens me whenever I think of my graduation next year because we’ll be separated. Nonetheless, I wish you all the best if you’re moving into a share house! It’s going to be exciting despite occasional tiffs 😉

 

 

 

Living in Tokyo as a Foreigner

In my last blog post, I’ve talked about my journey to Japan. If you’re keen to know how that was like, you can read about it here.

If you’re planning to visit around Tokyo, make sure to get a PASMO or SUICA card at the ticket machine once you’re at the airport (Haneda International Airport or Narita International Airport). This is the type of card that is widely used for transportation such as buses and trains. The reasons why you should get it there are because the airport is the language buffer zone in which other people can still understand you if you speak English (sometimes Mandarin) and these ticket machines are not widely available. They’re both very similar but if you’re interested in knowing how they differ, you can read about it here.

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The PASMO and SUICA cards. Image courtesy of japanstation.com.

They can also be used like a prepaid card at some of the restaurants. I nicknamed them the Alipay of Japan.

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The vending machine outside of a restaurant.
My first impression of Japan was deceived by my experience at the airport. It seemed to me that every single Japanese person is very well-versed in English. I was dead wrong. The moment I stepped out of the airport, I started to have communication problems with the local people. This was totally different from what I’ve found on the internet saying that most people living in Tokyo are well literate in English. I couldn’t even make use of Google Maps since I had just received my SIM card (from the company Mobal) and it had not been activated yet. I was lucky to even find the place that I’m staying now at the time of writing this post. But that’s mostly thanks to Mrs Naomi because she was walking around that area searching for me.

Japanese people are really polite and helpful.  I remember walking into a supermarket operated by an old couple and checked out items worth around ¥2,000 using a ¥10,000 note. There was not even a sign of resentment on her face. In my country (Malaysia), the cashier would probably have rolled his/her eyes at me. Shame on you! On the contrary, she kept on saying ‘arigatou’ (Japanese people bow when they say this which literally means ‘thank you’). That’s how I developed the ‘Bowing Syndrome’ because I felt obliged to do the same whenever someone who’s older than me is doing it.

Living in Tokyo is very challenging especially if you don’t understand Japanese because the majority of them are only proficient in Japanese. However, there are ways to get around this to avoid the awkward moment that I’ve been through myself that looks like this:

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Graphical depiction of me and the security guard who don’t speak the same language. Drawn by Michelle Majalang (Follow her on Instagram).

Nonetheless, the security guard brought me to the right area (That’s so kind of him).

So first, make sure you have Google Translate and Google Maps installed on your smartphone. The route suggested by Google Maps is very accurate in Tokyo according to my experience. The reason why you should have Google Translate is pretty obvious because this is the app that you’re going to use whenever you want to convey a message to a Japanese who doesn’t know English. Oh, make sure that you have Japanese keyboard installed as well because they’ll have to type it out to be translated into English if the message is too complicated to be expressed by using body language. It can also translate Japanese words in pictures which is very helpful since most of the Japanese goods only have Japanese letters on them. If you don’t even know the slightest bit of Kanji (which is essentially Chinese words and they often have very similar meaning), you’ll have to rely on Google Translate most of the time. And if you’re overconfident with your proficiency in Kanji, you’d end up like me. I mistook sesame oil as cooking oil and bought it home. It could have been worse if I didn’t know Kanji because their osake (rice wine) looks exactly like cooking oil!

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Text before translation.
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Text after translation. It also shows that Google hasn’t perfected this technology yet.
Tokyo has been really rainy lately. Unlike in the UK where the weather (sometimes even the season) is always changing, if it rains here, it’s very likely to rain the whole day. When we had a good weather a couple of days ago, I snatched the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful places in Tokyo. Below are some of the photos that I had taken:

 

 

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Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Shinjuku Gyoen Park is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen in my life. It boasts the greatest greenhouse I’ve ever seen but too bad, it falls short in size. The park does indeed live up to its rating of 4.5 on Google Review.

This sums up everything that I want to share in this blog post. See you guys on my next blog post.

 

First Solo Adventure to Tokyo

14/06/2018 marks the first day I’m travelling alone to Japan for my summer internship. I had a long list of the essentials ready a few days ago so after making sure that everything was ready, I set off. After checking in my luggage and going through the security check, I sat down and started reading a book that I had recently bought. About an hour before my gate opened, I went to Gate 43 to meet my best friend, Jason, as he was also travelling back to China on the same day. We had a short chat and I reached for my bag once again to make sure that I have my Japanese Yen with me. “I might have left something.” “Is that something important?” “Very important.” I started calling my housemates to check my room for the money and luckily, one of them picked up. To my surprise, I actually left my money at home (what a blunder, Abel). “Can you bring the money to the airport for me?” “You have to pay for my Uber I tell you (thicc Malaysian accent).” Heartbroken, I agreed. To make the matter even worse, I was not allowed to go out of the boarding area. Apparently, if you want to exit the boarding area at Manchester International Airport, you have to be escorted outside by the staff in charge of your flight and get a new boarding pass. I knew I could survive without the money, but I definitely won’t be able to survive if I missed my flight (my parents will definitely kill me). While I had my credit cards with me, my mum had deactivated my Malaysia phone number months ago so I won’t be able to use them without the code sent to my phone (yet another blunder). Left with no choice, I chose to board the plane. While I was on the plane, I figured out I still had some money left in the saving account that I had set up to pay for my rent. What a relief.

While landing in Tokyo Haneda International Airport, I experienced yet another traumatic event. As I was looking out of the window the whole time, I could tell that right after my plane had touched the ground, the side of the track got closer and closer to me. My plane was skidding. Although the whole event didn’t last for more than 5 seconds, I could see my life flashing before my eyes. That’s how scary it was. I suspect that the wheels at the front weren’t properly aligned when they were being retracted so this might have caused the brief skidding moment right after touching the ground. Pretty sure I was going to be on the headlines if the pilots handling my flight weren’t proficient enough.

Hit by a big loss (mostly due to the exchange rates), I’ve also learnt important lessons, and these lessons may come in handy in the future. First, if you are travelling to Tokyo, don’t turn all the money that you’re going to spend into Japanese Yen. Having some Yen is okay but since there are many ATMs that accept foreign Visa or MasterCard debit card, you can always withdraw cash by using your debit card. Local banks often compete with each other for lower exchange rate so you can rest assured that you won’t be ripped off if you withdraw money using a foreign debit card. In fact, I’ve received around 3.5% more Yen by withdrawing money through local ATMs (I was using a Natwest debit card with British Pound in my account, the rate may differ depending on your bank company or currency) than buying them from a store in the UK that offered me the best exchange rate. Just keep in mind that your bank may charge you on transaction fee but it’s normally only around £2-5 per withdrawal. Also, only ATMs with Visa or Mastercard logo can be used. They are available in the crowded area such as the airports and also the convenience stores. Only when you’re travelling to the rural area then you’re better off with more Yen since this type of ATM is more uncommon there.

I was never the kind of person who is very well-organized and yet I have never really faced any problem with it. This time when I tried to be organized and made a list of things that I have to prepare before coming over to Japan, I made a blunder. I guess it’s safe to say that sometimes we just have to be ourselves. Blindly following what the other people do can sometimes be catastrophic. In fact, I was so confident that my Yen was in my bag that I did not even bother checking for it until the very last minute.

This sums up my journey and things I’ve learnt during my first day in Japan. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about ways to travel around Tokyo and also my experience staying there. Till then, take care.