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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