Monday, April 25, 2016

FBSHApost@15 April 2016: My trip to Istanbul for the OIC Summit 2016

Today, 14 April 2016 was the final day and the closing of the OIC Summit in Istanbul, Turkey under the theme of Unity and Solidarity for peace and justice. Considering the state of the Muslim Ummah and nations the choice was well thought. In my case, I was invited to attend as a Special Envoy of the OIC for Myanmar. I sat with the Secretariat of the OIC at the second row...When I was asked by my Indonesian colleague innocently why I was not sitting with the Malaysian colleagues together with Pak Najib. In order to avoid any misunderstanding I told him I'm now working with the OIC. 

The first day I arrived in Istanbul I had to rush from the airport straight to the meeting room to give my report on the position of the Rohingya in the Rakhine state. Based on the report we had a very good interactive discussion on Myanmar Post 2015 GE, the impact of NLD landslide victory and ASSK. Whilst we welcome the transformation to democracy, the position of the Rohingya and other Muslims there still needed to be championed at the regional, international, UN and HRC as I don't see as yet any change in the stand of the new leadership or govt on their Muslim population. In fact ASSK's position is very perplexing as a Nobel laureate on Human Rights. We are still on the long journey. 

The speech by President Erdogan of Turkey as the new Chairman of the Summit was substantive and inspiring. He went into great detail on Islamophobia and the selective negative profiling and treatments of Islam and Muslims by the West...Thus the call for Unity and Solidarity. Generally the SG and other leaders brought up the same issue....of unity and solidarity to see peace and justice as a way forward. I think the OIC member states have a lot to do to address and resolve the problems of inter and intra state conflicts based on ideology and sectarian differences amongst themselves in order to bring back the honor and dignity of Islam and Muslims. I consider this Summit a great success and much needed to be done to implement the statements, pronouncements, Communique and the Istanbul Declaration. 

It was a tiring three days. But it gave a chance to see Istanbul pre and post President Erdogan. Istanbul is truly an interesting city where history, traditions and modernity intermingle with each other. I can now hear azan from the many mosques in the city. Today the Friday prayer was performed at the venue of the Summit. The hall was filled with young security personnel other than the foreign delegates of the OIC. After three days here I am ready and packed to fly home. Bon Voyage Istanbul.

FBSHApost@13 April 2016: Islamophobia at the Airport Security

Yesterday 12 April 2016 was the day that I ended my working visit to Paris. Much had been learned about PT, improvement of technology and training facilities available. With the weather quite cold I was happy to leave Paris to go to Istanbul to attend the OIC Summit and present my report on the current status of the Muslim minorities especially on the Rohingya of Arakan State. But my story is not about the OIC, but my experience at the Charles De Gaulle Airport as I checked in for my onward journey to Istanbul. 

As I approached the Security check as expected I took off my belt, coat, any metal items in all my pockets and placed my haversack under the security screen. Everything was clear and not a sound or bleep for further security check. However, I had a problem because I am fully bearded. The security considered I might be a threat or carrying something dangerous. By virtue of this the whole inside of the haversack was searched using all kinds of security tool. My specks, my purse and my books. Ultimately of course they could not find anything even after putting the items many times in the x'ray machine. I am all for security check and always cooperated even at KLIA but this was just ethnic and religious profiling. I was irritated but nothing could be done. The lesson is you must be clean shaven or be considered a possible terrorist or Muslim extremist. 

This is the fate of all Muslims, with Islamophobia. Maybe one day we could gain back our honor and dignity.

FBSHApost@13 April 2016

FBSHApost@13 April 2016: The Journey of My PhD...Continued

My examiners for the final PhD viva were Prof Ranjit Singh from UUM, Prof Jayum Jawan from UPM and Assoc. Prof Istihaq Hossein from IIUM. When all them gave me a pass I was thankful to Allah and felt relieved. Why did I go through my PhD? Is it for an ego trip. My quick answer is no... it was not to seek praises or be admired by others..or to impress other people. I could say though it was for self tell yourself that you can achieve your goals ( the saying, "trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow".) I wanted to be a scholar so the academic studies was worth it, just for self satisfaction. I consider before you depart from this earth life is a continous pursue of goals and achievements. For me this makes life more exciting and meaningful. Finally I think there is no age limits to achieve your dreams....Learning should be from cradle to grave. Of course it takes patience, willpower and drive to reach your desired ambition....May Allah forgive me..

FBSHApost@13 April 2016

FBSHApost@11 April 2016: The Journey of My PhD..Continued

In my last FB posting I said I would continue to share my journey on how I got my PhD . I'd like to thank my FB friends who had given their views and comments whether for or otherwise. Some even suggested its useless for me to have the PhD but instead I should write my memoir. For my friends' information I had finished writing my Memoir in 2011. But I had deleted many aspects of my experience in the multi-layered fields of endeavor I was involved in. 

From a banker to a corporate lawyer, I finally made my way as a politician following the footsteps of my father. After contesting the GE in 1990, I was straightaway made a Cabinet Minister in a number of important and crucial Ministries at a turning point of our country's history. I served as an ordinary MP from 2009 until 2013... the election that I predicted BN would not do well, as I told Pak Lah about calling the election in 2008 so soon as we would only reduce much of our majority. But there were many things in the memoir that I generalized or simply deleted or didn't want to remember. Due to that, I decided to publish the memoir and thought of rewriting or revising it. It was for that reason that I decided to write the brief anecdotes from time to time in the FB to make sure my mind don't get blunted. I'd also in the next posting explained why I completed my PhD.

FBSHApost@11 April 2016

FBSHApost@9 April 2016: The Journey of My PhD

When I wanted to undertake my PhD, there was so much uncertainty on whether I had the discipline, time and stamina to stay the cause. I remember Prof Siow telling me that I might have a lot of information and knowledge about Foreign Policy and International Relations but this did not necessarily mean it could be turned into academic work. I agreed with him and thought I should not pursue my intention to do the PhD.

Prof Ansari kept on telling me I could do it. So was Meilina the Registrar. I saw Prof Siow a number of times before he somewhat became convinced that I could do it. That was how my journey began. Then I had to choose the exact subject of my research before I could begin writing my PhD proposal, which was quite an uphill battle. I consulted the AeU and spoke to a number of my friends who were familiar with the PhD proposal submission. Aziah, my wife who thought I was crazy at first to venture into this journey at the age of 67 however encouraged me, so were my children and children in-laws. They were tremendous help with their comments and editing. 

I took two research assistants namely Khairunisa and Philip Mathews to help me with the research. This was useful but the real work and research has to be done by you. I also did something unorthodox when I chose Prof Juhary to be my supervisor instead of well-known scholars of international relations and foreign policy. He was the Prof. of Business Management. My reason for choosing him was he would be more open than the specialist. Before submission, the AeU informed me that I could not submit for a PhD as I had not done my Masters degree. I nearly gave up but the AeU helped me to continue with the submission. Faithfully, I followed the procedure and appeared before the examining board in front of four Professors consisting of Prof Siow in the Chair together with another Prof in charge of quality control. The external examiners were Prof Mustafa Ishak, the Vice Chancellor of UUM and Prof Nathan from UKM. Both were excellent. In fact they were responsible for upgrading my proposal to PhD. (To be continued...)

FBSHApost@9 April 2016

FBSHApost@9 April 2016: POEM #2/2016

The meadows laid before our eyes
Soft and gentle as it stretches beyond the horizon
But it's just a portion of the thousands
That dwell within its space
Every single thing in its place
Humans and other beings share its beauty and tranquility
The sky above white and blue
Shelter all below to comfort you
The glowing sun brings smiles to another day
The moon and the stars take their turn
The earth brightens and lightens to feast the night
The constellation of the day and night are but signs of the Almighty
With its Qun fa Yakun and it shall be
The limitless power and authority
For all creations to appreciate and say
We are just a tiny part of the beautiful canvas
Painted perfectly at the command of the Azzawajalla
To soothe our hearts with humility
As we sift in the air of life
How wonderful the balance that is creation
Nothing in excess but moderation
For the human vicegerent to learn the lessons
Of all creations each has its notation
To perform its function
Without arrogance in the order of creation
I am just human seeking acceptance
In God's excellence without comparison
Al Shifaq
Began 6.55 am and completed at 7.37am.
9 April 2016

FBSHApost@9 April 2016

FBSHApost@8 April 2016: The Colourful Nature of Human beings and Colours of Nature

Actually life has its own twist and turn. The homo sapien is the only creation of God that accepted the responsibility of Leadership to manage Mother Earth. He is thus given the option to choose between good and evil. In doing so he is guided by the Prophets and the Holy Books. His life on this earth is for a fixed period, after which he would be judged in accordance with his deeds. Under the divine system there is rewards and punishments. There is heaven and hell where we would finally dwell in. Life with its complexities is multi-layered and multi-leveled with different shades and colors for us to ẹnjoy and appreciate. In the similar vein we would meet all kinds of human beings. Some have good character and behave well and bring happiness and joy to others but there are also those who bring hardships and problems. Albeit we should not complain too much as there are beautiful vegetation and greens that should please our eyes ...there are seas and rivers, hills and valleys with the towering mountains that further bring serenity and tranquility...our duties and responsibilities are to maintain and sustain them in an equilibrium and balance.. follow the divine laws and rules in a fair, just and balanced manner.

FBSHApost@8 April 2016

FBSHApost@8 April 2016: Phases of Life

Life, some say is divided into phases while others consider it as anecdotes. Whatever it is, we started our life with the first cry when our mother delivered us into this world. She went through nine months of

the ups and downs of pregnancy. 

Finally here we are...

and for Muslims there would be the Azan recited in the ears of the new born by the father or grandfather. Our birth is announced to relatives and friends. That is the start of the first phase..Our mothers would shower us with tender loving care to bring us up....going through all kinds of personal trials and tribulations of nurturing a child to become a good human being. Never giving up on us but with patience inculcating our early values....Always watching and observing us.. Proud of us when we started to talk and walk... From just forming words to making full sentences.... From incoherent to being coherent. From being confined in the embrace of your mother to going outside the compound of your home...beginning to be free when you start to walk and attend school...the mother still continues to worry about your safety and well-being. 

When we become teenagers then we start to have individual and collective habits and friends and acquaintances. Your dear mother even in this second phase would like to protect and at times would not like to let you go...,the father would always be there to support her...this is the most complex and difficult time in managing you growing up....but your parents are always with and beside you...not imposing but worrying about your route to success in the school, university and working life....this second phase is where the interchanges would take place... You go through good and bad times and experiences...but this process should toughen you up and you develop self-confidence. 

The third phase; you have a job and exercise independence as an adult..,Again in the work environment and socialization you are confronted with the realities of a different kind. It is in this period that you learn about intermingling of country and government in the landscapes of politics, economics, security and socio-cultural. You learn about the delicate balance that prevail in the country of multiculturalism..ethnicity and religion. In the intertwining of domestic and international environment.. I pick up, meet and learn more about human nature and politics..,.I learn and see more about human character and behaviour....I was lucky enough to meet corporate and government leaders and civil servants..fortunately the country is stable, economically sound and there is an absence of open physical conflict...there are disagreements and differences... Even among friends and colleagues....or jealousies or envy but all these to be expected.... 

There are differing approaches on how the country should be governed. Again if the opposition does not want to replace the incumbent government or disagree with them then they have nothing to say they are not opposition. Now in this final phase I become a keen observer on everything that is happening. I can get a bird's eye view and afford to have my opinion whether expressed or otherwise. Before I was able to be a player in varied fields and activities.,. This is over but the human characters never change... Competing for good reason or not for good a reason.... Seeking for to be a leader at whatever cost for some... Speak even when there is nothing to speak....I see those that are clever but also those who think they are clever.... I see my society and country have changed...we read and hear people talk about governance and corruption, transparency and accountability.., these are good symbolic rhetoric if not put to practice....Just a general observation.

FBSHApost@8 April 2016

FBSHApost@6 April 2016: Human Nature and Ups and Downs in Life

In life you go through many events and episodes. Some you might cherish to remember and others you just want to forget. Whether you want to forget or remember it had already been imprinted in your memory. Life has its ups and has to accept them both. I met many different and varied people in the process of my life...I went through all kinds of life experiences...the sweet and sour...good and bad but they were my best teacher about living....never felt disappointed though at times frustrated...however there were so many lessons that could be learned...

My career began as soon as I graduated as a legal and judicial officer...I sat on the bench learning to listen and at the end of it dispense justice as I understood it...I met all types of criminals and witnesses... the ordinary and not so ordinary persons. I learned to observe and made assessments and finally passed judgments and meted out sentences appropriately..My decisions might be right or wrong but I prayed they were right so that I really dispensed justice as I should. I learned and read about judges and judgments to comprehend and understand the law and justice...these guided me..I met advocates and solicitors who argued their cases for their clients...again I would say a very colorful set of people. Some honest with integrity whilst others would try to mislead the court in their attempt to convince or influence the court to arrive at decisions in their clients favor...

After a couple of years then I resigned from the service and became a legal officer of BBMB, which had totally disappeared from the banking scene. The xBBMB regretted that such an important and symbolic organisation could be obliterated. My role in the bank changed to an adviser on banking and finance from a púine judge of the court. When I decided I wanted to be a true banker..I moved to banking and finance career. I went through all types of training and exposure until I qualified to be called a banker holding all different positions. I sat on boards of companies..I could say it was challenging and interesting...I never however stopped imparting knowledge through teaching, lecturing or presenting papers at local and international seminars....on a part time basis for free or for payment. This was satisfaction to politics I observed my dad and they went through trials and tribulations together...

I was a small time politician at the sideline trying to serve the people and never wanted to be on the mainstream of politics...By destiny or fate with the passing of my father I went more and more to the main lane of politics which brought me to be an MP and a Minister of the government at the age of 46 in 1990 to 2013 when I ended up as an ordinary MP when Najib took the helm of the country..This was the beginning of a different exposure for me. I saw power and showing and practicing greed and intrigues...legitimate and non-legitimate, legal or otherwise....the days of sacrifice and dedication and commitment of my father and his generation had passed and left us...UMNO and BN had changed...Nowadays is the era of the rich and elites...more Machiavelli on the mainstream of politics and life itself those with position and status who thought that bullying and showing off was fun...

In sum, all spices of life was thrown in....I could meet friends and enemies....hypocrites ...backstabbers all rolled in was a jungle out there...that one must learn to survive....I was fortunate I met Kings and Queens, Leaders of States and Governments and Ministers...different shades and styles...dictators and diplomats...I learned about being thankful and bring pragmatic...I met the adventurous, opportunists, the ambitious and those with ambitions... Life was never short of stories...Those who forgot facts or history or even distort both..betrayals and so on and so forth. 

Malaysia has changed, politics and people had changed. I met the arrogant and not so arrogant. old and young with positions and status kept showing off their status and positions who declared them loudly so that others would hear or know who they are or were...Interesting also when leaders equate national interest with their personal interests...all in all there were specific and not so specific memories....but one thing I learned quickly...that is, never expect thankfulness or gratitude from fellow human beings because they have short memories ...if anyone remembers you or your services, good. Otherwise, accept it as part and parcel of human nature...

FBSHApost@6 April 2016

FBSHApost@4 April 2016: Al-Khaliq

Manusia ditunjuk dan diperintah untuk melakukan kebaikan tapi di masa yang sama diberi pilihan untuk menentukan langkahnya.... tapi Malaikat dijadikan taat seratus peratus secara mutlak melakukan apa yang diperintah. Ustaz bertazkirah subuh ini.

Kita takut kerana kita tidak berkuasa...Namua kuasa Allah tidak dibatasi oleh ruang, masa atau zaman kerana Dia lah Alkhaliq yang menjadi dan menentukan segalanya...Dia lah yang tertinggi tanpa sekatan...manusia sering terlupa dan lalai. 


FBSHApost@4 April 2016

FBSHApost@3 April 2016: POEM #1/2016

The journey we make
The life we create
The trials and tribulations we face
The path we pass
At times without any farce
No stops or stations
But we are moving in constellations
Nothing is constant
Not even for an instant
Or even for a fleeting moment
Often there are questions along the way
Looking for answers but found no where
Life is a search between truth and falsity
To find the mystery of what it should be
From here to eternity
Find the torch of humility
Contented should I be
Looking at the mountain hill and valley
Just a minuscule in the universe of the Almighty.
3April 2016

FBSHApost@3 April 2016: POEM #1/2016

FBSHApost@3 April 2016: PUISI #7/2016

Negara bersih hati bersih
Berkongsi sama nilai kasih
Mendakap suci
Satu aspirasi mencakupi visi
Berlainan amanah namun bersatu panji
Satu negara berbangga sama
Tiada khianat mengangkat diri
Tahu tempat menjejaki fungsi
Setiap satu akan diadili
Berlumba untuk dikenali
Tapi yakin tidak menjual beli
Langit dinaungi bumi dipijak
Taati Qada' dan Qadar pasti
Jelas musuh akan menuruti
Berpegangan tangan lurus barisan
Biar kelihatan melakar harapan
Tidak menikam sesama pasukan
Pelihara aman dan kedamaian
Walau ada perbezaan
Namun menjunjung peradaban
Yang memimpin diberi kehormatan
Jelata disirami dengan kesayangan
Kukuh dan mantap di sepanjang zaman.
Fakir sedang duduk berangan
Mimpikan setiakawan
Menghayati peranan
3hb April 2016
9 pagi

FBSHApost@3 April 2016

FBSHApost@2 April 2016: Kebijaksanaan bukan terletak kepada percakapan

Apa yang paling susah dalam hidup. Untuk mengerti mengapa kita dijadikan. Memahami peranan kita kepada Allah, manusia, masyarakat dan watan...Susah bila ada yang suka bercakap tanpa faham dan selidik isi kandungan perkara yang hendak diperkatakan ataupun diwarkan. Bila kita mengambil pendekatan berkata dalam soal kita tidak arif atau mengetahui. Lebih susah bila tidak menghayati bidang dan tanggungjawab. Tidak suka baca undang-undang dan peraturan terhadap subjek yang hendak disuarakan atau campuri. Keadaan jadi lebih bercelaru dan kelam kabut..Kebijaksanaan bukan terletak kepada percakapan tetapi memahami apa yang hendak disuarakan...Ramai jaguh tetapi kita perlu pada wira-wira cerdik untuk mengukuhkan pelan dan tindakan.

FBSHApost@2 April 2016

FBSHApost@27 March 2016: This world is temporary and the actual future is life in the Hereafter

We enter and we will go out of this world as predetermined by our Creator. It is a stage and drama with many Parts or Acts. Curtains being drawn up or down. Everyone will act their parts, choosing the role that is good or bad, virtue or evil. Almighty will judge us and human beings will remember or forget us. As we go on with our life we should understand the very reason for our existence....the things we have done or not done. Life is full of pretenses or hypocrisy which surround us as we seek for truth and battle against falsehood from within or outside us. We seek for the right path on this temporal world to reach the hereafter of joy and happiness. The journey is through the present for a future that is better.

FBSHApost@27 March 2016

FBSHApost@27 Mac 2016: PUISI #6/2016

Saya melintas banyak kepincangan 
yang tidak dipeduli untuk pandang
Gedung dan wisma pencakar langit mercu pencapaian
Tidak ternampak mereka yang menghuni di bawahan
Di lorong lorong kecil di bandar dan desa pendalaman 
Malap dan ada yang gelap
Gelita....tiada cahaya menerangi
Jalan-jalan lubang-lubang lopak-lopak lekok-lekik
takungan air....anak-anak dan orang tua-tua
yang tidak tahu di mana mahu hilangkan kelaparan
mana mahu mencari bumbung bagi melindungi hujan dan kepanasan
Tidak tahu keperitan dan terdengar tangisan kemewahan berlambakan
Ramai berkepuraan dalam lakonan
Tinggi jawatan dan kedudukan...
Bercakap rendah diri tapi memaling muka kepada yang tidak di gemari
Menentu siapa baik dan tidak
Mengumpul duit dan harta untuk diri
Nasihat tidak habis diberi
berkata baik tidak terperi
rapi tidak mendengar suara insan kedana
berpura sepanjang masa
Membazir tidak kira
Mengambil tidak memberi
Mengarah sesuka hati
Tapi di khalayak seolah insaf dan sedari
Baik seperti makaikat ...
semua terus terpikat
Terlalu banyak pahit untuk disukat..
Juga bertimbun pura di sepanjang masa.

FBSHApost@27 Mac 2016

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

FBSHApost@25 Mac 2016:Fakir mahu betulkan diri

Pagi jumaat penuh berkat...sambil duduk fakir melihat, kebencian dan pendustaan..duduk bersama bermajlisan...fakir terdengar ramai bercakapan...gelak ketawa sekuat bunyian...
tiada sekatan...tanda pangkat dan hartawan, bergaul bersama kebebasan...tiada seorang tiada jawatan, berminuman dan terdedah tanpa sopan....itu pemodenan...bicara pun bertelor asingan..
Fakir lihat pada kosong keikhlasan dan kejujuran.... 
Jadi suara pada merrka penentang iman... 
Fakir mahu betulkan diri...
Sebelum berkhutbah di mimbar
Suka mengajar tapi tidak belajar tinggi...

Tapi dunia ini tonggang langgang...
Yang bijaksana di pinggiran ...
Tiada benar amanah jujur ikhlas
Fakir terkenang perintah Ilahi
Masih tidak mencukupi
Fakir takut berkata melebihi.

FBSHApost@25 Mac 2016



By Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar

14 March 2016
Dewan Perdana, SME Corp, Platinum Sentral

Assalamualaikum WBT

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, let me express my thanks to SPAD Academy for inviting me here this morning to share my thoughts on Leadership and Building a High Performing Team. I must confess that when I received this invitation, I became slightly nostalgic. I started thinking how I had first experienced leadership being shown – my childhood home. Interestingly enough, many years later I read an article in the Harvard Business Review where the management icon Jack Welch stated, “My mother was the greatest leadership teacher I ever had”. So both Jack Welch and I learnt our leadership lessons the same way – in our respective childhood homes. I, however was luckier than Mr. Welch. While he had only one teacher; his mother, I had two; my mother and my father.

You know how most management books will tell you that the optimum span of control is 5? Well, my mother had to manage 12 children and 1 husband and she was amazing at it. Many a time, my father was away on his political work and my mother would single-handedly handle everything. She was an expert at delegating household tasks to us children all according to our capabilities. She was a financing wiz who knew how to manage finances and credit so that we children never wanted for the essentials. She was a resource optimizer who could prioritize her time and her resources. When I think back on it, I still don’t know how she managed it. But I learnt from her all these things.

From my father, I learnt that leadership and authority must be tempered with compassion and mercy. My father was a highly disciplined man. He expected the best from himself and the best from others. Yet, he also knew the need to be compassionate. He knew how difficult it was for my mother to manage all the household bills on our very limited resources and how much my mother sacrificed her own needs for the family. So when my father held higher positions, he made sure that he rewarded her within his limits. So I can safely say that I do not believe in the blowtorch management style that “Neutron Jack” as Jack Welch was also known, practiced.

Well there is one other difference between Jack Welch and me. Mr. Welch spent his entire career in one firm, GE. I would like to think that I was more adventurous. I managed to fit in careers in three different fields i.e. legal, banking and politics. In each of these fields I again managed to fit in very different roles. In the legal field, I served as Sessions Court President as well as a legal advisor to a bank, Bank Bumiputra. In the banking field I did commercial banking before becoming CEO of Bank Bumiputra Investment banking subsidiary and in politics, I was Cabinet Minister in four (4) different Ministries i.e. PM’s Department (in charge of Law), Defence, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

I would say that the leadership challenges that I faced as Cabinet Minister were the most challenging and interesting. If you ever thought that politics is a bed of roses, let me remind you of what Winston Churchill said when he compared politics and war. Churchill, who knew a thing or two about both war and politics, said “In war you can be killed only once but in politics many times”. I must have done something right – I survived. 

My thoughts of leadership therefore have been shaped by my experiences over the course of more than 40 years of hands-on public service in these very different fields. Although they are different, nevertheless I find that the principles of outstanding leadership and building high performance teams remain the same.

The Concept of Leadership
Building a high-performance team is a function of leadership. So what is leadership? Is leadership different from management? Some think so. They use a cute phrase to make this distinction clear - leadership is about doing the right thing while management about doing things right. To these people, management is about ensuring effectiveness and efficiency through planning, organizing, budgeting resources, etc. while leadership is about thinking strategically and setting the direction, aligning stakeholders, inspiring people and guiding change.

I do not hold this view. In the real world things are not so sharply defined. I find it difficult to imagine how a manager can achieve results without setting a team’s direction or inspiring the team to move in that direction. Similarly, I believe people would find it extremely frustrating to work for a leader who creates an inspiring vision but is clueless, no direction and out of touch with the details involved in implementing this vision.

Of course the higher one’s position is in the organizational hierarchy, the greater the focus is on strategy. Similarly, junior staff would focus more on the mechanics of implementation. But all of you regardless of your job titles have the responsibility to both do things rightly and do the right thing. Leaders at all levels should have both; a long-term vision and a short-term plan, inspire change and promote stability, empower employees and hold them accountable, think creatively and focus on the bottom line, all at the same time. This is how you as leaders can add more value to your organization.

My favourite analogy for a leader is the magnet. The stronger and better a magnet, the more iron filings that it attracts and the greater the distance that it can induce them to move. Similarly a strong and good leader will attract more people to follow him and will be able to take more people with him as he moves towards uncharted territory. So, how do we become stronger leaders, better magnets in our organization? Let me give my thoughts on some of the key factors.

The Context of Leadership – Malaysia’s Plural Society
Malaysia is blessed because we have a plural society. We are probably the most plural society in Asia. Why do I say that this is a blessing? Because it is this very diversity that has enabled us to build on subtly different experiences of the different groups in our society. It enables us to avoid the danger of group think. It provides us a latent potential to understand other countries and societies that we can convert to our advantage. As leaders, we should consider how we can leverage on this fact to improve our performance in all fields. However, to do that we need the requisite skills to build and to manage diverse teams.

Perhaps the best example of a leader who intuitively understood and practiced this is Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman. He was the first person in the country to build what would now be called a diverse, inclusive team, but in that simpler era was simply called the Alliance. How did he do this so successfully? By balancing and managing the interests of each of the groups so that the whole is greater than the sum of the constituent parts. He set a powerful example that has been followed by all our Prime Ministers.

So we as leaders in our organization have a good role model to follow. As our environment changes, we, too should be open to new ideas and new influences. Being open to new ideas and influences, however, does not mean being swept away by them. In fact it is a fear of being swept away that causes many people, many leaders to close their minds behind what they feel are the old certainties. But society is never static and as the environment changes, we cannot always do things the way they were done before.  So paradoxically to be open to new influences, we have to have the self-confidence to know our own self-worth, our own values and our own strengths. Mahatma Gandhi expressed this best when he said “Let all my windows be open. Let all cultures blow in. But let not culture blow me off my feet”.
Some people discount the importance of diversity. Akio Morita, the founder of Sony once said that people are 95% the same and only 5% different. My take on this is simple - if you ignore the 5% difference, then you will only get 95% success. If you want 100% success, then you need to consider the 5% that is different.

Developing Professional Expertise
How do we develop self-confidence? By knowing that we are good at what we do. A leader regardless of his profession has to be an expert at something. What does it mean to be an expert? It means that someone who has achieved the highest level of performance in his field for his level. Note that I said highest level of performance, not highest level of knowledge. Knowledge is only useful if it is translated to performance. Leaders who have developed the requisite expertise are able to select and implement more appropriate strategies, respond faster, and adjust their actions more quickly when situation change.

How does someone become an expert in a particular field? It comes from concentrated effort and deliberate practice at sharpening your skills in your field. Some people say “in-born talent” is necessary. I however think that having “in-born talent” is vastly overrated and cannot produce outstanding performance without practice. Let me illustrate this by picking an example from the field of sport. Look at Datuk Nicol David who has consistently been ranked No. 1 female squash player in the world.

Many of you may know that she won her first World Junior title at the age of 16. Yet how many know that she started professional coaching at the age of 8 or that she trains for 2-4 hours every day? This is the level of commitment that is needed to be an expert, a leader. In her website, Datuk Nicol David states “We develop specific skills to take us to the next level, into being a better squash player”.

Similarly each of us has to develop specific skills to take us into the next level of becoming a better professional, a better leader. We have to engage in highly disciplined practice consistently over time to become an expert and thus a better leader. While most people stop practising once the practice becomes too difficult or is no longer enjoyable, true leaders continue at it because they are determined to succeed, not because it is easy or enjoyable.

Now, leaving the squash court aside and coming back to the workplace, how can we learn leadership expertise in the context of our everyday work? We can develop them through optimal levels of challenging assignments. If the work assignment is too easy, people do not get the challenge they need to develop new skills. If the assignment is too difficult, then people become overwhelmed by the challenge. They become anxious and uncertain about how to proceed and this detracts from them learning new skills. Here, supervisors play a key role. The first role is obvious - supervisors need to give assignments with the right level of complexity for their direct reports to learn new skills. The second is not obvious but equally important – supervisors need to give honest feedback to their direct reports so that ambiguity is reduced and they can identify what works and what does not.

Having the Right Personal Motivation at Work
What are the things that motivate us when we work? I don’t mean fulfilling the organization’s goals but rather what we want to achieve as we go about this. Some people have a “looking good” motivation which means that they focus primarily on looking successful in the eyes of others. This is not all bad because such people do want to achieve a successful result. After all achieving success is the easiest way to look good in the eyes of others. However, in their efforts to always look good in the eyes of others, they often stick with the tried-and-true strategies, take fewer risks and avoid anything that might lead to negative feedback. Thus they often forego opportunities to take challenging assignments and forego opportunities to learn new skills. In their efforts to look good, they may also try to outperform rather help their colleagues which of course detracts from efforts to build a high performance team.

Others have a “learning opportunity” personal motivation. Here they are less pre-occupied with their self-image and more focused on learning new skills while doing their work assignments. Consequently this group are more open to take on challenging assignments and more willing to persist in the face of difficulty.

They are thus are more likely to achieve success not just now but also in the future, not just for themselves, but also for their organizations. I therefore believe that one of the key factors to build high performance teams is to inculcate the “learning opportunity” motivation within team members and not the “looking good” motivation.

Sense of Responsibility
Responsibility refers to the quality of being goal-oriented, dependable, self-disciplined and organized. Responsible leaders are committed to coming through for others and completing the job for which they are accountable. They are internally motivated to fulfil their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.

How many of you still remember the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008? Do you remember the Chinese team being led into the stadium by two people, basketball star Yao Ming and a small boy, a nine-year old boy named Lin Hao? Lin Hao was one of the survivors of the Sichuan earthquake. After he escaped his collapsed school building, he went back through the rubble and rescued some of his classmates from the collapsed building. He then led the group of small children in singing songs because he felt that it would keep their spirits up while waiting for help. When asked why he put himself in danger to save his classmates, Lin Hao explained that he did this because he was a school monitor and he believed that taking care of the other students was his personal responsibility. He might be nine (9) years old but he certainly has leadership qualities.

Social Skills and Emotional Intelligence
Wisma Putra has always emphasised the importance of having good social skills in our diplomatic corps as this is an essential skill for a good diplomat. I believe that this is an important skill for other organizations as well. Leaders in organizations need to understand that managing relationships at work is at least as important as managing the technical aspects of their work when you want to build high-performance teams. There is a need to pro-actively manage your relationship with your bosses, direct reports, peers and clients. In this way leaders can build the social capital needed to be successful. Social capital is as important as financial capital and human capital to ensure success in business. This is Social capital comes in very handy when you need to manage conflicts, influence others and motivate others to get things done. Good social skills help leaders accumulate more social capital.

Closely related to social skills is emotional intelligence. I must confess that I was surprised that management theorists only recognized the importance of emotional intelligence relatively lately, i.e. only in the 1980’s with the development of the theories of multiple intelligences. After all the ability to identify, understand, and empathise with others has always been the forte of successful diplomats since time immemorial.  The success of ASEAN is a testimony to the high degree of emotional intelligence displayed by ASEAN leaders and diplomats in forging consensus on difficult issues. Successful leaders in other fields would do well to learn their techniques.

One powerful technique is to develop positive emotions. People who experience and express positive emotions are more likely to bring out the best in themselves. Positive feelings such as joy, hope, love, compassion, generosity, optimism, etc. serve many purposes. When we feel positive emotions, we tend to think more broadly and creatively, seek out new experiences and information, behave more flexibly and have more confidence in our own abilities. Positive emotions therefore help us develop mutual respect and build trust more easily.

At the same time, with positive emotions, we can more easily see the situation from the other persons’ point of view and this will enable us to make more thoughtful decisions. So all of you as budding leaders, please do develop your skills in improving your emotional intelligence and building positive emotions. Not only will you be more successful in your work, but as an added bonus, you will enjoy better health as well.

Another key to having high emotional quotient, high EQ, is to have a sense of compassion and mercy. This does not mean condoning wrong-doing or shirking work. However it does mean recognizing that everyone wants to be treated with respect, with dignity and with understanding. Treating people with compassion and mercy is needed to ensure that justice is done to the person. Leaders have the special responsibility to remember this because we are in the position to exercise power. If leaders exercise power without the element of justice, then we don’t get high performance teams, we get oppression.

Intelligence Coupled With Common Sense
Many of us know people who did very well academically in school and yet did not achieve expected levels of success in their career. This is because school tests only one kind of intelligence, analytical intelligence. This is the ability to think critically, analyse information and solve problems, what many call “book smarts”. While analytical intelligence is important, however, it is not sufficient. There are at least two other types of intelligence necessary for success.

The first is creative intelligence which is the ability to generate ideas. People with good creative intelligence often have the same information that other people have, but they are more likely to tinker with that information. They are able to see beyond the obvious, and explore multiple options that enable them to use that information in unique and innovative ways.

The second is practical intelligence. People with practical intelligence have a knack for turning the knowledge that they gain into results that are relevant for a particular situation. Practical knowledge is based primarily on “tacit knowledge” which is a fancy way of saying “common sense”. It is most useful when solving real everyday problems that are not well-defined, have not been faced before and do not have an obvious right answer.

In fact, whenever I think of intellectualism and common sense, I remember a joke about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson going camping. It is night time, and both of them crawl into their tent. Suddenly in the middle of the night, Sherlock Holmes wakes Watson up and says:
“Watson, look up at the sky. What you see?”
Watson replies “I see millions of stars”
Holmes asks “What do you deduce from that?”
Watson replies, “Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life." Holmes is silent for a while and then he says “Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent.”

An effective leader should have not just analytical intelligence but also creative intelligence and practical intelligence, not just “book smarts” but also “street smarts”. Of course being human, we may not always be equally gifted with high levels of all three kinds of intelligence. The solution then is to ensure that our teams consist of a diverse group of people, some who are good at analytical intelligence, others at creative intelligence and yet others at practical intelligence. Then we will have a high-performing team. It is important that leaders do not build teams which are replicas of themselves. It may be more comfortable for a leader to do so, to surround himself with people to think alike and approach problems in the same way, but the result would be a one-dimensional team, not a high-performing team. How can we avoid this trap of creating teams that replicate of ourselves? The answer is to have self-awareness.  

Developing Self Awareness
Developing self-awareness is not an easy or natural thing to do but we must consciously do so because it is an extremely important skill for leaders. Leaders who know their goals, values and styles, their strengths and weaknesses are more likely to thrive in their work. Leaders who understand their biases – and we all have them – are more likely to manage their biases by seeking out information from people with different perspectives. This is what I meant when I said that leaders with self-awareness can avoid the trap of building one-dimensional teams and instead build high-performance teams. Consequently they are more able to develop a broader perspective, and thus make better decisions.

Equally important, leaders with self-awareness also understand that context significantly affects their own and others behaviour. Most people attribute their own and others’ behaviour to innate personality characteristics. For example, we say that someone is a sociable person, an analytical person, or a compassionate person. However the reality is that many of our behaviours are significantly influenced by the contexts in which we find ourselves. Some contexts bring out the best in us, while others bring out the worst in us. Self-aware leaders are better equipped to generate the optimum contexts to bring out the best in their teams.

Finally leaders with good self-awareness are more aware of their limitations and their limits. Remember that at the beginning of my talk, I used the magnet analogy for a leader. What happens when a magnet moves too far from the iron filings or too fast? The iron filings no longer follow the magnet as they fall outside the magnetic field generated by the magnet. The same thing happens to leaders who are not aware of their limits and move too far from their level of competence. They can no longer get their teams to follow them and their effectiveness drops. Self-awareness of our strengths and limits can help us avoid this situation.

Well, ladies and gentlemen,
The world is changing very fast these days. Our responses must therefore be equally fast if we want to survive in this new highly competitive world. Yet, despite the changes, some things remain constant. Just as a magnet will always point north no matter where we are, similarly good leadership will always be the key to develop high-performance teams no matter what field or business that we are in. I wish you every success in your future careers.

Thank you.