Leader's Digest #51 (May 2021)

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MAY 2021






Publication Team EDITORIAL

Editor-in-Chief Ismail Said Assistant Editor Diana Marie Capel Graphic Designer Awang Ismail bin Awang Hambali Abdul Rani Haji Adenan

* Read our online version to access the hyperlinks to other reference articles made by the author.


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LET US KNOW If you are encouraged or provoked by any item in the LEADERS DIGEST, we would appreciate if you share your thoughts with us. Here’s how to reach us: Email: diana@leadinstitute.com.my Content Partners:

Leader’s Digest is a monthly publication by the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service, dedicated to advancing civil service leadership and to inspire our Sarawak Civil Service (SCS) leaders with contemporary leadership principles. It features a range of content contributed by our strategic partners and panel of advisors from renowned global institutions as well as established corporations that we are affiliated with. Occasionally, we have guest contributions from our pool of subject matter experts as well as from our own employees. The views expressed in the articles published are not necessarily those of Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service Sdn. Bhd. (292980-T). No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the publisher’s permission in writing.


Issue 51 I May 2021




“Metá!” is a common word used every day in Greece. The translation: ‘later’ or ‘after’. Added to morphosis (the mode of development of an organism) it gives it a very powerful new meaning.

The caterpillar that turns into a butterfly undergoes a metamorphosis. In other words, a complete non-linear transformation. From living depending on walking, this living organism will ‘later’/’after’ fly for the rest of its life. The transformation is not just structural but in its core movement mechanism. Taking this concept into a human analogy, any word we decide to add ‘meta’ to will then be projected into a very over-reaching, more comprehensive, more transcendental dimension. Yet there is a slight fact that is attached to adding the word ‘meta’: it only relates to all that is linked to the past of the added segment, not to its future, its unrealized definition, its next purpose nor meaning. If the butterfly would transform itself further into a flower, then a second metamorphosis would have taken place but strictly and directly related to the butterfly, not to its preceding caterpillar metamorphosis. If a story, a narrative would be written about any ‘meta’ word, its content would have to encompass its understanding by all those reading it and it would have to apply to all caterpillars. The meta narrative of the butterfly would require us to present how its forerunner, the caterpillar, was part of the blueprint, the big picture within the larger scheme of the world of butterflies. What would META-INTEGRITY have as its narrative? How can we bring one concept found in nature to start re-thinking, re-feeling, re-positioning one of the most critical values between people? Imagine you are to produce a movie on integrity. Whilst its content including the script, the selection of a filming location, the props, etc. is being defined, the process of selecting the actors, negotiating with venue owners, paying the bills on time for filming materials, expert subject-matter consultants, etc. in itself will also showcase integrity – or not. Therefore, two separate

From the

Editorial Desk

‘integrity worlds’ (realities on integrity) are running in parallel. One is in the narrative of the movie, the other, the underlying platform of the narrative itself. If integrity (including honesty, trustworthiness, accountability, transparency, fairness and justice) is present as a powerful message for the viewers of the movie, then we have level one of integrity covered. But when all the activities, all the feelings, thoughts, communications and actions towards the production of the movie also have integrity as their underlying characteristic or behaviour (just like the movie on it), can we say that integrity has a meta narrative. The entire integrity ‘deal’: the movie and everything that lead to it and made it possible to make it happen (the behindthe-scenes stuff), is an example of Meta Integrity. Bringing this into a leadership environment is about focusing on the act and the actions. It is about defining an expectation of integrity prior to it by how we uphold, uplift and ensure its elements to have their own ‘metaness’. If Integrity is the glue for trust, then the elements, the chemistry of the glue’s components (their integrity), are the points of reference to assess integrity as a whole. And so, we may want to not let integrity walk alone as a transferrable shadow to everybody but assess it in our material, emotional, psychological and natural world separately as independent meta-narratives. When integrity is true to all, then we have complete integrity. It is then when it has mattered to all in comparison to an individual narrative where the ego, the ‘for me’ standard may predominate and become the mockery of it all.

Walk your talk without stumbling over words that we haven’t practised walking with! Issue 51 I May 2021





Is Ethical Leadership still Valid in these Changing Times? What does it mean to be an ethical leader? It is talked about often in leadership, but how many of us can define what it means to be truly principled in leadership? Another question we might ask is: what effect does it have on an organisation to be run by decent leaders? In a 2018 study on the impact of ethical leadership on the effectiveness of SMEs in Malaysia, Mitra Madanchian and colleagues set out to find out what it means for businesses to have principled leaders at the helm. Around 98 per cent of business in Malaysia is made up of SMEs, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. They also employ roughly 60 per cent of the population, which means that more than half of Malaysia’s workforce is influenced by leaders in the SME space. When we put it in those terms, it’s easy to see why ethical leadership is important. According to Villanova University – a Catholic research university based in Pennsylvania – ethical leadership is described as “a form of leadership in which individuals demonstrate conduct for the common good that is acceptable and appropriate in every area of their life.” Ethical leaders set the standard, and lead from the front by their example of the values they expect of their followers. When so much in business relies on collaboration, cohesion, 4

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and trust, it becomes impossible to dismiss the importance of ethics in business. Addressing what it means to be an effective leader, the researchers note in their study that effectiveness in leadership has been defined as those who are “able to influence a group to perform their roles with positive organisational outcomes.” When those positive outcomes are achieved, the leadership can be described as effective.

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IN MALAYSIA The researchers measured the effectiveness of leadership across 150 SMEs in Malaysia, focusing on four aspects: a leader’s ability to inspire, facilitate, motivate, and influence others. Unsurprisingly, the study found that effective leadership was present within organisations that showed ethical leadership in terms of setting standards, values, decision-making, and interacting with others. Ethical leadership leads to more effective outcomes in business. That’s the broad conclusion of this and other studies – but there are several specific benefits that come from ethical leadership.



These benefits include the creation of a healthier and positive work culture; ensuring best practices are maintained throughout the organisation; developing an inclusive workplace that holds everyone to a fair degree of accountability; and ensuring that leaders have the best interests and well-being of their employees at heart. All of the above sounds great – so why, then, do some businesses find it difficult to implement ethical leadership? Even the word “ethics” can be enough to make some people roll their eyes. Why is that? Ethical leadership has a number of benefits, but it’s not without its challenges. In order to be effective, principled leadership needs to be embraced by everyone. As soon as someone cuts corners and the practice is overlooked or even accepted, it can lead to a snowball effect. It’s also difficult to define beyond broader terms. What might feel ethical to one leader might appear questionable to another within the same organisation, let alone across whole industries. This is when work is needed to establish common ground principles and practices to which everyone can align themselves. Another challenge lies in having a clear and consistent message. As most of us know, in business we can encounter messy and complex ideals that sound great and yet, few people are entirely sure what those ideals mean.

INTEGRITY OF WORDS AND DEEDS Leadership integrity is also a potential issue. While no-one would admit to being unethical, it’s not outside the realm of reason to presume that a blind eye can be turned when mistakes are made if the outcome justifies the means. Albert Einstein famously said that “relativity applies to physics, not ethics”, acknowledging how easy it can be to justify lowering our standards as leaders. In the Malaysian Government’s Wawasan (Vision) 2020, there’s a call for a united, confident Malaysia “infused by strong moral and ethical values”. It is an inspiring vision of principle and hope, one that paints a bright future of possibility and opportunity. Yet, we all know what transpired. Words do not translate to behaviour. Ethical leadership does not just mean words. It has to do with actions. 2020 has long gone, yet Malaysia remains a developing nation. To echo Russian writer and Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s observation, even the best intentions of ethical leadership will come to nothing if leaders do not have the will to act on those intentions. ROSHAN THIRAN Roshan is the Founder and CEO of the Leaderonomics Group. He believes that everyone can be a leader and “make a dent in the universe”, in their own special ways.

Personally, being ethical in both words and deeds is not an easy task. There will be consistent challenges thrown along your journey that you must circumvent and overcome to ensure your word matches your actions. It is not easy but we know leadership is not something easy. It takes a lot of effort and desire to be a great, ethical leader. But, at the end of the day, it this legacy we leave behind. So what are some quick tips to ensure we begin our journey to ethical leadership. We suggest the following: 1. Remember, actions matter much more than our words – Keep your promises. Keep your word. Don’t say things you cannot fulfil. 2. Be Clear About Your Values – Define your values. Be clear about what your priorities are and what is important to you. Once you have alignment of values and what you want, keep resolute towards them. 3. Hire People that Align with your values – we tend to hire based on skills and competence and fire based on character. Build your organisation with value-based people. It is much easier to be held accountable to ethical leadership when your team is aligned to the standard too. 4. Be Aware Of the Temptation – it is so easy to be swayed and fall. Be mindful that there are many grey areas and it is easy to fall prey to unethical behaviour which we can justify as ethical. Set the standard and hold steadfast to it. 5. Have Ethical Mentor – establish role models and mentors that hold to these high standards of ethics. And if they fall, find others.

FINAL THOUGHTS All leaders in Malaysia – mindful that we are setting the example for future leaders – should strive to be active in the qualities of leadership we continually emphasise. Being an ethical leader is not about being perfect or even getting it right all the time. In fact, we will make mistakes and fall. Rather, ethical leadership is an active commitment to be better, do better, own up to and learn from our mistakes, encouraging others to hold our performance to account just as we hold theirs to a high standard.

SANDY CLARKE Sandy is a former Leaderonomics editor and is now a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. As editor of www.leaderonomics.com, he has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour. Issue 51 I May 2021




The Landscape of Accounting and Finance in the New Normal BY SUE COFFEY

Last year, the world experienced a level of disruption no one could have anticipated. Accountants and finance professionals were called to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic, and as a part of a resilient, forward-thinking and innovative profession, we were prepared to handle it. Now, with hope for an end to the pandemic in sight, we are looking beyond the crisis – as should you – and recognising, understanding and leveraging the changes coming from it. I believe this is what makes the accounting profession so successful. Throughout the profession’s history, accountants and finance professionals have been resilient, developing our skills, talents and service lines to keep pace with change and turning that resilience into results for clients and businesses. Today’s fast pace of change means we cannot wait until ‘the busy period or season’ is over; we are embedding this professional development, albeit hard, into what we do every day – and I encourage you to do the same.

Whether you work in public accounting, finance or endeavor for a career in business: to find long-term success, you must continue to evolve. Reflecting on my own career, I was required to constantly adapt to new and different roles, and learning new things that frankly, took me to uncomfortable places, but that paid off in the long run. Here are three things we should all consider as we map out a resilient pathway and overcome the ‘same as last year’ urge.

1. UTILISE NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND WAYS OF WORKING This past year proved that one event has the power to accelerate what we thought would take years to change, particularly around technology. Many companies, organisations and firms moved faster than was thought possible on things like remote work and cloud migration. Interesting how quickly we did it – and successfully! Imagine if we incorporated this speed into everything we do. Yes, the pandemic has upended our lives, but technology allowed us to adapt quickly. Today, most of us regularly use cloud and digital communications to stay connected to one another. Others have leveraged new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and data analytics to drive more efficiency and effectiveness in their work. For accountants and finance professionals, that meant better serving clients and employers.

I’m a big fan of ‘war rooms’ – half-day sessions with my leadership team to brainstorm a problem or potential new area of support for the profession. Issue 51 I May 2021




I’m a big fan of ‘war rooms’ – half-day sessions with my leadership team to brainstorm a problem or potential new area of support for the profession. Focused on a single issue for a set time with a clear goal and agenda has been incredibly successful for me.

2. EVOLVE YOUR SKILLS TO LEVERAGE A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT Technology is a great enabler, and as technology becomes further embedded into our lives and work, jobs as we know them will change. Organisations and people that embrace new technologies and new ways of working will be more successful. To leverage this new, dynamic, digital era, we will need to embrace new skills – a mix of technical, business, leadership, digital and people skills — and develop a deeper understanding of the technologies, algorithms, data and organisational structures that are emerging and becoming increasingly important. I include myself in this category and have been particularly focused on advancing my own technological skills. I have also embedded a cycle of ‘’learn, unlearn, relearn’ into my annual goals. I have learned that unless I set a goal for myself that I can measure throughout the year, it does not get done.

3. DISCOVER AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES People and businesses are reassessing what they want for an uncertain future. Individuals and businesses now have different priorities and needs, which presents unlimited growth opportunities. For individuals, growth could mean pursuing a degree programme, new credential or professional designation, or even making a career change.

Online learning – which continues to rise in popularity and availability because of the pandemic – is an excellent way to explore new subjects and broaden your knowledge and build new skills. The Association has made online learning a priority and offers a whole host of free learning to members, students and business leaders around the world. For businesses and business leaders, one such area of growth is in the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) space. The pandemic increased attention on how businesses interact with the world around them, resulting in more companies thinking about the ways social and environmental issues affect how they operate and communicate their value. Accounting and finance professionals can help businesses see a holistic view of their ESG performance. There are clear lessons to be learned from this crisis – as we have learned from others in the past – most importantly that we must be comfortable with change and quick to adapt. Resilience means not only addressing current crises but committing to constant reinvention to meet the needs and responsibilities of an ever-changing world.

The Association has made online learning a priority and offers a whole host of free learning to members, students and business leaders around the world.

Imagine if we took ‘a timeout’ a couple of times a year to force ourselves to think differently about the tools we are using and how we are working – or how we could work in the future?

I am proud to be a part of an organisation – the Association comprised of The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs – that is focused on supporting the accounting and finance profession to embrace what needs to be done. We are working harder than ever to serve the broad and diverse profession and our more than 650,000 members and students, so they can continue to drive results and lead recovery in 2021 and beyond.

SUE COFFEY Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA is Chief Executive Officer – Public Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Sue is responsible for establishing and executing on the Association’s strategy that supports the work of U.S. CPAs who practice in public accounting firms. Issue 51 I May 2021





International change expert and award-winning author of “The Power to Change” shares how to overcome organisational resistance If the last year has taught us anything, it is that an organisation’s ability to change is business-critical. Successful change is only possible if your people are ready, willing and able to change. 88% of change initiatives fail, according to a 2016 report from Bain & Co. It is a similar story when it comes to business strategies, mergers and acquisitions – seven out of eight fail to deliver what they set out to achieve. Why? Because leaders forget that change is all about people: not business models, not balance sheets, not systems or processes. People. Leadership today is all about leading change. Successful leaders do one special thing that the majority of their peers fail to do - they help their people to want to change.


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HOW TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR PEOPLE TO EMBRACE CHANGE AND THRIVE Here are the 5 steps I recommend to create a change-ready culture in your business:

1. Give your people the clarity they deserve.

4. Ensure your people are able to embrace change.

Your people need complete clarity about what you are seeking to achieve, why they need to change and why success is possible. Your organisation’s purpose has never been more important; it is the anchor that will keep your people focussed and confident. In this Covid-disrupted world, businesses across the globe have been revisiting what makes them unique; what gives it the right to succeed in a world of change. KPMG reports that “CEOs are accelerating strategic priorities to arm their businesses for a new reality”[1]. BCG is imploring business leaders to “rethink the art of the possible”[2]

The success of your business depends upon the ability of your people to embrace change. They must be equipped with the skills and mindset they need to accept change and thrive. As leaders, you need to help them realise: •

Their emotional response to change is OK. We all feel powerful emotions when confronted with major change – and this is completely normal. During one ‘Embracing Change’ workshop for the employees of a major fund manager, one of the delegates was quietly wiping away tears during the first session. During the break, she explained that she hadn’t realised the rollercoaster of emotions she was experiencing after her father had died was completely normal. Her relief was palpable.

We all have the power to overcome our barriers to change. Each of us erects our own unique barriers to change. But we can learn to detach from our negative thoughts, observe our emotions, reframe the way we look at life’s challenges, confront our fears – and accept change.

Everyone can become their own change leader. The power to change lies within us. Once we have acknowledged the fact that major change has been done to us, we need to pick ourselves up and ask ourselves the magic question: “So, what am I going to do about it?”

2. Build an extraordinary leadership team. Culture starts at the top. During turbulent times of change, cracks in leadership teams become glaringly apparent. CEOs will need to be ruthless when it comes to the composition and behaviour of their leadership teams; no business can afford weak links or a dysfunctional collection of individuals at the helm. You will need a genuinely collaborative team built on trust and respect; delivering shared objectives together. You will also need leaders who empower their staff and develop more leaders throughout the organisation.

3. Ensure your leaders can lead change. The single key leadership skill for leaders at all levels is the ability to lead change. If you are not leading change, you are not leading anything; you are just managing the status quo an option that no longer exists. To help its leaders meet the challenge during this pandemic, Astra Zeneca produced a new leadership toolkit to “help leaders develop the mindset and behaviours to navigate uncertainty, choose the most effective response to lead a team and to look ahead to the future, so we can all come out stronger on the other side.”[3] In the ‘Leading Change’ workshops and webinars I run for Henley Business School in the UK and clients worldwide, we explore the essential ingredients for successful change, which include clarity, engaging your people to explore the implications of the change, genuine communication, and an understanding that all change is both emotional and personal. Leadership today is about helping your people to want to change.

5. Don’t let bureaucracy get in the way. Make sure your HR policies, management processes, incentives, financial rules and communications are all redesigned to support change - encourage informed risk-taking and innovation; enable people to try, fail and learn from the experience; and celebrate successful change. Set your people up for success. The power to accept and embrace change is one of the most important gifts you can possibly give your people. For their own personal benefit and for the future success of your business, you can help them to learn to harness change and make it work - for everyone. Are you struggling with transformation? Love status quo? Read Don’t Be A Monkey.

CAMPBELL MACPHERSON Campbell Macpherson is a sought-after speaker and international business adviser on leadership, strategy and change who splits his time between Australia and the UK. He is a keynote speaker, Executive Fellow of Henley Business School and author. His first book, The Change Catalyst (Wiley 2017), won 2018 Business Book of the Year in London. His latest book, The Power to Change (Kogan Page 2020) is out now and available from Booktopia.

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ys a W To Level Up Your Leadership BY REBECCA HOUGHTON

The biggest space that leadership programs are failing is middle management. Far from the laughed-about middle manager of last decade, those that can lead from the middle – the B-Suite – are fast becoming invaluable. They turn strategy into reality and act as an essential translator between the C-Suite and a largely millennial workforce. Imagine managing through the return-to-office debate without the support of the B-Suite. It’s a role that neither a front-line leader nor a C-Suite leader can play. We need the B-Suite more than we ever have, and we will continue to do so for as long as business remains fast-paced and disrupted. But there is a problem.

the B-Suite is experiencing burnout at far higher rates than any other cohort because they are at the epicenter of so many conflicting pressure points.


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The B-Suite have not had a great deal of successful investment recently. They’re experienced managers already but not senior enough for executive-level investment, too senior for generic training, and so large a cohort that they’re expensive. So they have often been left to their own devices and we are just discovering that they need much more support to take on the responsibility of leading from the middle. Without that support, the B-Suite is experiencing burnout at far higher rates than any other cohort because they are at the epicenter of so many conflicting pressure points. The result is a widening gap between the C-Suite and the B-Suite that has become HR’s problem to solve, and here are ten ways to do that: 1. Invest in your B-Suite. Succession planning has a poor success rate globally and the gap between B-Suite and C-Suite is widening. Companies increasingly hire leaders from outside rather than promote from within, paying 13%-15% more for new hires who take longer to perform in-role and are more likely to leave than someone who was promoted internally. 2. Refocus your development objectives. Leadership training budgets are already straining the coffers, and the B-Suite is huge. The B-Suite has already been taught the tools they need for success, but they are not applying consistently and broadly to new scenarios. Rather than continue to source



and provide new knowledge or new tools, turn your attention to application of knowledge, forming long-term, sustainable habits instead. We don’t need more models for leadership – we need to apply the ones we already have.

We don’t need more models for leadership – we need to apply the ones we already have.

7. Teach them to think. Most B-Suite leaders fill their rare spare time with more work because their DNA is efficiency rather than effectiveness. Most of them haven’t been faced with the complexity, frequency, and changeability of decision making that they are faced with today. They need to be able to think more strategically, but most of them have never been trained to do so.

Only 50% of leaders feel confident to lead today.

3. Review your mode of delivery. B-Suite leaders want to learn from experienced peers and external experts, what they get is internal training and internal mentoring. According to DDI’s Leadership Forecast, the number one preference for high potential B-Suite leaders is external mentoring. Yet that doesn’t even feature in the top five investments by most organisations. This disconnect is wasting B-Suite time and L&D money.

8. Shift how they view execution. Many B-Suite leaders are struggling to meet the new levels of complexity and ambiguity with old methods of management. Most are still trying to manage complexity with rigidity; introducing more structure, processes or role clarity. What they really need are tactics to combat the chaos – enabling them to tackle complexity with flexibility instead.

4. Simplify competency for 21st Century Leaders. Focus on a smaller number of things that make the biggest difference. Our B-Suite Leaders need to do three things really well: control the pace of work, use the space to think strategically, and make the case. This is overwhelmingly supported by Deloitte, the DDI Global Leadership Forecast, McKinsey, and Bersin. Keep it simple.

9. Teach them to manage up. They need it and so does the C-Suite. There’s a lot of training out there about how to be a great manager and hardly any about how to be a great direct report. Yet both sides of the equation are critical for the relationship (in fact, the whole system) to work. On top of this, most B-Suite Leaders view managing as sucking up and are naturally deterred from consciously practicing it.

5. Rebalance your leadership program spend. An earlier article by Training & Development magazine shows that 10% of all training spend globally is dedicated to the C-Suite, with new manager and diversity leadership taking up the bulk of the remaining 45%. That’s a disproportionate lack of investment in the B-Suite.

10. Empower them to have a personal brand. At the C-Suite reputation is an asset. There are plenty of CEOs that are a household name, yet most corporates actively dissuade B-Suite leaders from having an independent voice.

6. Help them to stop undermining themselves. Only 50% of leaders feel confident to lead today, and for many B-Suite leaders, inner confidence is their greatest and most private battle and a major contributor to a leaders’ resilience.

In a nutshell, our B-Suite leaders need a tune up to address the new demands of work – and I think we are ready to provide it to them.

REBECCA HOUGHTON Rebecca Houghton, author of ‘Impact: 10 Ways to Level up your Leadership’ ($29.95), is a Leadership and Talent Expert and founder of BoldHR. Rebecca builds B-Suite leaders with C-Suite impact by working at a strategic, team and individual level.

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The Metanarrative of Thinking again. And again. BY DIANA MARIE

You might have heard this before, that if you put a frog in boiling water, it would jump out straight away. The contrary happens if the frog is put in a pot of lukewarm water, the frog won’t survive because as the water slowly heats up, it becomes the frog’s death bath. Obviously, the frog lacks the ability to rethink the situation, it doesn’t realize that the warm bath will cause it a slow death, until it’s too late. Ironically, our world is full of slow boiling pots. Industrial Psychologist Adam Grant in his book Originals, invites us to reflect the number of times in our career, we reacted too slowly, failing to face the risk or even danger, because we were reluctant to rethink a situation. Remember how long it took the world to take action towards the pandemic? How much energy and how quick were we at rethinking our actions, finding better ways or better solutions to matters that makes a difference in the communities that we serve? I find it most interesting that Adam Grant identifies the one habit that we must all have is “the fear of not trying”. The evolution of the term leading others in the 21st century can be overwhelming. Thought leaders have brought in numerous ideologies, as many as the rings on the planet Saturn. This month the world celebrates mothers, and numerous articles reflected on gender inclusivity in the workplace. Literature asks us to define what our personal network of diversity and inclusion are. It made me recall all the woman in leadership throughout my career and, whether I had the courage to celebrate the talents of other women which enriched the organization, talents I may not have. As early as in 2010 Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was already talking about women leaning forward for each other at the workplace, in


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acknowledgement of the impact each woman makes. Or are women the greater obstacle to other women? Rethinking may be a struggle for many of us, just like the squeaky sounds on our machines, we don’t fix it until it breaks down or totally collapses. When it comes to our goals, our identities and work culture, perhaps it’s easier to stick to our ways instead of rethinking its relevance or practicality in the current ecosystem. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek points out, troops in the military are expected to follow their leaders, and trust the leaders’ decision-making with their lives. At the workplace, employees trust leaders with their livelihoods, and count on them to make the best choices not only for the organization, but also for themselves and their peers. As leaders, who do we listen to? Do we take into account every side of the team? Or are we more comfortable with being subjectively selective when gathering data, taking a chance that we might end up with a meagre assumption? Leadership expert Roselinde Tores says, it is a fact that the world we live in is rapidly changing and some of those past practices that was successful, may not be so very good anymore. But then, do you cringe in rethinking because the path is unbearable, unpopular or unfamiliar, even when we know for sure it is the right thing to do? Picture this: Going for war, and there is a line of fire ahead. While Simon Sinek says leaders make the squadron feel safe, try visualizing the Commander looking back at the squadron and feeling safe too, because prior to going to war, strategies were communicated fairly and equally to each of them. Each squad member has a role in it.



THE EMPEROR AND THE SEEDS I would like in this edition, to share with you a story, retold by Wayne Rice, in 2012. Read it till the end and I humbly ask that you ponder a little.

He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful — in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.” When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!” All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

In the Far East, the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.” One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by — still nothing in Ling’s pot.

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!” Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor? Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he Is the one who will be the new emperor!”

Be careful what we plant, now; it will determine what we will reap tomorrow. Will the seeds we now scatter make life better for us, and for the ones who will come after us? DIANA MARIE Diana Marie is a team member at the Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service attached with Corporate Affairs who found love in reading and writing whilst discovering inspiration in Leadership that Makes a Difference.

Issue 51 I May 2021












Issue 51 I May 2021



Issue 51 I May 2021


Model the behaviours you expect other leaders to demonstrate.

- Ismail Said CEO Leadership Institute of Sarawak Civil Service


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