Three business leaders nominate the men and women who they believe exemplify the business leadership qualities needed through the years ahead. High among the qualities they admire: energy, a willingness to take risks and the ability to learn from others.
Managing director, Robert Half Singapore
Singapore has always been a small country that punches above its weight in the world of business, and we have produced some fantastic corporate leaders. But one for me stands out – Chua Sock Koong
She is a great role model for Asian businesswomen right now, but by 2020 she will have acquired legendary status. First, she is the Group CEO of Singtel, Singapore’s largest telco and one of the largest in the Asia-Pacific. After Singapore Airlines, Singtel is arguably the nation’s best-known and most strategically important brand.
Second, Sock Koong is an international business leader. Singtel has expanded aggressively outside Singapore and now owns many regional operators, including 100 per cent of Australian telco Optus and 32 per cent of Indian telco Bharti Airtel.
The thing I like best about her is that she worked her way up through the ranks and smashed through the glass ceiling – which, in a traditional culture like Singapore, can be a pretty thick pane of glass. She started as an accountant and rose to treasurer, then CFO and eventually CEO.
The business leaders that will be seen as role models in 2020 are people like Sock Koong, who are facing a wave of disrupters and changes in their industry but have the knowledge, skill and foresight to navigate their companies through these constant challenges.
Most importantly, she is someone who young women can look up to and say, “that could be me”.
The pace of change – most of it driven by technology – is the dominant characteristic of business today. Managing this is our biggest challenge.
From day one, some 27 years ago, when my brother and I were two guys in a garage, process, technology and non-conflicted offerings were the three issues at the heart of our vision for a better customer experience.
Since then, we have built a business that is very particular about process, to ensure quality and consistency and to free up our people to be creative and best serve the client, utilising every individual’s innate skills.
Henry Ford was the archetypal harnesser of process. He democratised the automobile in 1908 by making it available to the masses. Despite being launched at the dawn of the 20th century, the Model T was voted the car of that century at the end of it, in 1999.
In 2099, I predict Elon Musk’s new Tesla electric car will be voted the car of the 21st century. Musk is a marvel and an inspiration to me and, I am sure, to all who come within his orbit.
By virtue of his endeavours through PayPal, the Tesla auto and now the revolution in battery storage, which I think will be his biggest legacy, Musk is the disrupter of our age.
I am in awe of Musk’s energy, vision and his management skills – and, clearly, his leadership qualities. What a skill set. What a guy. Waiter, I want what he’s having!
Managing director, Intuit Australia
Great leaders motivate action and inspire change. They lead by example and make a positive difference to the lives of those around them, including their customers.
For me, there are three business leaders who immediately spring to mind as role models for 2020 and beyond:
- Brad Smith, Intuit CEO, has many qualities I admire, including his authenticity and transparent communication style, his humble nature and the fact that he is always learning. He has a passion for people and customers that goes right to the heart of Intuit’s innovation culture, which, in part, drives our business success.
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, stands up for what she believes in and is a risk taker in business. She leads one of the most well-known disruptive businesses, a business that isn’t slowing down and is constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Sandberg speaks out for others and is a keen advocate of women in business. She is also known for her sense of humour and humility, qualities that we can all cultivate.
- Carolyn Creswell, founder of Carman’s Fine Foods, built her business from scratch into the thriving enterprise it is today. She is generous with her time in helping mentor and work with other budding entrepreneurs.
With business competition intensifying, successful leaders will be those who collaborate with others both within and outside their organisations to share learnings and solve problems in more creative ways. The network Creswell is building through her mentoring will definitely help her remain competitive in 2020 and beyond.
Building your influence as a leader
Stella Tang is the Singapore managing director of specialist recruitment firm Robert Half. She has previously worked as a recruiter with Talent2 Inside, Micron Semiconductor Asia and PeopleSearch.
Spiro Paule is CEO of Findex Group, which he co-founded with his brother Terry. Findex owns and manages financial services businesses, including the Crowe Horwath accounting business in Australasia.
Nicolette Maury heads the Australian arm of Intuit, which sells the QuickBooks line of accounting software. She previously held positions as director of buyer experience at eBay and senior associate at The Boston Consulting Group. She was one of INTHEBLACK’s 2014 Young Business Leaders.
This article is from the December issue of INTHEBLACK
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