Have to admit that when I was younger, I couldn’t really imagine what I would be doing in my golden years. In a way, I’m very fortunate to have discovered my purpose in life very early on.
However, it has taken a bit longer figuring out exactly how I would achieve it – still learning and discovering every day!
I can attribute it only to divine intervention that I have found at least two organisations with values that mirror the principles that guide my path and allow me to remain true to my life purpose.
Today, I would like to delve into how everyday people, and heroes of today have shown me how to live by these five principles:
Bona fide heroes Datuk Dr Kim Tan of Springhill Management Ltd (UK), Professor William Hsiao of the Harvard School of Public Health and Professor Datuk Dr Khairuddin Yusof of our page 5 fame (click here to check out his story!) all have one thing in common.
They have shared their knowledge, experiences and visions with such zeal that it didn’t matter that we mere mortals in their presence were decades younger.
We were swept up in their ideas and in the dream that each one of us could make a real difference in this world.
Dr Kim mobilises captains of industry like himself to use their skills and business acumen to form viable and impactful social enterprises in all corners of the globe.
Being a health economist, Prof Hsiao transforms healthcare delivery systems – having an impact on millions of lives worldwide.
And Prof Khairuddin’s love of life and people has remained undiminished in the past 13 years I have known him.
Takeaway: Over the years, I have worked on this aspect – trying to dial back the tendency to micromanage, equipping people with the tools they need in order to accomplish what they need to, and letting go so they can fly solo.
Like my heroes, I think the lasting impression I want to leave is to ignite that drive or sense of purpose - to keep pushing and breaking boundaries.
My biggest hero, a senior leader in an American conglomerate who counts among the few to have everyone – from driver, factory worker, union leader to the senior leadership team – pay their last respects on the day he left us, and purveyor of warm smiles, my Pa always said, “If you want to help people, you don’t have to wait till you’re older or have finished your studies.”
Bless his heart, he knew (possibly before I did), that all I wanted to do in life was to help people who needed support. Here was a man who could connect with anybody, and in any space of time.
You could always see the expression on a waiter, or petrol pump attendant change from trepidation, “Oh dear, is he going to complain?”, to relief and happiness that someone recognised their work, their presence and was genuinely interested in knowing how their day had been.
We can all be sitting in the same office, even sharing the same corporate culture – but every day we can learn from our colleagues.
At Leaderonomics, even though I have been an animal lover all my life, I learn pretty bizarre things from my friend Millie – who can look at a bug or mole rat – and find a leadership lesson.
Takeaway: This point is related to the next – the act of connecting with people can be in itself exhilarating, but every single interaction is an opportunity to learn.
It calls to mind that movie Vantage Point where the main characters were all in that same crowded square bustling with thousands of other people – but from their different viewpoints (both in the physical and political sense) how they played different roles in the events of the day.
To illustrate a point, another leader I have worked with in the past was somewhat less open to learning than my heroes above.
Having taken on a business he was unfamiliar with, he ruled it the same way he had ruled the core business.
As successful as it was, the core business was built on a vastly dissimilar business model with a myriad of different external stakeholders.
In a situation where an organisation has all the determination to excel and grow, but the leader is inexplicably misaligned, the prognosis would expectedly be poor.
Several weeks ago, we dedicated an entire issue to the topic of change. We know that in order to grow, we need to learn, and that learning comes hand-in-hand with change – at times, painful change.
Takeaway: As leaders, we need to equip ourselves and our organisations with the ability to cope with change, to analyse and assess if internal change is the best path, and to implement the necessary.
On an individual level, lifelong learning requires some humility, but what we receive in return, that lifetime of “a-ha!” moments, is priceless.
What a nice segue way into the next principle, giving.
Birds of a feather, flock together – no? I meet so many people who share this desire to save the world – social workers, teachers, community leaders, moms and dads, and I dare say everyone at Leaderonomics.
When I shared my life goals with a particularly chatty taxi driver one day, he asked, “When you help people, is it for them or for you?”
My immediate reaction was to retort, “For them, of course!” But Mr Taxi Driver made me think about my motives more deeply.
Giving with joy can derive joy – and I believe there is no harm in allowing ourselves to feel happy about giving.
Takeaway: When a leader is aligned with the vision and mission of an organisation, giving, in my humble opinion, comes naturally.
For example, the willingness to share important lessons learnt with the team, and to give opportunities to others to take on big projects and to be recognised for it – these allow everyone to grow individually and collectively for the organisation.
On the flipside, for leaders who feel insecure or who put his/her interests ahead of the organisation in every instance, the desire to give for the greater good of the company is greatly hampered.
5. BUILDING THE FUTURE
Constantly and consistently working on points 1 to 4 will seamlessly (I say seamlessly, but it’s more likely to be rocky at times!) contribute to the building of a lasting legacy.
In everything we do (how we connect with people), every choice we make (hybrid car, energy saving lamps!) and our beliefs (championing the underdog!), we are examples to everyone around us.
Takeaway: Be it in your working environment or in your community, you can play a part in moulding the future.
We can build young leaders by sharing our own folly in our younger days, and steering them on a path to building a just, free and caring world.
Editor's note: What is your life purpose? How do you find your purpose?