Breakthrough to the Future: Insights from The Malaysia Leadership Summit 2023 (Part 2)

Jul 06, 2023 10 Min Read
Strategies for Standing Out and Achieving Success

The highly anticipated Malaysia Leadership Summit 2023 (“Summit”), sponsored by Malayan Banking Berhad and SP Setia Berhad, and organised by Leaderonomics and Global Leadership Network Malaysia in partnership with Together We Can Change The World, marked a significant milestone in the realm of leadership development. In this second part of our two-part series, we delve deeper into the captivating highlights and impactful takeaways from this Summit.

Read this first: Breakthrough to The Future: Insights from The Malaysia Leadership Summit 2023 (Part 1)

Leading with Heart: A New Way to Lead in a Highly Connected Disconnected World

In today's fast-paced, highly connected world, humans are hardwired for connections. However, despite having hundreds of connections on social media platforms, we often feel less connected than ever before. This lack of meaningful connections has a significant impact on our overall well-being. A survey conducted by EY in 2022 revealed that a staggering 85% of employees feel disconnected at work, leading to negative consequences such as decreased engagement and productivity. In fact, the cost of employee disengagement amounts to a staggering $406 billion in the United States alone.

In light of this critical issue, Ms. Delphine Ang proposed a framework to help leaders navigate the challenges of leading in a disconnected world. This framework emphasises the importance of leading with heart and cultivating authentic connections with employees. By following these principles, leaders can transform their organisations into thriving, interconnected communities.

Delphine Ang speaking at the Summit 

1. Be Vulnerable: To build genuine connections, leaders must be willing to share their own stories and vulnerabilities. By doing so, they can create an atmosphere of trust, belonging, and empathy. When leaders openly share their personal experiences, employees no longer perceive them as distant authorities but as individuals with real-life struggles, balancing various roles and responsibilities.

2. Be Authentic: Emotions play a significant role in our lives, including the workplace. Leaders are encouraged to embrace and acknowledge their emotions rather than suppressing or categorising them as good or bad. The "F.R.I.E.N.D.S" framework provides a simple process for dealing with emotions effectively:

  •  F - Find out the emotion you are experiencing by labelling it;
  •  R - Recognise and acknowledge the specific emotion that is ‘showing up’ or  present;
  •  I - Invite the feeling and allow yourself to experience it fully;
  •  E - Explain and have a conversation with the feeling, understanding its  message and gift or purpose;
  •  N - Determine what needs have been met and take appropriate action if not;
  •  D - Depart from the feeling, recognising that emotions are transient. Discover  the message or the gift it has brought. Embrace curiosity instead of anxiety;  and
  •  S - Start taking actions using the message and gift received.

3. Be Humble: Leaders are encouraged to ask for help and support when needed. By establishing reciprocity circles within their teams, leaders can create an energised work environment that engages everyone. Recognising that collaboration and mutual support are essential, leaders can foster a sense of unity and shared purpose.

4. Be Curious: Leaders demonstrate their interest in their employees by asking thoughtful questions. By being genuinely curious about their team members' experiences, ideas, and aspirations, leaders show that they value their input and perspectives. This approach encourages open communication, learning, and growth within the organisation.

The Importance of Emotional Culture

For far too long, emotions have been seen as separate from the workplace. However, studies have shown that 65% of workers believe that displaying more emotions at work has increased their productivity. It is imperative to conduct an emotional audit in the workplace and intentionally shape the emotional culture we want to cultivate.

Our mirror neurons allow us to mimic the emotions and actions of those around us, making it crucial for leaders to consider the emotions they project onto their teams. Leaders serve as the corporate thermostat, setting the tone for the organisation. To foster a culture of love and trust, leaders must be mindful of their emotional influence and project the emotions they wish to see reflected in their employees.

In a world where genuine connections are often overshadowed by superficial interactions, leaders have a unique opportunity to make a difference. By adopting the principles of vulnerability, authenticity, humility, and curiosity, leaders can build heart-to-heart connections that positively impact employee engagement, well-being, and productivity.

Reimagine Leadership for Breakthrough Success

The journey of a leader can be likened to an exhilarating roller coaster ride, complete with its ups and downs, unexpected twists, and challenging turns. This analogy holds particularly true when considering the last few years, which have presented leaders with unprecedented challenges and uncertainties. In light of these circumstances, it is imperative to reimagine and redefine the concept of leadership. How will leadership be different in this new era? How can we leverage the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) framework to foster vision, understanding, clarity, and cultivate agility? Addressing these questions, Mr. Jonathan Low, introduced a comprehensive framework known as G.R.I.T. This framework comprises four essential elements: G (growth mindset), R (resilience), I (influence), and T (tenacity). Together, these attributes serve as a guiding compass to successfully navigate through the uncharted territory of changed times.

Jonathan Low speaking on frameworks on leadership today

Growth Mindset

To be successful in leadership, embracing change and challenges is vital. The concept of a growth mindset, popularised by Carol Dweck, emphasises five essential elements. It encourages leaders to persist, view effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find inspiration in others' success. Jonathan, shared his own journey on becoming a professional speaker, highlighting the importance of courage, personal growth, and investing in oneself.


Emotional intelligence, identified as a top 10 skill for the future of work by the World Economic Forum, plays a crucial role in leadership. The equation "Event + Response = Outcome" underscores the significance of our responses to life's events. Developing resilience involves understanding personal patterns, navigating emotions, and adapting to changing circumstances. Resilient leaders create opportunities even in the face of adversity.

If you are resilient you will have the right opportunities.


Influence is built upon trust and respect. To earn these, leaders must exemplify the 4Cs:

·   be competent,

·   commit to what you have to do,

·   be consist,

·   have the ability to care.

Building trust requires establishing credibility, reliability, and forging meaningful connections.

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Connection

Self Focus

Today, authenticity, empathy, and adaptability are traits that teams seek in leaders, according to Gartner reports.


Drawing inspiration from Kobe Bryant's "mamba mentality," leaders are encouraged to focus on the process of hard work rather than relying solely on talent. Putting in extra effort and trusting the work one has invested in is essential when it's time to perform. Leaders must identify their driving forces, evaluate personal areas for improvement, and strive to elevate their lives to the next level.

Belief in oneself and the ability to power through transitionary times are critical. The need for leaders who can instill this belief in their teams becomes paramount. As we reimagine leadership, let us remember the importance of these core principles and strive to become authentic, empathetic, and adaptable leaders who can make a positive impact in the world.

Amplify Differentiation to Stand Out

Stan Phelps spoke about the power of embracing flaws and standing out from the crowd. Through three captivating stories, he emphasised the importance of recognising and capitalising on what makes a company or individual different. Stan explored the strategies employed by Buckley's cough syrup, REI, and the art form of kintsugi.

Stan Phelps speaking on differentiating yourselves from the crowd

Embracing Flaws: Buckley's Cough Syrup

Most cough syrup companies strive to improve the taste of their products but Buckley's embraced its uniquely horrible taste. Instead of attempting to correct it, the company doubled down on its flaw.

Buckley's went as far as conducting taste test contests, comparing their cough syrup to unappealing items like sweaty gym socks, trash bag leakage, and unpleasant public restroom puddles. By owning their distinctive taste and acknowledging that "it tastes awful, but it works," Buckley's established a genuine connection with their customers. This authenticity resulted in a significant market share increase, skyrocketing from 2% to 11% in less than a year, showcasing a remarkable growth of 550%.

Withholding: REI's Opt Outside Movement

Phelps then turned to REI, an outdoor-focused company that deviated from the traditional approach on Black Friday, the biggest day in retail. While other retailers offered fantastic deals and extended opening hours, REI took a bold stand against the consumer frenzy. They closed all 150 of their stores and even shut down their website for the entire day.

REI's refusal to participate in the chaotic shopping experience resonated deeply with their employees and members. By prioritising outdoor activities and advocating for a healthier balance between work and nature, REI created the "opt outside" movement. Contrary to expectations, this unconventional strategy did not hinder their sales. On the contrary, the company experienced increased membership and sales, thanks to the viral publicity garnered by their unique stance.

Kintsugi: Embracing Imperfections

To underscore the power of embracing flaws, Phelps recounted the story of Ashikaga, a Japanese Shogun who cherished his tea bowl. When the bowl accidentally broke, Ashikaga sought craftsmen to repair it. Dissatisfied with the initial outcome that concealed the flaws with black glue and metal staples, he called upon the best artisans in the Osaka region.

The craftsmen, practicing the art form known as kintsugi, meticulously disassembled and cleaned the bowl before reconstructing it using lacquer and gold. The result was a tea bowl that surpassed its original perfection. By highlighting and accentuating the flaws, the craftsmen created a masterpiece that celebrated the uniqueness and history of the bowl.

Embrace Uniqueness: Stand Out and Thrive

By sharing these unique anecdotes, Phelps urged the participants to embrace their flaws and unique qualities. He encouraged them to avoid blending in with the crowd and instead stand out by recognizing what sets them apart. By acknowledging and owning their individuality, both companies and individuals can cultivate stronger connections, attract attention, and drive success.

Hugh McLeod, a trusted friend of Phelps, provided valuable insight on this:

Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

This advice highlights the importance of carving one's path and embracing what makes each person or organisation extraordinary. Your flaws have the potential to make you awesome. By paying attention to and illuminating these flaws, you can create something truly remarkable and extraordinary. Embrace your uniqueness, celebrate your differences, and watch as you thrive in a world that values authenticity and individuality.

Discover: Become a Self-Learner and Stand Out From the Crowd

Embracing Breakthroughs in Your Career: Reflections on Resilience and Outward Focus

Datuk Nora A Manaf inspired the participants on the topic of career breakthroughs by  drawing from her personal experiences and reflections. She emphasised the significance of resilience and an outward focus in navigating the ever-evolving professional landscape.

Datuk Nora Manaf sharing on breakthroughs in careers

Resilience - The Key to Overcoming Challenges: Datuk Nora highlighted the importance of resilience which encompasses courage and determination, enabling individuals to withstand obstacles and rebound from setbacks. In the context of today's uncharted waters, Datuk Nora urged the participants to recognise the need for resilience as they navigate the rapidly changing world. Reflecting on her own experiences, she acknowledges that challenges she faced while growing up shaped her resilience, which ultimately became her greatest asset.

Embracing Uniqueness and Standing Out: Recalling her childhood and growing up in a mixed-race family, she learned early on about biases and societal norms. This, together with other experiences taught her the importance of being different. Her competitive nature drove her to be unique, which eventually caught the attention of managers and led to numerous career opportunities.

The Value of Taking Opportunities and Embracing Change: Datuk Nora further discussed her professional journey, emphasising that for most of her 14 jobs, she had no prior experience or relevant qualifications. One notable instance was when she was unexpectedly offered a position in human resources (HR) despite her background in accounting. Initially hesitant, she took the job and resolved not to disappoint the person who had opened the door for her. Datuk Nora's story underscores the importance of embracing opportunities, even when they seem unfamiliar or outside one's comfort zone.

Resilience and Mental Health: Addressing the topic of mental health, Datuk Nora acknowledged the toll that the current landscape has on individuals' well-being. She highlighted the alarming statistics related to mental disorders and anxiety, urging her audience to prioritise resilience and find sources of energy. Recognising the impact of mental health on productivity, Nora emphasises the need to support and care for one another in this challenging world.

Outward Focus and Collaboration: Datuk Nora highlighted the importance of an outward focus in one’s professional growth. She shared her transformation from being competitive and solely focused on winning to realising the value of collaboration and building relationships. Through an encounter with her mentor, Chris Labiche, Nora discovered the significance of relaxing and embracing an outward focus. This shift enabled her to appreciate the importance of teamwork and collective success.

The Evolving World and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Considerations: Datuk Nora underscores the significance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in the rapidly changing world. She highlights the need to rebuild and emphasised that an outward focus and commitment to societal well-being are essential for personal breakthroughs. Nora mentions her own career shift from retrenchment to supporting diversity, inclusivity, and remote work. She stressed the importance of embracing the changing landscape and aligning personal and professional values with the greater good.


The Malaysia Leadership Summit 2023 has truly been a transformative event, providing leaders with the tools and inspiration to lead with heart, navigate uncertainties, and embrace their individuality. By applying the insights and strategies shared at the Summit, leaders have the potential to create positive change in their organisations and make a lasting impact in the world.

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Lead Editor

Kiran Tuljaram, the Lead Editor at Leaderonomics, brings a wealth of experience to her role. With a background as a trained lawyer, she dedicated nearly a decade to the banking industry before embarking on her entrepreneurial journey. Following her tenure as a Legal Manager at a bank, Kiran founded and successfully ran multiple businesses, including the establishment of her own fashion accessories label. Balancing her entrepreneurial endeavours, Kiran is also a devoted mother to three girls. Her varied background in banking, motherhood, employment, occasional social work, and managing director in her business has provided her with invaluable insights and a unique perspective on the critical importance of leadership within organisations.


Irfan is a creative individual, who believes that there is something new to learn everyday. His curiosity is piqued at various fields, and his value of continual learning leads him to make connections with those different fields and with different people too. He is interning with the editorial team at Leaderonomics while pursuing a degree in Psychology.


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