The Art Of Learning From The Best

Jan 20, 2017 1 Min Read
Leadership Dojo
Leadership Dojo & How CEOs can Learn From the Best

How the Leadership Dojo is poised to make a “dent in the universe”

If leaders exist to nurture and develop their followers, who is there to further nurture and develop leaders? In short, what is available to help leaders progress? Every chief executive officer (CEO) I meet grapples with numerous professional challenges and personal struggles, yet he or she often has no one to talk to and get support and feedback from in an authentic manner.

It could be argued that effective leaders are readers and, therefore, those who take advantage of the wealth of information that’s out there, can shape their own continuing development. While it’s certainly advantageous to keep the mind sharp through the value of reading, there’s no substitute for real-time interaction and shared learning experiences in helping to ingrain best practices in leadership.

This is where the comprehensive Leadership Dojo Programme comes in. Launched in June 2016 by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the programme caters specifically to CEOs who want to learn, grow and be challenged.


A learning space

The word dojo is derived from the Japanese “do” – a way or pursuit – and “jo”, meaning “a place”. In the context of leadership, this dojo serves as a space for leaders to congregate and share ideas, insights and lessons, and to learn from each other in a way that drives them forward in their pursuit of excellence. It is a place where learning and sharpening their axe happens so that these CEOs can go back to their organisation charged and firing the right cylinders.

The inaugural programme was managed by Leaderonomics’ CEO Roshan Thiran, who hosted experts and industry thought leaders who shared their wisdom and knowledge during intense learning sessions and discussions. Roshan explains that one of the key components of this unique programme is the inclusion of an executive coach who spends time on a one-on-one basis, helping these CEOs understand themselves and how they manage and lead the business. These sessions include many private reflective moments where they dive into their past and present and rewire their brain for the future.


Diversity of mentor profiles

From left: Mentors Sridharan Nair of PwC and Zainal Abidin Jalil of DNex Group with Leadership Dojo grads Sinan Bin Che Ismail of DD Animation Studio Sdn Bhd and Jeremy Chong of JRB Capital’s PrimeKeeper

A major impact of the programme came from interacting and meeting great leaders across Malaysia who mentored these participants. These included UEM Group Managing Director Datuk Izzaddin Idris, Alliance Bank CEO Joel Kornreich and many other global leaders including leaders at Samsung, Siemens, Citibank, Digi, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Valiram.

Not only were they mentored by prominent CEOs, they also had numerous exposure opportunities, including closed-door sessions with Eco World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld) chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, and global thought leaders like global strategist Kaihan Krippendorff, hostage negotiator George Kohlrieser and culture expert Joseph Tan.

For Dojo participant and founder of Travee Sdn Bhd, Ankur Jakhwal, the biggest learning moment came through hostage negotiator George Kohlrieser, who taught him practical tips to dialogue. A few days later, when he had to negotiate a huge deal in which he had no clout nor statute, he surprised even himself as he garnered a huge win for his company by adopting the hostage negotiation and dialogue techniques shared by Kohlrieser.


Toolkits for growth

Figure 1: The 4 Constraints Model

The Leadership Dojo Programme presents various tools and frameworks for scaling and developing organisations, including the insightful “4 Constraints” (Figure 1) – a model developed by Roshan Thiran after 20 years of studying numerous successful and failed businesses. The constraints model takes an in-depth look at common components that often hold back leaders and their businesses from realising their full potential, and what can be done to overcome the obstacles that arise.

Another valuable element to the Dojo programme is the CEO “fireside chats”, where industry thought leaders openly share their stories, offering candid accounts of their successes and failures along the way, as well as insights into how they continue to approach their leadership style and business development. Undoubtedly, there are few such golden opportunities to learn as much from so many respected leaders in one place.

Digi CEO Albern Murty, in one of these conversations, revealed that you can never spend enough time talking to people on the floor – this is where much of the learning is done. Albern was also a mentor to Kris Uttraphan, CEO of Stampede Solution Sdn Bhd, who shared how, as part of the mentorship, he had the opportunity to tag along with Albern for a few hours as the latter attended various meetings in Digi. This allowed Kris not only to see Albern in action but also learn from him “live”. Kris describes it as one of his most powerful learning moments.

Each CEO’s sharing inspired the participants. Another high-impact sharing opportunity was a private session with EcoWorld Chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin. He shared the struggles he underwent as a young man and encouraged the participants to never give up on their dreams. In fact, he encouraged everyone to dream big and then go out and be different.


Win-Win Collaborations

The Leadership Dojo Programme has a wide-ranging package of benefits for participating CEOs who are willing to invest in themselves to raise their business acumen by several levels, including a customised session for each CEO’s organisation called X-Labs. These labs were conducted within the participating CEOs’ companies and enabled learnings from the Dojo to be incorporated into the companies they were leading.

In a developing nation like Malaysia, which has few global organisations, it is incumbent on those who can lead to pull together and shape the country’s future. Businesses often struggle to scale and grow not because of insurmountable challenges, but because some key principles and central pillars are out of sync with the overarching vision of a particular organisation, or are missing altogether.

While that creates significant challenges to be overcome in the short term, the Leadership Dojo Programme exists solely to address common shortcomings through holistic, comprehensive and intense learning experiences that help create new opportunities for Malaysia’s business leaders and strengthen their place on the global market.


Hands-on learning

Perhaps the main reason why the Dojo programme is such a successful initiative lies in the interactive teaching moments that flow from leader to leader through discussions, activities, mentoring and real-time learning. Rather than the traditional methods of imparting knowledge, which is generally one-way, the Dojo programme facilitates 360-degree learning. It’s this innovative approach to learning that makes the difference.

As Roshan explains,

Great leaders are great teachers. The more time I spent with the CEO mentors in this Leadership Dojo, the more I was assured that there is great hope for corporate Malaysia. These leaders give back, in terms of knowledge and experience, to others, and in the process, they reinforce and exponentially grow their own legacies. The Leadership Dojo Programme has taught me that the best leaders teach and never stop learning. We have amazing CEOs who are teaching other CEOs and enabling them to thrive in this volatile and turbulent times.


A marketplace of friendships

Finally, an exciting and synergistic aspect of the programme is the new marketplace it has created. The participants have become close friends today and are now collaborating and buying from each other. Not only have their businesses been enhanced by the new networks of mentors, and CEOs and industry leaders they have interacted with, but they have also made many new friends whom they have built trust with, and this has laid the foundation for future innovation and partnerships.

Kudos to MDEC for supporting this amazing programme. Having met the Dojo participants, I feel that these 17 amazing leaders are going to “put a dent in the universe.” With the Dojo training they have received, I look forward to seeing them put Malaysia on the global business map.


Meet our six inspirational Dojo Mentors

  • Albern Murty – CEO of Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd

    Albern was appointed chief executive officer (CEO) in April 2015. Prior to that, he was the company’s chief operating officer. Albern is the first Malaysian to become CEO of Digi. Since joining the company in 2002, he has held several roles in project planning and controls, product management and product development, and also held the position of head of strategy and new business, acting co-chief marketing officer, and chief marketing officer. Albern loves people and is always in the front lines leading from the front.

    This might interest you: Leadership Dojo: Albern Murty On His Personal And Organisational Journey Of Transformation


  • Janet Yap – CEO of Accenture Malaysia

    Janet has been part of the Accenture team for 26 years. She built her career in systems implementation and SAP consulting through projects across the resources, products and communications, media and technology industries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. A techie at heart, she is an avid user of all social media platforms and enjoys testing and discovering ingenious apps on her phone.


  • Sridharan Nair – managing partner of PwC

    Sri has over 20 years’ experience in audit and business advisory services, having worked with a wide range of clients in the UK and Malaysia. Over the years, he has led a portfolio of large listed client engagements across various industries and a number of cross border financial due diligence assignments. He is also a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants. Sri is a passionate speaker who supports numerous diversity and leadership initiatives in Malaysia.


  • Datuk Sri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh – group managing director of MMC Group

    Che Khalib was formerly the CEO of KUB Berhad, Ranhill Utilities Berhad and Tenaga Nasional Berhad. He is one of the most respected leaders in the energy space and is now GMD at MMC Group. He has also served on the board of various organisations including Khazanah Nasional. A qualified accountant, he has great insights on leadership and business.


  • Lee Lung Nien – CEO of Citibank Berhad

    Lung is a veteran Citibanker with over 20 years’ experience. Prior to his current appointment, he was the anti-money laundering (AML) business head for Asia and had senior oversight of the AML monitoring hub in Kuala Lumpur. He started his career as a credit analyst in the bank, and has held various key positions, including head of treasury marketing in Singapore, regional ecommerce head for Asia, and sales and trading head for Malaysia. Lung is an amazing speaker with great insights on leadership and business.

    You might be interested in this: Leadership Dojo: Lee Lung Nien Advises Everyone To Get A Life!

  • Datuk Izzaddin Idris – group managing director of UEM Group

    Izzaddin has over 20 years of experience in the fields of investment banking, financial and general management and was previously the chief financial officer of Tenaga Nasional Berhad. He is extremely passionate about people and leadership development and personally spends countless hours growing and developing leaders at UEM.


  • Other mentors include:
    • Prakash Chandran – CEO of Siemens Malaysia
    • Ashwin Rajgopal – COO of Valiram
    • Datuk Syed Mohamed – former CEO of Iskandar Investment Berhad
    • Lee Jui Siang – vice president of IT & Mobile Business, Samsung Malaysia Electronics
    • Seelan Paul – CEO of Media Prima Radio Networks
    • Joel Kornreich – CEO of Alliance Financial Group
    • Zainal Abidin Jalil – GMD of DNeX Group
    • Datuk Yasmin Mahmood – CEO of MDEC
    • Bas De Jong – vice president of Global Development Centre of Quintiq
    • Haroon Bhatti – chief human resource officer at Digi
    • Chin Suit Fang – senior executive director and partner at PwC


Five powerful quotes on leadership development

  • “We are no longer in the dispensation of age and experience. We are in the era of knowledge and information. Information leads a true leader and a true leader leads others.” —Israelmore Ayivor


  • “How to prepare someone for leadership: I do it. I do it and you watch. You do it and I watch. You do it. You do it and someone else watches.”—John C. Maxwell


  • “A good leader doesn’t have to know everything. Nobody knows everything; that’s why you surround yourself with people who are experts in different areas. That’s what makes a good leader.”
    —Patience Johnson


  • “All progress begins with a decision. Effective leadership requires decisive action. Embrace the process of deciding, yet recognise when you have reached a choice point.” —Angie Morgan


  • “We all cannot do everything or solve every issue. It’s impossible; however, if we each simply do our part, make our own contribution, regardless of how small we may think it is. . . together, it adds up and great things get accomplished.”—Mark W. Boyer


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Tags: Executing Leadership

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, 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.
Nadia Radhuan is the former head of engagement at Leaderonomics. She was part of the campus team also at Leaderonomics. She enjoys connecting with new people and discovered the meaning of life once, but forgot to write it down. Today, she continues to be a HR Thought leader in Malaysia

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