Someone said that leadership is about learning to cope with rapid changes, whereas management is about coping with complexity. For me, leadership meant to provide and lead the way for future growth and development. In the process, a leader has to cope with the changes that take place from time to time. A leader must be prepared to lead and be responsible for the outcome of actions and decisions taken during the period concerned. The role of management is not only confined to coping with complexities that develop from time to time but also to ensure that the organization functions smoothly and efficiently. A leader has to be in the forefront of development.
Some skills that leader must acquire in addition to setting direction, is to be able to align people and provide motivation. He or she must simultaneously protect the organization against external threats, and manage conflict both internally and externally. Finally, the leader must be able to set norms within the organization.
I found that the greatest challenge for me throughout my career was to coalesce the various team leaders to understand the priorities of the various industries and to respond positively towards target achievements. In other words, strive to deliver and be efficient and effective. It was imperative to build a new set of leaders who will be able to drive each organisation after me and thus the need to constantly train and upgrade the skill level of managers.
My experience of leadership in Felda was extended to other industries through Felda’s business interests. MISC and KLCE were different industry segments and they had to be dealt with in accordance with the situations they were in. Their needs were different and required different approaches and solutions. In the case of Felda, the organization needed revamping and strategizing to undertake the mammoth programme in accordance with the government’s plan to eradicate poverty and improve the living standards of the poor. MISC was floundering at the time and being a business organization, it had to be nursed and reorganised to bring it back to profitability. The fleet had to be expanded and manpower increased to enable it to compete internationally in the various shipping sectors. KLCE was something completely new then, and we had to keep on going back to the drawing block repeatedly.
The need to have technical knowledge is paramount. At the starting block a leader may not have the knowledge but must be prepared to learn quick and fast.