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Survival Of The Most Adaptable

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Survival Of The Most Adaptable

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by Ida Fazila

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How do you define leadership? Many would probably say leadership is leading a team of followers toward achieving a common goal. However, 44 working professionals from reputable organizations who attended the Asia Leadership Executive Program entitled, “Leading Change for Organizational Renewal” discovered that the old ways of leading were no longer relevant in today’s dynamic world.

Organized by the Center for Asia Leadership, the three-day leadership program was held from October 24-26, 2016 at Sunway University, Malaysia. It was developed to guide working professionals in acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to create sustainable solutions for regeneration at the workplace. The program aimed at meeting the crucial need for organizations to be agile and innovative in order to gain sustainable competitive edge in the ever-evolving business landscape.

Survival Of The Most Adaptable

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Through the program, participants learned about the adaptive leadership framework which encourages creative thinking and the willingness to learn and be flexible under the influence of rapidly changing situations at the workplace. Taught at Harvard including Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, the adaptive leadership framework inspires leaders to exercise leadership as change agents to cross boundaries and build bridges in charting a new course for growth as well as fostering strong partnerships and alliances with the relevant stakeholders to overcome challenges effectively.

The leadership program was conducted by Professor Dean Williams, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy for the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy Schools; Samuel Kim, a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and President and Co-founder of the Center for Asia Leadership; and John Lim, Co-founder and Director of the Asia Leadership Institute.

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According to Professor Williams, the world is fast becoming more complex than ever, hence the urgent need to adopt fresh perspectives, initiate new approaches, and implement bold actions to meet the challenges of a demanding work environment.

“I hope that all the participants will walk away with a deeper understanding of the traits of effective leadership and develop their capacity and competence as change agents to make a difference in the volatile world that we live in,” said Professor Williams.

“Everyone is capable of becoming change agents even in a very conservative and bureaucratic culture. There are always opportunities and we should seize each chance to orchestrate meaningful change at every level through continuous experimentation and openness to learning about the positive and negative impacts of the practices,” he added.

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Samuel Kim said that the program enabled participants to reflect and take the first step toward developing their personal leadership, with the hopes of building the confidence to create change in their personal or professional lives.

“I am confident that the highly qualified Teaching Faculty from Harvard will inspire participants to apply the skills and knowledge that they have gained into practice and contribute to developing value-added solutions at the workplace and their respective communities,” he added.

Rachel Leong, General Manager of Mah Sing Group Berhad, enjoyed the program as it was filled with case studies and intellectual discourse that offered participants with the chance to learn from other people’s experiences when faced with adaptive challenges.

“The first thing that Professor Williams asked was ‘What is leadership?’ We were confident that we had the right answer. Our answers were along the lines of ‘A leader is someone who leads a team’ but little did we know that it was an outdated definition of leadership. I now understand that we must be well-equipped to face reality and be sharp, fast and, flexible amidst challenging conditions,” said Rachel.

“We are grounded in tradition until we tend to forget that we make mistakes. It is fine to learn from our oversights in order to adapt to different situations at the workplace. We learn a new form of leadership every day and I am now motivated to learn from my mistakes to help me move forward in my career,” she added.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Haris bin Marhaban, Manager from Sunway Construction Sdn Bhd, was intrigued with the adaptive leadership framework which has expanded his worldview on the attributes that make an effective leader in today’s world.

“I now understand how important it is for us to adapt to any situations in order for us to deal more positively with change. Professor Williams was very energetic and kept the sessions lively and interesting. He shared good case studies with us and guided us on how to think analytically so that we can gain fresh insights and free up our minds to see the bigger picture,” Abdullah added.

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Nash Ho Ruo Lin, Senior Manager from Sunway Berhad was attracted to the concept of reflection when exercising leadership. “Learning through reflection teaches us about humility, crossing boundaries and building bridges, and listening to others. Leadership is all about dealing with people and how you can contribute to the whole ecosystem in the long run. Hence, it is essential to put ourselves in other people’s shoes to understand them better,” said Nash.

“Samuel’s sessions have sparked my interest to think about leadership more broadly and to develop a personal leadership style that can greatly influence my surroundings and the community at large,” he added.

The participants learned that organizations could not follow the same problem-solving strategies. Change is inevitable. The rate of change is accelerating and we have to embrace a change-ready culture for long-term survival. This can only be achieved through an organization’s effective teamwork and leadership. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

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