Skip links

Helping Young Asian Leaders Face Failure and Complexity

Dynamic Asia is a young Asia. According to Worldometer, the average age in Asia is 30.7 years, with the region having the largest number of young people: 754 million. Despite the “Asia miracle” of economic growth, young, emerging Asian leaders are in need of an ongoing education on facing failure and complexity that comes with living in one of the most vibrant and volatile regions in the world.      

This is exactly what the Center for Asia Leadership (CAL) aimed to do with the recently held Asia Leadership Forum on Aug. 17, with the theme “Tools and Strategies to Face a Complex and Uncertain World”, as part of the 3-day Global Leadership Congress for high school students aspiring to become youth leaders at the Jubilee Christian Academy in Manila, Philippines.

CAL Co-founder and President Samuel Kim and John Lim, Co-founder and, Director of International Affairs, spearheaded the event with the support of teaching fellows from Harvard University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The forum exposed the students to stories, lessons, and perspectives on personal as well as global leadership – and why leadership doesn’t exactly mean immunity to failure. Some of the topics discussed during the Asia Leadership Forum included:

  • Succeeding at Failure: A Framework for Learning, Evan Foggo, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
  • Leading and Negotiating in a Fractured World, Evan Foggo, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
  • How to Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming the Immunity to Change, Ami Valdemoro, Harvard University

Today’s modern and complex world speaks with the vocabulary of change. How are the youth being equipped to have a leadership mindset that is ready for the future? How are educational institutions giving importance to this vital factor of their students growth? And how much impact can a leadership program bring to emerging, young southeast asian leaders?

Samuel Kim’s session stressed the reality that knowledge and skills are simply not enough. At the core of leadership is a strong sense of personal purpose. Kim talked about feeling with “the right heart” and being able to understand patterns of change in the world around us. To be able to create value, young leaders must not stop at knowing but should also be “doing” and “being.” Knowledge is not static; leaders should be able to do something with that learning, helping create solutions to bring about positive change wherever they are.  

This discussion made Matthew Turner’s session all the more relevant by posing the question “How do we lead from our values?” Based on the work of Professor Robert Quinn, Turner’s workshop explored the “fundamental leadership state,” a process of leaving one’s normal mode of behavior to accomplish more through leadership.

Talking about leadership that seeks to address complex challenges brings to the fore many people’s biggest fear: failure. The fellows couldn’t have emphasized it enough: high achievers leave a mark, not because of luck or pure talent, but because they’ve learned how to respond to failure.

Giving a highly relatable topic on failure, Valdemoro’s TED-style talk gave everyone a collective a-ha moment. Explaining the “iceberg illusion,” Valdemoro said people around her tend to only see “the summit of a tall mountain” upon learning that she got into Harvard University. What is largely unknown to them is the great deal of struggle and hard work she endured to reach the top. Applying for and getting rejected by twenty-one schools is not easy to swallow. “It sucked for a while, and I had to stick with that. Sometimes we have to think about sitting and acknowledging where we’re at.”  

The students left the forum encouraged to explore their “discomfort zones,” finding courage in the fact that it is precisely in the crucible of failure that leadership is transformed to face a complex, unpredictable future.  

By: Nathalie Ona

Receive thought-provoking articles and program announcements.