Asia: A New Approach to Leadership

Advice from experts at IESE MBA 50th anniversary event in Singapore

11/11/2015 Singapore

Developing Asian Global Leaders

Get inspired! Subscribe to IESE's YouTube Channel: "It's challenging to identify one Asian model: a country by country approach is needed", says Su-Yen Wong, of the Human Capital Leadership Institute. Wong took part in the IESE 50th Anniversary event in Singapore, with Sunny Verghese of Olam International, who defended business principles "across boundaries".

(L to R) Sunny Verghese, Co-founder, Group MD and CEO of Olam International; Associate Dean of MBA Programs, Professor Franz Heukamp; and Su-Yen Wong, CEO of Human Capital Leadership Institute at the 50th MBA Anniversary celebration in Singapore / Photo: Ray Chua

"The economic growth in the coming years is going to be driven by Asia, so there is a real need to develop a pipeline of Asian leaders to rule effectively", says Su-Yen Wong, CEO of the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI), at the IESE MBA 50th Anniversary event in Singapore.

Transforming Leaders

"When you think about the programs that we develop for leaders, it's really about bringing in multiple voices and multiple perspectives. It's about bringing in views from business and from academia, as well as from policy makers. This provides a holistic view of what it takes to lead effectively in an Asian environment," said Su-Yen Wong.

Fellow panelist Sunny Verghese, co-founder, group MD and CEO of Olam International, also shared his insights into developing and transforming Asian world leaders. In particular, he said the shortcomings need to be addressed.

"Asians are already excellent at execution and very good managers. But they need to work on the capacity to inspire and motivate," said Verghese.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

Olam International was established in 1989, trading cashews from Nigeria to India. In the past 25 years it has grown to be a leading agri-business, spanning 65 countries with 23,000 employees. During his time at the helm, Sunny Verghese has successfully navigated the challenges of cross-border growth. While he recognizes the need for context within individual cultures, he also firmly believes that the principles of great leadership transcend borders.

Central to Verghese's work ethos is a need for employees to be entrepreneurial, and to choose company leaders that thrive within a risk-taking environment.

"We are growing above market growth rates. And this is only possible if your team is willing to be creative, innovative, inventive and entrepreneurial in the way they go about identifying those opportunities, and finding pathways to profitably grow their business," he said.

The Singapore MBA 50th Anniversary celebration was the latest in a series of global alumni events. Associate Dean of MBA Programs, Professor Franz Heukamp, mediated the panel. He reflected on the importance of continued discussion.

"In countries across the globe we have been gathering thought leaders and business leaders alike,” he said. “We want them to reflect precisely on the impact that leadership has on the economy and on organizations. And share their findings with us and organizations around the world."