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Crisis Management for Leaders


We are at a time of catastrophes.  Last year, Malaysia alone was hit with three air disasters, not to mention those around the world, like the outbreak of ebola in West Africa, attacks in the Middle East, natural disasters of floods and major snow storms in the US & Europe, and the weakening conditions of developed economies.  Not a single continent has been spared, not a single human concern not shaken – natural and man-made issues have all been blown up into epic proportions.  And it continues with the most recent earthquake in Nepal.

How do people continue to hold out, amidst everything that the world is going through?  How does one single effort make any difference to the world at large, one might wonder?

But that’s the power of Hope and Faith.  And it is through these two powerful words that the world at large can come together in commonality, whether you are a believer in God, or a believer in humanity. 

It is in times of adversity, that crisis management comes forefront.  But how many of us are equipped to lead at such a time as this?

I like how Gordon Meriwhether, a retired Navy Captain and the Founder of The Uriah Group, a crisis leadership consultancy, summarised his Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® to crisis leadership, and I quote from his article Leadership in Crisis[1]:

  1. Model the Way”:

In his experience as a leader in business and the military, the quickest way to lose one’s leadership credentials is to not demonstrate balance in a crisis. Instead of calmly addressing a crisis at hand, the inadeqate crisis leader will lose control of his/her actions, temper, emotions, or awareness. In the Navy it’s called “losing the bubble”; not being aware of the tactical situation at sea can cost lives. Demonstrate balanced leadership.

  1. “Inspire a Shared Vision”:

It is critical in a crisis that we all share the same goal. We may have different reasons for the goal but we have a common goal. For example, the obvious goal is to return to normalcy. To employees this means ensuring that their job survives amidst worries about stopping the revenue loss. Return to normalcy.

  1. “Challenge the Process”:

The organizational processes are stressed in any crisis and may become dysfunctional. A leader in crisis must have the flexibility to adapt to the situation, regardless of the inherent processes of the organization. Flexibility to adapt.

  1. “Enable Others to Act”:

In a crisis, much more than in normal operations, effective partnerships are critical to the success. Simply put, partnerships save lives.

  1. “Encourage the Heart”:

Taking care of the response staff is not much different in a crisis as in normal operating situations. What is different is the stress the team is under and how fast this can change. A leader in crisis needs to be more aware of the physical, psychological, and mental condition of the team. An operative that has been controlling an evacuation for 12 hours straight may need time out to regroup. The leader must be aware and be responsive.”

He ends by saying that it is critical for a leader to be aware as the environment becomes dysfunctional, or begins to stabilize.  There are a variety of methods to lead during a crisis, but I find that those listed above, coming from a man with military experience, can shed a new angle to how we can lead in the marketplace.

I want to bring another form of crisis to you as Leaders; the Economic Crisis. The media has flooded us with reports and data of different economic development and condition in many parts of the globe; US, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Middle East, Africa and nearer to home; ASEAN. In recent weeks, there have been more caution and talks on economies generally slowing globally. 

Many of us are familiar with Economic Crisis and the impact it brings to our Nations, Communities, Organizations and Families. However, as Leaders we are not typically trained and equipped for crisis management, and when it does hit us, we look to the very top of the management chain for direction and assurance; which at times may not even present the appropriate form of leadership.      

I am taking the opportunity to append the following from John Maxwell, which I find extremely practical and highly effective. Personally, I have experienced 3 periods of crisis management in my career, and 2 was in the capacity as a Senior Management Leader.

My after-thought after reading the 7 principles was why was I not prepared nor developed to handle crisis as part of my leadership development? It would have still been challenging, but the casualty could have been less costly.       



  1. Discover and define the real problem

As Max De Pree noted, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Leaders must wade into the mire in order to learn precisely what has happened and to make sense of current conditions.

  1. Act quickly
  1. Provide reassurance

The place to handle a crisis is not from behind a desk but in front of the people. A leader’s visible presence during times of crisis inspires confidence and gives others a sense of security. Certainly, the ability of leaders to control their own emotions is paramount during crisis. In addition, preparation is key. Obviously, some crises are completely unforeseeable. Still, organizations can drawn up strategy plans in anticipation of an emergency. Companies with an emergency plan in place are far better positioned to handle a sudden crisis than those in which the leaders must operate on the fly.    


  1. Simplify the situation

In times of crisis emotions run high and circumstances appear overwhelming. To make clear-headed decisions, a leader has to step back from events to determine the aspects of a situation that are beyond repair and to identify the main issues at stake moving forward. During a crisis, I make a point to withdraw from everything momentarily to list out my top concerns. I then assemble my core leadership team, gather their input, and amend the list accordingly. Putting the main issues on paper helps me to wrap my mind around the crisis and to stay focused amid chaos. 


  1. Enlist support of influencers

In every organisation, a small group of people holds the majority of influence. During a crisis, devote extra attention to making sure key influencers are on board with your plan to handle the crisis.



  1. Decide to take action one step at a time

In crisis, conditions are in a state of flux. For this reason, plans extending too far into the future are doomed to failure. When confronting a rapidly changing situation, it’s wise to concentrate on the near-term. Focus on making the next step, let the dust settle, and then reevaluate the situation.


  1. Do what is right and not what is easiest

Difficult problems seldom have simple solutions. Refuse to cut corners or to lower your ethical standards to make the situation easier. Instead, hold to your convictions and put the needs of your people ahead of your personal comfort and convenience.


[1]www.leadershipchallenge.com – Leadership in Crisis

[2] www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/leading-through-crisis


What’s Your Personal Growth Plan?

My wife constantly tells me that I am a “teachable” person.  And I would like to think that is very true of me because I am constantly reflecting on things that I do, or have done, and if or how things could have been done better.  Among John Maxwell’s 15 Laws of Invaluable Growth,  I practice two particular laws very diligently, and they are the Law of Reflection, and the Law of Intentionality.  I reflect on my actions on a daily basis, and I also make it a point to do specific things that I believe are important to me, be it for my family, business, community or any other relationship I hold dear. 

It simply means that you need to reflect and be intentional in the things you do, and don’t let chance dictate where you go and when, or how well you do in Life.  And let’s be honest, the purpose of Life is really not to just make money or be successful.  Why do you want to make money or be successful?  I would safely say it is because you want to provide a safe and secure environment for yourself, and for your family, to ensure that the four Maslow’s needs can be met in this lifetime.  Some would even expand to meeting needs of the community and business areana. Which brings me to a question for you –

Do you have a plan for personal growth? 

If and when you are able to answer that question, you will realise that you would be in a position to touch and impact lives in ways you never thought possible.  Let me share with you something from John Maxwell:

Two years ago, he had the amazing opportunity to speak to thousands of people in Guatemala.  Over the course of the whole week, he was able to meet with various top leaders, including the president of the country and discuss how they could partner in teaching values to the population.  It was an amazing experience, one that he is still in awe of.

He shared this, not to brag, but to encourage us.  He wanted to share how he got from being a small-town pastor of a tiny church, to such a place of influence.  It wasn’t because he set big goals.

He Aimed Way Too Low

When he was in his 20s, he could never have imagined the life he lives now.  He had goals, all right.  But they were what he considered achievable at that time.  Not easy to achieve, but he believed that if he worked hard and prioritised, he might be able to reach some of them in his lifetime.

Looking back, he believes that if he had stayed the path that he was back then, he probably would have reached his goals.  They were manageable – challenging at the time, but possible with hard  work.

His Plans Changed With One Decision

While in his 20s, he met a tall gentleman named Curt Kampmeier, who asked him the one single question that changed his life. In John’s words, “What I did with one question from Curt Kampmeier changed the trajectory of my life.  He asked, ‘Do you have a plan for personal growth?’ ”  And at the time, John had no answer for him. On that afternoon, many years ago, after talking more with Curt, he made a decision.  Confronted with the reality that he had been doing nothing to grow until that point, he decided to make personal growth his focus. 

Today, after 40 years of travelling on this new path of growth, he has done so much more than meet those initial goals.  He has been able to surpass them in ways that he could not have imagined.  He says, “And I want you to understand that it all goes back to that one decision.  Intentional personal growth is what got me to where I am today.”

What Will You Decide?

Sometimes, all we need is a wake-up call.  But often not, it’s when we are stricken with ill health or exeperince some form of trauma, we would then realise our state of mortality. Subsequently, we would then make decisions to change our lives to “catch up on lost time” so that we are able to leave behind meaningful legacies.

I implore you not to let that happen.  It’s never too late to grow ourselves.

What If You Are Aiming Too Low?

You may feel as though you have tried (and failed) too many times to even want to try again.  But let me assure you, personal growth can happen – in small manageable steps.  If only you believe YOU are worth it, and that you can make an impact in this world, in this lifetime.

Will You Decide To Grow?

Growth will not just happen.  You have to decide to make it happen.  Ironically, if you don’t decide, it is still a decision, isn’t it?  That is, if you don’t decide to make improvements, you are essentially deciding to stay status quo.

How Will You Grow?

And then, once you have decided to grow, it’s how you are going to go about it so that it will not be another fruitless attempt.  You will need a plan, resources and encouragement that will make the difference.  Whomever you choose to work with as your developmental growth partner, do ensure that relevant tools are used to enable you to know yourself better, and to assist you to know the focus you need in your growth plan.

When Will You Grow?

As the saying goes, there is never a better time than now!  Growing and changing is never easy, but with small manageable steps and encouraging partners by your side, you definitely have the potential to grow and be more than you ever dreamed possible!

Farewell, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.




23rd of March marked the passing away of a great leader, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

I­ am a Malaysian, but I was one of the many thousands of Malaysians who had studied and benefitted from the Singaporean education system.

The Ministry of Education accepted my enrolment in River Valley English School, at the age of 7 in the year 1979. For the next 10 years, I was no different from any student, as I worked hard to achieve the best that I could in a system that was based on excellence, encouragement and opportunities. The focus of the system was a to build a holistic educational experience with a combination of grades, extra-curricular activities, and recognition of notable achievements.

I graduated with my ‘O’ level certificate at the age of 16 in 1988, and had achieved decent grades to pursue the college of my choice. All through high school, I had been a school basketball player and had won national titles, a good combination of grades and sports involvement contributed to my opportunity to advance into a “good” school.

However, it was indeed a pivotal moment of my life – to make a decision whether to stay or to leave Singapore, as my parents had offered me an opportunity to pursue a degree in accounting in the US. Being a young man of dreams and goals, as a result of the influence of western civilization, I made the choice to leave the country that had built my character and core values for most part of my formative years.

Upon learning about the passing away of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister whose tenure I had grown up in, I was brought back to some very significant moments (memories) that has defined me as a person, and the following are just some of the many memories:

  1. “Courtesy”

While in primary school, Singapore started a nationwide campaign to make “Courtesy a Way of Life.” In school, we were taught to be courteous to everyone, everywhere. It included queuing up for the bus, giving our seats to the elderly, handicapped, and young children when needed; helping the blind cross the roads, etc. It may have started as a courtesy campaign but it has become a piece of me demonstrating compassion to the underprivileged till today (I wonder if the Government actually had certain foresight on how that campaign would impact the nation). It was through this campaign that a new core value had been ingrained into us as a nation over the next few years.

  1. “Mandarin”

Mandarin is the 2nd language to English & Dialects. In the early years of Singapore, there was no common language to connect the different age groups, particularly between the young and the elderly. Mandarin became the mandatory language for everyone and all walks of life. It was relatively easy for students to pick up the language, but it was more challenging for the elderly who were in their 50’s and older, because who many only spoke in their own dialects and had come from a low level educational background. In the years to come, Media, together with the entertainment industry, were used as the main platform of establishing Mandarin as the national language in the nation, and today, young and old use Mandarin as a common language to bind the people, a new national culture even for the minority races. For the non-Chinese, like the Malays, Indians, etc. they still pursued their mother tongue in government schools and some would pick up Mandarin too. Today, Mandarin is a part of very level of Singapore’s society.

  1. Knowledge and Exposure

Field trips and practical learnings were integrated into the syllabus; visits to farms, science centres, National Museum & Library, Performing Arts, Sports events, National Day participation, etc. As students, we were taught about the history of Singapore, and more importantly, what Singapore needed to do to excel and grow as a nation. We were instilled with a strong desire to learn, expand and grow intellectually, and to pursue “Excellence” in everything we did.

I remembered that in school, the important subjects were the languages, Science and Maths. We were constantly reminded of Singpapore’s ranking in the global arena: 3rd largest trading port, 2nd most recognised airline, and no. 1 in the greenest & most livable city, etc. etc. etc. With or without most of us knowing it, we grew up wanting to expand our horizons, eventually contributing to the growth of the Nation of Singapore.

  1. Meritocracy

My last factor that had made me who I am today is the simple fact that we can be who we want to be if we work for it. In schools, communities, governmental interaction, everyone was given the opportunity to be the best that they could be.

When I was about 10 years old, my parents’ financial stability was severely impacted, and it became financially challenging for my parents to fund my education in Singapore, but nevertheless I was able to complete the journey. It never crossed my mind that my stature would be a stigma, or that I would not have equal access to good schools or employment. It was always about what I wanted to pursue in life and how much determination/effort/work I had, or was willing to put in, and it was the same for my friends too (Singaporeans & Malaysians alike).

It was this system of meritocracy, as inspired by the leaders of Singapore, that allowed children from all forms of background to pursue and achieve their “destined calling.”

I have lived in Malaysia since I completed my education journey at the age of 21 years old. Many of my dear friends would occasionally jab at me with names such as “Half Singaporean”. Through the years, I have appreciated my nation of Malaysia even more, and I stand firm with full conviction of my love for Malaysia.

However, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, if not for the education system and the national culture of Singapore that has helped me formed the crucial foundations of my life. I believe, besides thousands of Malaysians, many other nationalities have been beneficiaries.

With that, I am thankful to the late Mr Lee Kwan Yew for his vision, courage and relentless tenacity to establish Singapore prominently in the Global platform. His leadership qualities defined him and Singapore and the legacy will be lived through the generations of Singaporeans to come.

I would like to conclude that as Leaders, we know that the road and tasks ahead are not easy, and we should not expect anything less. But what defines us are our ability to have foresight, perserverence, and determination to pursue and establish what we believe are good and virtuous values as legacies for not just our organizations, but the industries we are in, and God-willing, impacting that of our nation.

Enter the Year of the Goat!

Gong Xi Fa Chai to those that celebrate Chinese New Year!!
I trust that this Chinese New Year has been one of reconnecting with family and friends! What is amazing, is that there were more than 300 million* people in China who made their way back to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year, beginning with the reunion dinner.  A tradition that is centuries’ old, the reunion dinner is so entrenched in the Chinese culture during the Chinese New Year, irregardless of religions.  How or why did it become such an important tradition in the Chinese culture?
A simple reason, really – and it’s to do with relationships.  It is that one time of the year, where everyone will literally put aside their work (ambitions) and come together to build or reconnect with family, loved ones and friends.
And many times, knowingly or unknowingly, these are the times when we gather amongst family and friends, and share the going-ons in our lives, telling of the ups and downs.  Many a time, unbeknownst to us, the listening ears of our young are especially attentive, because they are eager to hear how and what makes certain relatives successful or otherwise! And thus, this is where legacies are being built and left behind for our children, nephews, nieces, young adults, etc.
As Leaders in the market place, we must be more aware, and intentional in the legacies we want to build and leave for the next generation.  What do you think your legacy will be?



Legacies that matter are connected with people. A hundred years from now all that will matter is the people that you connected with in such a way that you added value and meaning to their lives. Political commentator Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in others the conviction and will to carry on.” Ultimately, if your people can’t do it without you, you haven’t been successful in raising up other leaders.

We have all heard that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I also believe that when the teacher is ready, the student appears. There are people in your world who would be thrilled to learn from you—not just the person who will succeed you in your leadership position, but people in every area of your life.

I believe the greatest legacy a leader can leave is having developed other leaders. Develop them as widely and as deeply as you can. I’ve spent more than thirty years teaching leadership to leaders from every walk of life and nearly a hundred countries. My organizations have trained millions of leaders in nearly every country. In the last few years, I’ve begun to personally invest in coaches and speakers who are actively teaching to others the values and principles I embrace. And I’m investing deeply in a handful of leaders in my inner circle.

If you want to leave a legacy, invest in people, and encourage those you develop to pass on everything they learn from you to others who will do the same. People are what matter in this world—not money or fame or buildings or organizations or institutions. Only people.

Achievement comes to people who are able to do great things for themselves. Success comes when they lead followers to do great things for them. But a legacy is created only when leaders put their people into a position to do great things without them. The legacy of successful leaders lives on through the people they touch along the way. The only things you can change permanently are the hearts of the people you lead.

Adapted from Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

*Source: Modern Rails Make Traveling Civilized by John Lucero | Feb 23, 2015
Read more: http://en.yibada.com/articles/15097/20150223/modern-rails-make-traveling-civilized.htm#ixzz3SeDm7gOw



New Beginnings – Intentionally!

20150115_113454Welcome to my first posting! What a ride this has been, moving from the corporate world into the world of entrepreneurs!

Now that I have officially been running my own company for almost the last one year, what a journey it has been… the learning curve has been steep to say the least, and multi-tasking is an understatement. But at the end of the day, it is rewarding to know that I can make a direct impact on the lives I have trained and coached.

Coaching is so much more than just training. It is an avenue where I am able to come into contact with people I otherwise would not have in the normal course of my life or work. Over the last year, I have met and coached people from different walks of life and industries; managers, senior managers, whom I appreciate for their candidness and openness in sharing the struggles they have endured in their lives, and yet, now realising it is through those hardships that can be channelled into a positive energy and source of inspiration, not only for their own lives, but for those whom they work with.

To start the year on a positive note, I would like to share this article I recently read from John C. Maxwell – Looking Back to Plan Forward and I believe this will add value to you as a Leader.

It talks about how we should re-look at our previous year’s calendar, particularly at  significant events, meetings we have had, and decisions we have made as a leader, a superior, a business owner, a spouse, a parent, etc.  We should reflect on the outcome of our decisions, the good and the not-so-good, knowing that we will learn more from the not-so-good decisions we made because failure is a powerful teacher.

In order to have a meaningful reflection, ask yourself these questions, and I quote from his article:

What did I do that I shouldn’t have done?

What did I spend a lot of time on? Was it a priority? Was it in my strength zone? Was it something only I could do, or should I have delegated it? What will I do differently this year?

What didn’t I do that I should have done?

What’s missing from the calendar? What did I neglect that I should have been a priority? What action didn’t I take, that really should have been done? What will I do differently this year?

What is the most important thing I did this year to help someone else?

Can I do it again next year (for them or another person)? Did I do it as effectively as possible? How could I do it better in the future?

What did I do this year that helped me grow more than anything else?

Is it repeatable? Do I want to make it a regular habit? How can I break it down into manageable “chunks” to make it happen again this year? What else can I do to grow?

Where do I need to be more intentional?

Where did I let things happen to me, instead of making them happen? What bad habits do I need to break? In what areas do I need to focus more attention, make important decisions, and take steps in a positive direction?

How can I take things to the next level?

How can I take a good experience and make it somehow better? How can I grow more this year? How can I make something that was satisfying even more satisfying? How can I top last year’s accomplishments? How can I exceed my own expectations, as well as the expectations of others? Don’t settle for good when great is a possibility.”¹

As we list and ask questions about our past experiences, we learn to apply to life.  One important aspect to take note of, is that he says we must make goals and resolutions that are connected to our current habits or lifestyle, otherwise, that is the reason why so many of us cannot stick by our vows to turn over a new leaf because it is too disconnected from our natural lifestyle.  Having said that, these questions he has posed are to make us more purposeful and intentional in our decision-making in order to make us more effective as leaders, and every other role we play in our life.

Granted, it will take a few (very precious) hours of your time this week, but I guarantee you that if you do take time to reflect, and jot down some of the answers, you will realise that the way forward may not be an uphill task as you first thought.
I leave you with this thought and reflection – Life is about BEING INTENTIONAL.
  • We must have the intention to spend time with our loved ones to build relationships.
  • We must have the intention to work to the best of our abilities to get that promotion or recognition.
  • We must have the intention to make things better to improve our quality of life.
  • We must have the intention to develop ourselves so that we can have stronger leadership qualities & values.
  • We must have the intention to grow and expand our business by understanding, developing, and expanding our entrepreneurial acumen.
  • Therefore, we must intentionally reflect on our past to focus on our Present & Future.
The Law of Intention is one of the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth that I facilitate in my Programs, and it is a fundamental law that we need to embrace in order to make the change in our life more effective.
As January ended, how do you think your New Year is faring?  Fantastic?! Not as great as you anticipated? Same old, same old?
Well, the beauty of living in Malaysia is the rich multi-cultural heritage that we enjoy as Malaysians….if you missed out on “starting afresh” in January, you can “start afresh” in February with the oncoming of  Chinese New Year!
Let’s work at Developing Ourselves First!
¹John C. Maxwell’s Leadership Wired Blog, 7 Jan 2015.


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