Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Boy Who Sells Curry Puffs

Being busy with work for quite some time, I finally managed to get a few days off from office after several attempts of appealing. It was the final day of my leave when I am resting at my home and reading magazines while checking emails. I came across and was so inspired by an email forwarded by a friend. It was just an ordinary story about a boy who sells curry puffs; but somehow it caught my attention and embedded in my mind. Thus, I would like to share the story for us to learn or just to unwind.

The incident took place at a stall somewhere in Perak. It was on Saturday morning when a man felt tired and hungry after driving for quite some time. So, he decided to pull over and have some nice lunch since it was already about lunch time. He was heading to a stall when a boy holding a basket came and approached him. The boy offered curry puff for him to buy. With just a glimpse, he declined because he wanted to eat something heavier and continue to walk to the stall. When he finished choosing his ‘lauk’, he went to take a seat and ate his meal. He was sipping his drink when he noticed that the same boy came to his table. With a polite voice and tone, again, the boy offered him the curry puff in the basket for him to buy. He was already full and again, he declined the offer. With a smile, the boy left the table and went to another table after table doing the same thing. Sadly, no one bought his curry puff. But there was no hint of frustration or despair at his face. The man saw the boy left the stall and disappeared behind rows of vehicles parked in front of the stall.

After a while, the man paid his meal and decided to continue his journey. He got into his car and started the engine. While he waited for the engine to warm up, he saw the same boy sat on the curb nearby his car. At the same time, the boy noticed that the man was looking at him. So he got up on his feet and walked towards the car. With a kind smile on his face, he said; “Sir, you may not want to eat my curry puff now but maybe you can buy it for your mother, sister or even yourself during your journey.” But the man still declined the offer. The boy left but somehow turned back when he heard the man called him. This time the man took his time to look closely at the boy before saying anything. The boy was around the age of nine or ten years old. He was wearing a red t-shirt with a matching track bottom and a cap. He carried a basket full of curry puffs. He looked calm and unpretentious. Feeling pity for the boy, the man took out RM10 note from his pocket and gave it to the boy. The boy took the money and thanked him. The man felt happy to be able to help the boy.

The man got inside his car and would like to continue his journey. While reversing his car, he saw that the boy handed the money to a blind beggar near the stall where he had his lunch. He was surprised with the action and immediately stopped his car and called the boy. The boy quickly ran to the car and asked him whether he wanted to buy the curry puff. The man asked the boy about his action with the money and the boy replied; “I am sorry I can’t take the money. My mother would scold me if she knew I beg for money. She told me that we must work to earn money because Allah gave us our hands and legs for us to use them. If she finds out that I bring home that amount while there are still a lot of curry puffs to be sold, she will scold me. She also said that begging is just for the weak. I am a strong boy, uncle.”

At once, the man was stilted and felt so touched and amazed by the values the boy was holding to. After a long paused, he immediately asked the price of all the curry puffs inside the basket. The boy looked surprised and asked if he wanted all of them. The man nodded and quickly the boy began counting the curry puffs left in his basket. It was RM25 for all of the curry puffs. The boy handed the curry puffs to the man with a smile and grateful expression. He then walked away with an empty basket that surely would not bring disappointment to him. With a plastic bag full of curry puffs in his car, the man drove away to continue his journey. While driving, he kept on thinking about the boy; ‘Is he an orphan?’ The little boy has such a big heart and never let lose his hope and faith. He also wondered who is the noble lady who gave birth to the boy. Surely, his mother has done a very good job in nurturing her son. Sincerely, the man bought all of the curry puffs not because he pitied the boy; but he admired the boy’s attitude honouring his belief and work as a curry puff seller. He was a dignified young man. The man reached his home after a long journey and brought those curry puffs to his family. And yes, he ate some of it during his journey!

The boy with his determination, his faith and his perseverance makes me think of my own self. Do I really appreciate what I have or simply taking things for granted? When a little boy took pride of his work as a curry puff seller, it really dawned upon on my attitude as a grown up person. The boy taught me about having faith and holding to it as an important quality that makes a person a good leader. In life, there are so many challenges and temptations that we will be facing; no matter who we are, because we are leaders, at least to our own selves.  Faith is extremely important and it will keep us controlled and it will lead us to the right path.   
It is the mother of the boy who I am really amazed and inspired of. She has instilled in her son to grow up to be a respectable young man. Yes, she might just be an ordinary lady, who makes curry puffs to support her living, but she did a tremendous job in raising her boy. She has managed to educate her son about so many things in life and its reality which are filled with hardships and uncertainties. She has successfully trained her boy about the differences of giving and receiving aside from raising him with good qualities where he can hold on to throughout his entire life. She has portrayed a good example of a leadership quality that lies inside of each and everyone of us. Though she is just another person who we see everyday across the street that most us might fail to realise about her existence, she has proven that a good leader is actually a leader that will inspire anybody at anytime with his or her attributes.

She has several admirable leadership qualities that make her inspiring and respectable person. One of them is she has a good principle in leading her life. But what is more is her faith to stick to that principle. Besides, she did what a mother does best; she passed it down to her son and makes sure that her son accepted and practiced the spirit.

Most of the times, we tend to underestimate our self and think that we do not have the quality of a leader, but we actually do. It is just a matter of time or occasion that we will realise the facts. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out who is the best person for you to follow or the things you should be doing in life. It is always a thought of the consequences for the action that we will take will make us realize that we should be doing right things at the right path. This is where our role model comes to the picture. Sometimes, it is just a simple action or word that other people say and do that brings changes to the situations. All we need to do is to listen and see things in different ways in order to improve our own self as well as portraying the good features that we developed from our experience and of course from our role models.

There are so many things that happen to everybody at every second. Some of the things might be a hard and stressful life changing experience or just a simple nod but still brings sunshine for the one it is meant for. Therefore most of us have our own opinions about things that we see happening and revolving all around us. The opinions that we make sometimes suit perfectly with the occurrence but somehow, most of the times, we tend to judge things based on our limited knowledge and realization. Perhaps, it is our nature as humans! But yet, we can always improve and keep on improving ourselves.    

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What Makes Good Leaders

Leaders often make this mistake; they don’t really embrace and truly live by what they say. Good leaders lead by example, but unfortunately, there are plenty of leaders out there that does not practise what they say. They might say one thing but deep inside their heart, they don’t really mean it. It is just a habit for this type of leader to give an impressive speech to impress those who listen. They will dig as much information and ideas they read from any leadership or motivational books. Then, they pick those great ideas about leadership and paste the ideas into their speech. Or, it could be that their speech is written by someone else, perhaps an advisor or consultant, and they are just there reading it for the sake of giving a talk in a ceremony they attended.
For example, many leaders talk about the importance of being open to new ideas and criticisms so as to create an innovative culture in their organisation, and to do that, they encourage their subordinates to air different views and opinions. But for some hypocrite leaders and most of the time, in reality, that is not the case. The practise is a total reverse from what has being said. When it comes to subordinates giving different views, especially when it is different of the views of that particular leaders, they will be punish, penalise or even threaten that they might be losing their jobs. These subordinates, who are trying to be frank of the current situation, hence airing their opinions on how can further improvements be made, often find themselves unrecognised and their voices ignored. It happens because there are leaders who see those great ideas coming from their “inexperience” subordinates as somebody who are trying to oppose them, hence, embarrassing them. For these leaders, talents are threats to their survival; hence, the so called “right move” to take is to sideline these talents, shut them up and to throw them out from an organisation.
Such practise if it continues, could, in the long run, result in deficiencies in an organisation. It will cause subordinates to have the tendency of keeping their ideas to themselves, hence, keeping their thoughts from their leaders. Most of the time, it is the subordinates who are working on the operational side, therefore, their knowledge of certain details on some matters could be better than what their leaders know. If this “everyone please be silent” practice continues, it could badly ruin the innovative culture in an organisation. Hence, that explains the static or rigid culture of an organisation, where over years of operations, they could not change and adapt to a new environment and they will soon become irrelevant to the society they live in.
Soon after, their roles will be taken over by some other organisation that can outperform the role of this static organisation. This is because the “close door” policy of that particular organisation restricts them from accepting new and fresh arguments and ideas of how certain things should and could be done. When it comes to meeting, only a certain people who are the leaders themselves are allowed to speak up, while the rest are just listeners. It creates an environment of passiveness as nobody dares to talk. Those who dare talking are one who supports and flourish the idea of the leaders. Is this symptom good for an organisation? How do the leaders know should there be any deficiencies in the decisions they made if every member of the organisation just nod their head every time the leaders speak up? As a result, the decision made by those leaders might not be the best because it is not properly discussed and filtered through. In the end, it is the stakeholders that would be affected by the wrong decision. Funds will definitely be wasted and channelled inappropriately once wrong decisions are made. For a profit motive organisation, it is easy to define and track performance. But for non-for-profit organisation, where performance could hardly be tracked, hence, all the wasted funds will go down the drain without anyone noticing.
These listeners, even if they have disagreements with what have been decided in a meeting, they would just keep quiet. This type of autocratic leadership style pose a very great danger to an organisation, hence, requires huge and massive transformation programme to change the whole system. It indirectly implies that no talents are allowed into the organisation. Only those who follow obediently without having to exercise their mind will be accepted as member of the organisation. In a much globalised world today, where pool of talents is very scarce, this scenario could further alleviate the talent problem in our country. Talents who feel that they wanted to contribute to the nation building would not want to work in the rigid and static environment, where their minds are forced to “closed down”, hence their knowledge and skills could not be fully utilised. It is well known that Malaysia has invested a lot of money, worth billions a year, into education. It would be such a waste if these talents migrate overseas.
To become a good leader, one must be inspirational to the others. Only then, others would respect and follow the leaders. One way to be inspirational to others is by respecting and appreciating our subordinates. A good leader will not hesitate to listen and accept different views, even if it is different from his or her view. The principle applied is pretty simple; a leader may not know everything, so does the subordinates. The best ways to uplift an organisation status or potential is by listening to every possible idea thrown, and then filter the ideas and choose the best among them. There is no harm to listening to other people’s opinion, no matter how radical it may be. If a leader feels that the idea is not practical, he could just discard it. But we won’t be able to judge how well or bad an idea is until we hear to the proposition.
Only by letting everyone speaks freely can we have a dynamic and innovative organisation. This is because everyone will strive to figure out what’s best for the organisation. Each and every one of us has different mindset and perception on how we see things. Leaders must realise this reality and start thinking how can these brain be utilised and how to benefit from them. Sidelining talents might give the leaders short term gain for themselves, but in the long run, it would be such a huge loss for the organisation. This type of mentality of sidelining talents reminds me of a classic story of “Temasek and the swordfish”. Temasek was home to a gifted 10-year old named Hang Nadim. One day, Temasek was attacked by swordfish. Many people were killed during the attack. The king decided to consult Hang Nadim, who suggested a brilliant idea to overcome the problem and succeeded. But the king got worried as he is afraid this smart kid would try to overtake his power as king, so he killed the smart kid, only to realise that he had lost such a good talent that could further contribute ideas for the nation building in the future. The story might be a classic one, but it has its relevance until today.
Malaysia, heading towards a developed nation by 2020, cannot afford to lose more talents. Talents are required to further develop this country. A leader must not only think of his short term gain, but give priority to the country’s long term gain. Differences in opinion and view are absolutely normal. The abnormal would be everyone in the organisation has the same thought and idea on a certain matter. Hence, leaders must see differences in opinion as blessing for the organisation, not the other way around. A good leader plays an important role to facilitate and organising these differences so that it would benefit the organisation.  
Great culture of an organisation is pretty much influence by its leaders. Great leaders lead their organisation into existence. Existence means the organisation’s presence is felt in a good faith by those who are affected. There are so many organisations out there that their presence is also felt by people, but in bad faith. For example, some organisations are seen as barriers to trade and commercialisation, as they set too much bureaucratic rules and procedures that dampen trade. Hence, it is important for an organisation that has long existed to study and do research about their roles and functions. An organisation that wants to enhance their roles and capabilities must look into how they contribute to achieving outcomes. There is no benefit in organising too much ceremonial events that in the end, it leads the organisation nowhere. It is the implementation or post ceremonial event that matters, not the ceremony itself. Members of an organisation must realise that organising ceremony is not the outcomes they want to achieve; it is the content of what the ceremony represents that matter and serve the outcome of an organisation.
I am among Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, the former Mufti of Perlis admirers, due to his intellectual scholarship. Apart from that, he is also a man of reform. His thoughts and ideas are purely derived from the Quran and Sunnah. Hence, he calls for every Muslims to devote themselves to those basic sources in Islam. He rejects fanaticism to a particular school of thought in fiqh matters. But he strongly support for accepting all opinions among different known Muslim scholars as long as those scholars have evidence from the Quran and Sunnah in deriving their thoughts. In most of his speech, he stresses that what we do in this world will definitely be rewarded once we die. So, it is important to stick firmly to principles that have been shown to us as prescribed in the Quran and Sunnah, even if it means we might lose the worldly gain.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

My Great Leader.

I entered the public service as a PTD officer on the 24th of April 2009. It was the day that changed my life. I am very thankful to God because of giving me the chance to be part of the premier scheme in public service. Once I became a PTD officer, I realized that I carry a lot of responsibilities to deliver quality service for the public and enhance public service image in the eyes of the people. PTD is also synonymous with leadership. Therefore, I realized that once I became a PTD, automatically I have to build a leadership character in me because PTD occupies strategic posts in ministries, departments and districts level. 
I started my career as a PTD officer in Ministry of Defence and was first posted at the Policy Division. I served there for about one and a half years before doing a job rotation and was later posted at the Development Division. This was where the excitement of working as a PTD officer begins. I never had any knowledge on project management. I also never had any experience on construction and engineering but I feel very excited working here, maybe because it was a new environment for me and later I realized that even though I never had any experience in this field but we will build the interest slowly as we go along that line. In the development sector, I see a lot of multi-talented leaders in the making. They are not only doing routine work as a PTD such as writing papers, doing presentations, conducting meetings, etc but they are also doing some technical works. This is where the engineering knowledge comes into the picture. Even though we never had any knowledge about construction (as I came from a political science background) but we must be a fast learner in order to stay relevant in this field. Thus, I learned that being a PTD is not only about  writing papers but more than that as they  also contribute in the development of infrastructure for the welfare of our people. For me, they are future leaders that will shape the path of our country to become a develop country in the year 2020. 
Many said that great leaders are made and not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. I have several leaders as my role model in my career. Some come from political background and some  from a business background. I always admire great people like Donald Trump, John P. Kotter, John C Maxwell, Dale Carnegie, etc because they are great leaders that produce even more leaders. Besides that, I also admire people like Tun Ghazali Shafie, Tun Ahmad Sarji and many other influential public servant who contributed a lot for our national development. In my leadership experience while serving in the public service, I would like to name a leader who had inspired and given me a tremendous impact. Among several great leaders that I mentioned just now, I want to highlight Tun Ghazali Shafie as my great leader that had influenced and shaped my career as a PTD officer. He is very influential in shaping my career and is my reference for my career as a PTD as a whole.


Tun Mohammad Ghazali Shafie is one of the premier statesman that Malaysia ever had. He was a former diplomat and later turned as a politician and corporate leader. He is very firm in character until people calls him King Ghaz.
           He was born in Kuala Lipis Pahang in 1922 and studied law at the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth and International Studies at University of London. In 1944 he entered Public Service as a probationary officer and in 1947 he was appointed acting district officer in Kuala Lipis, Pahang. His achievement of four decade public service were many and varied. Between 1955 until 1957 he worked abroad for several times. He served at Commissioner Office in London, UN Permanent Representative Office, British High Commissioner in New Delhi, India. He was appointed as a Malayan Commissioner to India and later he was founded Malayan High Commissioner in New Delhi, India.
He had contributed a lot to our national development. Under our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, he helped shape the country's foreign policy and was involved in the formation of Malaysia. He had played an important role and contributed his mind and energy in the formation of Malaysia. His involvement in the Cobbold Commission was very crucial. Besides that, Tun Ghazali had contributed a lot towards the formation of ASEAN. He has a very good personal relationship with ASEAN leaders. This good relationship together with his reputation as an influential diplomat has made the formation of ASEAN ran very smoothly. His influential characteristic has made diplomatic relations with neighboring countries be in harmony and at the same time our national interest can be guarded safely. For example, negotiation regarding the confrontation with Indonesia, claim for oil fields with Thailand, several problems with Brunei and the Philippines had been settled with regional spirit.  He was also one of the architects that helped formed the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the International Islamic University Malaysia and many more.
During his tenure as a Special Functions and Information Minister from 1971 until 1973, he made a big changes to Radio Televisyen Malaysia. After that he was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs and served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1981 until 1984. He was known as a person who is very dedicated to his country and his leadership has made Malaysia one of the respected countries in the international arena.
 In the matter of regional affairs, he helped bring an end to Indonesia’s Confrontation and restore diplomatic relations. He was one of the members that participated in the negotiation of the eventual surrender of the Communist Party of Malaya. He worked hard to ensure that Malaysia was involved seriously in the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) in the 60s and to be a champion in championing anti apartheid policy that has been implemented by South Africa in discriminating black people. 
       As a permanent secretary (1959-1970) and later as Minister of External Affairs (1981-1984), he brought our foreign relations to a higher level. During his time in service, Wisma Putra was made a brand name not only within our national civil service but in the region as well.
His expertise in international relations is highly respected as held important posts in international bodies such as Chairman of United Nations Asia-Pacific Conference on the Question of Palestine in Kuala Lumpur in 1983 and member of South Commission and Chairman of commission for reinforcement of ASEAN mechanism.  He was also selected as a member in the eminent person team for Commonwealth for South Africa to give support for multi party negotiation process in 1981, member of Commonwealth observer for South Africa’s general election, member of observer for Sri Lankan and Bosnia Herzegovina general election and Chairman of Commonwealth observer for Bangladeshi general election.
After leaving the cabinet in July 1984, he put his attention to other fields as he held several important posts in the private sector and international bodies. Among others were chairman of Peremba, Chairman of Landmark Holdings Sdn. Bhd., board of directors of Rolls Royce Asia Pacific, chairman of Westmont Bank Manila and Chairman of Intermega Energy NL, Australia.  
His leadership  can also be seen in sport arena as he held several important posts such as Life time Honorary President of Selangor Royal Aviation Club, President of Kesatuan Olahraga Amatur Malaysia (KOAM) since 1962 until 1988.
          He was the foreign policy guru for a whole generation of Malaysian and ASEAN diplomats. He emphasized that civil servants should be required to read widely and knowledgeable. Many people admiring his skills in dealing with diplomatic community and the media. His retirement from public service was a loss to the country as he was among our premier statesmen.
     Tun Ghazali Shafie had contributed a lot to our foreign policy and helped shaped a good environment in regional affairs. He is one of the great leaders in the diplomatic field that Malaysia has ever produced. He  not only played an important role in our regional and international affairs but he was also active in politics when he left the public service. For me, he is a true leader who contributed a lot to our country and his contribution as well as active participation in international bodies had made our country  proud. He was the one who placed Malaysia in the international arena. Tun Ghazali Shafie’s experience as a true diplomat and a great politician has given me the inspiration on how to be a great leader like him.



1.    Carnegie, Dale. 1993. The Leader In You. New York: Simon & Schuster  Inc. 
2.    Covey, Stephen R. 1991. Principle-Centred Leadership. United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster  UK Ltd.
4.    Tun Ghazali Shafie-Foreign Minister Extraordinary