Monday, 9 January 2012

He is My Idol - Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary

I was born in a village name Kampung Panglima Bayu, Tanah Merah Kelantan 30 years ago. I am the first child in the family and I have a little sister who was born 6 years later. Both of us grew up in a humble family. My father worked as a gardener in a military camp near to our house. While my mother was working as a nurse in a clinic nearby. Since I was 7 months old, my father was taking care of me until I am 4 years old. It was because, my mother have to attend her nursing course. During that time, my father was the person who took care of me and prepare my needs from top to toe. Growing up with two male cousins make me a bit like boy and more likely to engage in the activity that is usually done by boys.

I started my early education at Sek.Keb. Batu Gajah at standard 1. Then my secondary school at Sek.Men.Keb. Batu Gajah from form 1 to form 5. During my school time, my parents give their full support and encouragement no matter what happen. After I finished my school, I had an opportunity to further my studies in Diploma in Business Studies at Universiti Technology MARA and after that I pursue my degree level at Universiti Utara Malaysia in Public Management.

Thinking back to that time, never come across into my mind to become a Administrative and Diplomatic Officer (PTD). My aim just to finish my first degree and then further studies to master level and then become a lecturer. After graduated, I’ve seated for PTD exam for the first time. I did well until the interview level. However, I did not pass my interview. At that time I realize that I should not take for granted in doing things such as the PTD interview. It was like the worst time in my life. Feels like the world ends. I was so sad until I did not know what else I could do. A few months after that, I went to Kuala Lumpur to seek for a job. I am lucky because within a month I got a job as a management trainee. Three weeks later, I’ve got an offer as a PTD contract for two years. For the first time, I worked as a government officer.

In the book A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter (2008):

When it comes to affecting behavior – creating alert, fast moving actions that are focused on an important issue, relentlessly launching needed initiatives or cooperating with the initiatives of others, pushing to achieve more ambitious goals despite the obstacles, trying to achieve progress each and every day, constantly purging low value activities so that time is available to do all this feelings are more influential that thoughts.

I still remembered when he said “Work hard and be patient, control your temper because you have to work with others not at your own”. Then he adds “learn as many as you can to be a better person. I cannot be an officer like you, but as a father I am proud when you could go this far”. He hugs me like I was his little daughter. No words could describe my feelings at that time. No picture could portrait my emotion when I heard what he said. Not even a single word came out from my mouth. Just tears came out from my eyes. The moment reminds me to a famous quotation:

Whatever you are, be a good one.

Abraham Lincoln

My father intention was he wants me to be a good and dedicated officer who serves to the nation and country. Wlliam F. Baker & Michael O’Malley (2008), in their book Leading With Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior said that:

Kindness is an apropos term to apply to leadership because it implies precisely such root connection among people engaged in meaningful, reciprocal relationships. Those relations are cultivated and reinforced by six virtues, which we views as the ingredients of kindness, that place encounters within workplace in context; compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility and humor.

In my life, there are two icons that really inspired me. They are Tun Mahathir Mohammed, our former Prime Minister and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, the most prominent Malaysia entrepreneurs and are popular with his generosity and philanthropic deeds for the society. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss about Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary which is also known for his down-to-earth attitude, and a guy who as much as possible avoids publicity, cameras and interviews, which at times can be an overwhelming task, considering his status quo as one of the 10 richest men in the country.

Much of Syed Mokhtar’s attitude is attributed with his parents’ upbringing since he was still a small kid. He was born into a mid-low class family in Kedah, with both his parents having average income background. Being nowhere near to living a wealthy life style did not stop his father and mother from instilling good values in raising their kid. Their home came without necessities, let alone luxuries. Syed Mokhtar himself never went beyond the secondary school, as the prevailing family condition forced him to quit schooling and help family by doing odd jobs and starting small scale businesses.

Syed Mokhtar started his real business in the southern Malaysia, selling and distributing rice. With the acquired knowledge and increase in his entrepreneurship skills, he later ventured into trading, logistics and shipping. His mother’s advice to treat part of the money he received as belonging to the poor and the needy remains at the core of his heart. True enough, when he was merely 23 years old, he gave away half of his monthly income of RM1,500 to the needy, donating it to 15 poor families in his village.

In a book title The Essence of leadership stated, “Leadership as the process of inducing other to take action toward a common goal. This definition subsumes three elements:

i. Leadership is a relational concept. Leadership exists only in relation to others – namely, followers. If there are no followers, there is no leader. Implicit in this definition is the premise that effective leaders must know how to inspire and relate to their followers.

ii. Leadership is a process. In order to lead, the leader must do something. Although a formalized position of authority may greatly facilitate the leadership process, simply occupying such a position is not sufficient to make someone a leader.

iii. Leadership requires inducing others to take action. Leaders induce their followers to act in numerous ways, such as using legitimate authority, modeling (setting an example), goal setting, rewarding and punishing, organizational restructuring, team building and communicating a vision.

In 1996, Syed Mokhtar set up Al-Bukhary Foundation to assist the needy, with him as the sole donator. The foundation finances English, Science and Mathematics classes for more than 20,000 underachieving students every year, as well as running a college scholarship program for 300 students in more than 40 countries. Between 1996 and 2006, the Al-Bukhary Foundation has contributed about 1 billion for various charity causes. The foundation also built the famous and gigantic Al-Bukhary mosque in Alor Setar, Kedah, adjacent to a business complex, which today becomes a prominent landmark in Kedah with its remarkable architecture.

In January 2008, Syed Mokhtar was honored as the recipient of the Tokoh Maal Hijrah 1429. And owing his success to his mother’s teachings, he decided to give the cash award of RM80,000 to his mother, Sharifah Rokiah Syed Mohamed Rahmat. A month later, Tan Sri Mokhtar, together with Hishamudin Ubaidulla, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Datuk Amar Leonard Linggi Tun Jugah were featured in Forbes Asia Heroes of Philantropy list.

Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary is currently the richest bumiputra corporate figure with many interests in diversified business areas which include transportation and logistics, plantations, property development, defense and armory as well as engineering and power generation. He is also a symbolic figure that holds philosophy that 'education does not guarantee success in life, but hard work does', and he's a walking proof of that.

He currently holds shareholder-ship in Malaysia Mining Corporation Berhad (MMC), BERNAS, Malakoff Berhad, Johor Port Berhad, Impian Teladan Sdn Bhd and many others. Even becoming the talk of the country, Syed Mokhtar, most of the times tried to lay low. He is rarely available for press interview and remains elusive in the world of publicity. Instead, he focuses his work on philanthropist's work and is passionate with his charity foundation under the name of al-Bukhary Foundation. Al-Bukhary Foundation helped to build Islamic Art Muzium valued at RM70 millions as well as building many mosques and charity establishments in Kedah, Perak and across the country.

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and

the boss drives.

Theodore Roosevelt

His humble personality really gives a big impact to me personally. It is because, nowadays it is very difficult to find a success person very down to earth like him. In every aspect, he shows a very good example to other people to be success. Not only in his work but also his relationship and responsibility not only to his mother and family but also to other people that need help. Being nice to others will lead us to be more grateful with what we have. I wish one day I could be like Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary. Not only a humble servant to almighty god Allah, a good child to his parents but also good leader and example to others.

I would like to conclude with this anonymous poem;

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words,

Be careful of your words, for your words become your deeds,

Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits,

Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your characters,

Be careful of your characters, for your characters become your destiny.


Howard Morgan, Phil Harkins & Marshall Goldsmith (2004). The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wlliam F. Baker & Michael O’Malley (2008). Leading With Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Result. U.S.A.: American Management Association.

John Fuhrman (2007). Leading Leaders to Leadership: 21 Secrets for Leveraging Your Way to Greater Success. Petaling Jaya: Advantage Quest Publication.

John P. Kotter (2008). A Sense of Urgency. U.S.A.: Harvard Business Press.

Leigh Bailey & Maureen Bailey (2005). Grown-Up Leadership: the Benefits of Personal Growth for You and Your Team. Singapore: Nova Vista Publishing.

Linda L. Neider & Chester A. Schriesheim ( 2002). Leadership. U.S.A.: Information Age Publishing.

Edwin A. Locke et. al (1991). The Essence of Leadership: The Four Keys to Leading Successfully. U.S.A.: Macmillan Inc.

No comments: