Thursday, 5 January 2012

Leading By Example - Zeti Akhtar Aziz

          It is easy to think that great leadership is some kind of innate ability or gift; to think that either you have it or you don’t. That is not the case. Leaders are actually train, not born. I strongly believe in order to become a good leader we first need to be a good follower. Good leaders set good examples for their subordinates and others to follow. If we cannot manage ourselves and are unclear on what we stand for, we definitely cannot expect other people to follow us.
          Good leaders need to have desire, power and energy to lead and make a difference. Evolutionary psychology also points to the importance of confidence in establishing leadership. People will follow a confident person, especially one who appears to offer a way out from uncertainty and turbulence.
          In my opinion, I think great leaders should have clarity on their values in order for them to separate right from wrong. Our values are the key beliefs that we hold to be guiding lights. They define how we choose to live our lives.
          Apart from having good values, great leaders also need to have awesome behavior. Our behavior indicates our character. It is the outward expression of what we hold to be important. After all, we are who we choose to be. We are emotional creatures and our instincts draw us towards those whom we trust and guide us away from those whom we fear. Good leaders should not have ego-driven behavior. Arrogance, aggression and sarcasm cause distance and reduce trust and commitment in relationship.  If we are clear on our values and live by them, we have a strong sense of our own integrity and worth. We do not need to make others feel bad in order for us to feel good.
          Graciousness is another value that a leader should possess. Graciousness is how we behave. It involves treating others with respect and by living by example, not by proclamation. Graciousness is a standard of excellence; it is a gift of yourself to others, the donation of your attention, your interest and caring.  It builds trust and fortifies relationships.
          One of the things that can restrict our vision is our perception of the boundaries around us. The way we perceive the world conditions our expectations. It can even make us see things that are not really there, and suggest that the future will merely be an extension of the past. Fixed mind-sets can equip us badly for dealing with change. They make us too slow to adapt. We respond too late because we are fixed in yesterday’s pattern of thought. Pattern of thought can easily become habit, and habits can migrate into the perception that they are the only way to do things. As leaders, we need to challenge the way we perceive the boundaries. We need to think outside the box in order for us to achieve great things in life.
          Even though I understand the theory on how to be a great leader, leadership is still a tough act to jump into without some guidelines. Therefore, as for me, I have an idol to look up to and motive me to be a better person and a good leader. She is an incredible person and a great example of a national leader.
          Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz is the current Governor of the Malaysia National Bank. She was born in Johor Bahru and her father is Royal Professor Ungku Aziz, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya and founder of Tabung Haji. Her mother is a journalist and social activist Sharifah Azah Mohamed Alsagoff. She is also the great granddaughter of the late Datuk Jaafar Mohamed, Johor's first chief minister, and grandniece of Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar.
          Tan Sri Dr. Zeti received her early education at Assunta High School, Petaling Jaya in 1958 and she  received a Bachelor's degree in Economics from University Malaya. After that she continued her studies at University of Pennsylvania, obtaining a PhD in monetary and international economics.
          Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz began her career as an economic analyst in the South-East Asia Central Bank Training & Research Center from 1979 to 1984. She was then appointed as Deputy Manager in the Economics Department at National Bank of Malaysia. After that, she joined the Economics Department at the National Bank of Malaysia in 1985 and was appointed Secretary to the Board of Directors of the bank in 1987. In 1989, she was appointed as the Chief Representative in the London Office.
          Returning to Malaysia in 1994, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti was appointed the Bank's Chief Economist and the Head of the Economics Department. In 1995, she was elected as the Assistant Governor of the National Bank. She was responsible for economics, reserve management, foreign and money market operations and exchange control. In 2004-2008, she was on the board of directors of Khazanah Nasional Bhd.
          Tan Sri Dr. Zeti was named "Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah 1432H" at the national-level 2010 Ma'al Hijrah celebration. At the age of 63, she is the first woman ever named as the recipient of the award in the celebration's history of 24 years. Interestingly, her father, Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz Ungku Abdul Hamid also received the award 11 years ago.
          Under her leadership, the Islamic financial system had been improving in Malaysia and contributed to a competitive, diverse, comprehensive and inclusive financial system. In a decade, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti managed to increase Islamic banking assets up to 21 per cent, thus over 100 domestic and international Islamic financial institutions are enable to operate in Malaysia.
          At the international level, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti also contributed to the global acceptance of Islamic finance. This includes leading an international team to prepare the Financial Stability and Islamic Finance report, as well as chairing the Islamic Financial Services Board, an international agency for setting prudent monetary policy for Islamic financial institutions worldwide.
          Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said Tan Sri Dr. Zeti deserved the Maal-Hijrah award based on her contributions in the development of the financial system and national economy, especially in the Islamic financial system. This was especially evident in times of economic recession, he said, saying that apart from national leaders, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti was among those who provided ideas and contributed towards the recovery of the national economy. He said that the country is not only proud of her contributions, but is also happy to give her this award and hope that other women share the joy of this recognition for Tan Sri Dr. Zeti.
          In 2009, Global Finance magazine, selected Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz as one of the world's best central bank chief. Tan Sri Dr. Zeti and six other central bank chief was given  grade "A" in the article "Central Banker Report Cards" for success in areas such as inflation control, the target of economic growth, stable currency and interest rate management.
          Apart from numerous awards she received in Malaysia, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti had also received international recognition when she was selected as a member of the United Nations Commission of Experts to discuss the direction of world monetary and financial system.
          Tan Sri Dr. Zeti also chaired the Executives' Meeting of East Asia-Pacific Central Banks (EMEAP) task force to formulate the master plan of financial cooperation between central banks.
          Sharing her success, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti said she spent most of her time reading, especially about financial, economic, leadership development and self-improvement. She said that it was important to instill curiosity in one's quest for knowledge. She also said that gender issue had never arisen throughout her career. She believed that there were also many more women capable of achieving the same level of success.
          On 20th May 2011, it was reported that Bloomberg columnist William Pesek has picked Tan Sri Dr. Zeti as one of his four nominees to head the prestigious International Monetary Fund (IMF). The position became vacant following the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was arrested in New York, and is presently facing sexual assault charges. Pesek suggested that an Asian take over the role of the global institution that has traditionally been filled by Europeans and shortlisted regional candidates which he felt could bring a fresh perspective to the institution.
          Pesek praised Tan Sri Dr. Zeti for her brilliant principles and said that she was one of those people that “bet against the IMF and won” in the aftermath of the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis when Malaysia declined aid from the IMF. In the late 1990s, it seemed inevitable that Malaysia would join Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea in accepting multibillion-dollar IMF loan and stringent conditions like raising interest rates, cutting spending and letting irresponsible companies fail.
          Malaysia said no to IMF and Tan Sri Dr. Zeti helped the nation to weather the turbulence. And then she watched the US, in the height of hypocrisy, do all the things it told Asian officials not to do. Pesek noted that Tan Sri Dr. Zeti is one of the most internationally respected central bankers  and played a key role in turning Kuala Lumpur into a global hub of the USD 1trillion (RM3 trillion) Islamic finance industry. He believed Tan Sri Dr. Zeti would bring a much-needed different perspective to the IMF.
          Whether taking on foreign fund managers or dealing with the country's leaders, Tan Sri Dr. Zeti plays her role with remarkable ease and a clear head. She led the central bank to successfully introduce and implement Malaysia's most controversial policy initiative which is the capital controls. The risky move paid off, earning Tan Sri Dr. Zeti great respect and high admiration from all over the world. Her move to rationalize the banking sector and the development of Islamic finance has given Malaysia its strong footing and competitive edge.
          For such outstanding achievements and character, I believe I made the right choice by choosing Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz to be my idol. Like other PTDs, I would also want to be a leader in the future. I want to influence, to be counted and not just be another follower. For that matter, I am going to give my best towards achieving my dreams. I am aiming high up for the moon, and if I fail, I hope to at least touch the stars.


References
·       Alan Coppin and John Barratt (2002).Timeless management.
·       Dr. Karen Otazo (2000). The truth about being a leader:and nothing but the truth.


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