Friday, 9 November 2012



            A leader is a person who leads or commands a group of people, especially the head of a country or an organization. A leader also can be defined as a person or thing that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others. We often heard the comment, “he or she is a born leader.” But, in my opinion, good leaders are made not born. If we have the desire and willpower, we can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training and experience (Jago, 1982).  Hence, everyone have their own admired leader, same like me. It is because in order to be a good leader we have to be a good follower. We can pick a leader that we respect most as our ‘mentor’ and follow in his or her footstep.
           Of course, as I have worked as Administrative and Diplomatic Officer (PTD Officer), I have   pleasure of being exposed to many great and professional leaders. However, the person who I admire and respect most is YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak, our current Secretary General of Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
            Briefly, YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak began her career in the Administrative and Diplomatic Service in 1979 and has been in the public sector for more than 30 years. She has vast experience in local government administration due to her various postings as an administrative officer in Penang Municipal Council in 1978, Deputy President of Subang Jaya Municipal Council in 2000 and Corporate Director of Putrajaya Holding.
            In essence, she began her career in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 2006 as Director General of the Department of Local Government. Subsequently, she was appointed as Deputy Secretary General of Policy Planning and on 3 April 2012 she was appointed as Secretary General of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, replaced the former Secretary General, Datuk Ahmad Bin Kabit. As her education background, she obtained her Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Southern California, USA and a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Currently, Datuk Arpah Abdul Razak also is the Chairman of Perbadanan Pengurusan Sisa Pepejal dan Pembersihan Awam (PPSPPA) and also a member of PEMUDAH.
            Honestly, why I choose her as my ‘mentor’? Simply because she is the first woman appointed as Secretary General of Ministry of Housing and Local Government. She had determination to be great, very informative, humble, beautiful, gentle, very soft spoken but coherent person.
            Beside that, YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak also a very professional leader. Although I rarely direct work to her, but I am still remember a time when she had a session with the staff of Ministry of Housing and Local Government once she had appointed as the Secretary General. For me she is a very humble person because at that time she just accompanied by her assistant and not with the other top ministry’s leaders. It was because she want to face to face and to hear directly from the below staffs about their problems at the workplace and their opinions on the ministry without other intervention or influences. At that time, she was a very good listener and all staff freely expressed their opinions as well as problems. Thus, it is important to maintain trust between a leader and his or her workers.

            Moreover, YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak also very concern about the staff’s welfare which for me the characteristic should have in every good leader. To be good leaders, they need to be in touch with their people at all times. The leaders must be honest and open with the team members. Leaders also need soul to connect on a personal level with their people. In my opinion, management today is an act of push and pull. So, what leaders or managers should do is to practice courtesy, socialize with peoples.
            In addition to that, YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak also a very confident person and I hope one day I will be like her. Undoubtedly, a good leader is confident. In order to lead and set direction a leader needs to appear confident as a person and in the leadership role. Such a person inspires confidence in others and draws out the trust and best efforts of the team to complete the task well. A leader who conveys confidence towards the proposed objective inspires the best effort from the team members. Honestly, all the qualities are the answer why I respect most and admire in her, and I wish one day to have these qualities and follow in her footstep.
            To sum up,  YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak is one of the great leaders in this country. When we think of leaders, we may think of people such as Tun Dr. Mahathir, Tun Ahmad Sarji, Tunku Abdul Rahman and so on.But like us, these people started out as a students, workers and citizens who possessed ideas how aspect of daily life could be improved on a larger scale. Through diligence and experience, they improved upon their opinions and feedback and constantly looking for the best way to accomplish goals for a group. Thus, we all have the potential to be leaders, such as in communities, at work, in organization and so on. To be a good leader, we must possess an effective leadership. But what is the definition of effective leadership?
            Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support the others in the accomplishment of a common task.” (www.wikipedia.cpm)  While Scott Campbell and Ellen Samiec (2005) in their book, 5-D Leadership defined effective leadership as a process of achieving desired results through people’s willing participation. Thus, the heart of this definition is the phrase “through people’s willing participation.” Assuredly, leadership is about achieving results.
            In other hand, Stephen E-Kohn and Vincent D.O’Connell (2005) pointed out the six habits of highly effective leaders;
1-    expanding self-awareness
2-    practising emphaty
3-    maintaining proper boundaries
4-    critisizing artfully
5-    flexing to different people styles
6-    following “Golden Rule” Principles

Expanding Self- awareness
Awareness is a priority because it drives what we are in a position to affect and control, versus those issues or realities about which we are unaware, which tend to exert control over us. This is true of conditions within our external environment, but it is particularly relevant to our “inner territory” - our emotions, personality, values and beliefs.

Practising Emphaty
            The term empathy derives from the Greek word empatheia, or feeling into; the ability to perceive the subjective experience of another person. It is also defined simply as “the capacity to understand and respond effectively to the unique experience of another.” Given this definition, it is evident that emphaty includes three main components: understanding, responding effectively and a focus on the unique circumstances of people and situations.
            In order to be an empathic leader, we have to be a good listener. Listening skills are the core of empathy. Effective managers listen, and they priories listening.  They remove the clutter in their mind and provide their staff with the emotional presence and “psychological air” to show that they value what they are hearing, that they are willing to take the time to find out what the staff’s input is. Effective leaders read situations well, based on their interest in getting inside the other person’s frame  of reference, to see what  this person sees, so they can understand the situation better.

Maintaining Proper Boundaries
            To sum, leaders need to exercise judgement and self-control in their roles as leaders of people, especially in the context of how they develop interpersonal relationships with their staff. In order to maintain a position whereby they can consistently exert their authority, leaders need to make judgements about interpersonal behavior that is role-congruent. There are some behaviours that are never appropriate: for examples secretive romances with a direct report, sexual communication, culturally hatefully communication, indebtedness to a direct report and highly immoral behavior that forces subordinated into a role of coconspirator.

Critisizing Artfully
            Critisizing employees’s performance can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is an inevitable aspect of managing others. The mistakes I witness leaders making more today and it recur again and again;
1-    Leaders compromise their authority through bad judgements, inappropriate behavior, or ineffective limit- setting with respect to their interpersonal relationships at work.

2-    Leaders alienate people through their frustrated reactions to sub-par performance. Their critism is intolerant and hurtful. They deliver bad news or critical opinions in a way that undermines rather than reinforces subordinates’s morale and team spirit.

Hence, critism is “artfully” when leaders ;
1-    Balance the importance of the message being delivered, (that the performance needs improvement) with the importance of delivering it in a way that does not undermine feedback but rather encourages its acceptance and creates motivation for the desired performance improvement.

2-    Resist rash, impulsive, demeaning attacks. An artful approach is thoughtful, not reactive, showing the self- control to avoid “shooting from the lip.”

Effective people managers utilize the “Sandwich Technique,” the core aptitude of seasoned diplomacy and tact. Critism is communicated by:

1-    Always starting with a positive statement
2-    Layering the “bad news” or critism  after  the positive statement.
3-    Always completing the interaction with an affirming statement, ideally that blends the initial positive statement with an expression of confidence that performance will be corrected and things will move forward from this point on.

Other techniques include:

4-    Getting the facts straight
5-    choosing the best timing
6-    Avoiding criticizing in public
7-    Probing with open-ended questions
8-    Controlling the settings
9-    Condemming the deed, not the doer
10- Using your sparingly
11- Selecting key issues and restricting yourself to them

Flexing to Different People Styles
            Highly effective leaders analyze people’s interpersonal communication styles as a way to develop a strategy for building supervisory relationships with these individualis.

Following “Golden Rule” Principles
            Briefly, the “Golden Rule” here primarily applies to religion, to spiritual sponsored by one’s chosen faith. The four core values stand out of the principles are;
1-    Treat people with respect
2-    Show fairness
3-    Display honesty, both in wprds and deeds
4-    Embrace diversity


            In a nutshell, to be a good leader, he or she should possess certain qualities. YBhg. Datuk Arpah Binti Abdul Razak is the one who have certain characteristics and qualities as a good leader. As a PTD M41, my journey is still far. Hopefully, one day I will follow in her footsteps. Who knows one day I will become a Secretary General like her? However, to become like her, firstly, I must discover my own leadership strengths. Then, I need to develop and improved my leadership skills. To conclude, role models or mentors should be used to model our behavior and to strive to be a better person, worker and etc.


Jago,A.G. Leadership: Perspectives In Theory and Research. Management Science,1982.
Stephen E.Kohn and Vincent D.O’Connell. 6 Habits Of Highly Effective Bosses. Franklin Lakes: Career Press, 2005.
Ferguson. Leadership Skills. New York: Career Skills Library, 2004.
Scott Camphell and Ellen Samiec. 5-D Leadership; Key Dimensions For Leading In The Real  World. USA : Davies Black Publishing, 2005.
William A. Cohen. The Art of The Leader.New Jersey: Prentice Hall Business and Professional Division,1990.

DPA 1/2012

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