Leadership can take place in large and small organizations, in private and public settings, in business and non-business area, in political and non-political fields and in military and non-military systems. Before we can analyze what makes an effective leader, we need to understand the meaning of leadership. Leadership can be interpreted differently to different people. Lim and Daft define leadership as an influence relationship between leaders and followers who want a transformation and output that can reveal their share purpose. To really understand the leadership term, you should know the major theories, leadership styles and the traits and characteristics that the leader possess. Democratic leader, behavioral theory, great-man theories, servant leader are the examples of the major theories in leadership. Besides, leaders also have many styles in executing their role such as autocratic, participatory, democratic, laissez-faire (hands off) and many more. These leadership styles are depends on the situation in managing the task in the organization.
Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is the chosen leader that I want to share in this blog project. Before this, we just heard his name without knowing his background. I eager to write about him because he just an ordinary person that doing extraordinary things. He is also the richest Malay in this country and very much respected businessman and philanthropy. I will share with you about the life of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary and highlighted about his contribution to serve the nation. The success enjoyed by Syed Mokhtar today was not gained through an easy shortcuts. Hard work, self confidence and faith that everything comes from Allah has made him a bumiputera conglomerate icon for everyone to aspire to.
THE LIFE OF SYED MOKHTAR AL-BUKHARY
Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary was born in Alor Setar, Kedah in 1951 at middle class family. His family hailed from Hadhramaut, Yemen. Before deciding to live in Kedah, his father traveled as far as Central Asia to trade. Then, his father went to Thailand, before finally deciding to live in Alor Setar, Kedah in the mid 1940’s. This business leader has seven siblings and he is the third child. Shortage of money led his family to send him to live with his uncle, Syed Omar in Johor Bahru, to study there. Syed Mokhtar lived in Johor Bharu and continued his studies there until form two, before returning to Kedah to study up to form five at Saint Micheal’s School.
A unique fact, which can actually be viewed as his first direct involvement in business, is that he used to help his father with his business’ accounting. This took place during recession period, when his father went to his school and ask him to go through his accounting book and take care of it. This valuable experience is one of the solid foundations Syed Mokhtar acquired before he involved in the real world of business.
After school, Syed Mokhtar would help his father take care of livestock at a quarantine centre close to the railway station in Alor Setar. He never attended university but he was also smart to use the experience he had gained from helping his father, as reference in his own business. Aside from his father’s business, Syed Mokhtar also helped his mother cultivate vegetables to be sold at a market on Jalan Telok Wan Jah. In fact, this seventh wealthiest man in Malaysia had even sold roti canai in that same market. He’s a mysterious man. It is because he does not like to show off the luxurious life. For your information, he is easy to get along with other people. He is not the type of people which love to collect luxury car. He has an old model of Proton Perdana and another one is 20 year’s old Mercedes which he used to use it from time to time.
STARTING A BUSINESS
In the mid 1970s, his father’s cattle business ran into trouble following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The outbreak spread throughout southern Thailand, Kedah and Perlis. As a result, nearly all their livestock perished. However, this downturn in event actually had a silver lining. Since then, Syed Mokhtar took over his father’s business and decided never again to become involved in the cattle business. Instead, he decided to go into the business of selling meat. As a start, at the age of 19, Syed Mokhtar scoured markets around Alor Setar to buy unsold meat from the vendors there. The meat would then be re-sold to bumiputera traders in the surrounding area.
Although these were unsold meat, they were packaged carefully and nicely, and kept on ice to maintain freshness. Thus, using his experience in handling good quality products, Syed Mokhtar business received encouraging response from the public. This success made him even more driven to expand the business.
Soon after, Syed Mokhtar moved on to the transportation business. After successfully acquiring a license for four Class A lorries in 1972, Syed Mokhtar secured a loan in the amount of RM110, 000 from the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) to buy two Mercedes Benz lorries. At first, he wanted to buy four lorries, but the plan did not come to light because of technical problems, leaving him with two remaining permits. A Chinese trader approached him to buy those permits, but Syed Mokhtar refused the offer and decided to return the permits to MARA. He then established a transportation company named Syarikat Pengangkutan Sentosa, and appointed a Chinese clerk to be the manager. Interestingly, the company still exists until today. From a small business that offered transport service to haul rice, it now owns more than 40 lorries for various transport purposes.
After establishing Syarikat Shah, he created Syarikat Bukhary, which is involved in the rice and sugar business. And just like Syarikat Pengangkutan Sentosa, Bukhary still exists and has expanded until now, with an annual revenue of around RM250 million.
The company then expanded into Bukhary (KL) Sdn. Bhd. in 1977. The company won many government contracts which were offered to bumiputera entrepreneurs at the time, and based its operations in a four-storey shop lot on Jalan Pahang. He then created Susu Mas Sdn. Bhd (Susu Mas) in 1979 to facilitate his business of supplying to the government. Like Bukhary, Susu Mas was also a joint-venture company, this time with New Zealand Milk Products. He held 51 percent share in the company. The Susu Mas product was marketed under the brand Fernleaf. However, following the economic crisis which hit the country at the end of 1980’s, he decided to sell his business interest in that company.
AMTEK, CROCODILE AND LOUIS
The 1980’s and 1990’s, saw him getting involved in the clothing and manufacturing industry. His star continued to shine bright and he won a contract to produce military uniform for the Ministry of Defense. Through this contract, his company was required to supply the Armed Forces (ATM) with more than 100,000 pairs of boots and 330,000 sets of army uniforms. This success moved him to decide to create two clothing company, Amtek Holdings (Amtek) which manufactured shoes, while Oriental Garments Uniform Dividion (Oriental) produced boots. Oriental is another one of his joint-venture companies. This time with Oriental Garments in Pulau Pinang.
Most recently, Amtek Shoes, a subsidiary of Amtek, produces shoes for the use of the ATM and clothing under the brand Lee Cooper and Louis. The reality is, Syed Mokhtar’s business empire has expanded so wide, it doesn’t just involve meat, rice, sugar, clothing items, shiping and it also includes some of the country’s heavy industries.
CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS MUSLIM EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA
Although he enjoys his success as the nation’s number one bumiputera conglomerate figure, he has not forgotten his responsibility to help his Muslim brethrens. For this purpose, the Yayasan al_Bukhary was established in March 1996 to help the poor, particularly in the area of education. Until today, Yayasan al-Bukhary has spent more than RM300 million for religious, cultural and educational activities. The foundation not only provides aid to people of this country, but also countries that are members in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Among the biggest projects ever conducted was the construction of the Kompleks al-Bukhary costing RM400 million in Kedah. The complex is a centre complete with facilities including a mosque, medical centre, community centre, housing for orphans, a special academy of the elderly and an institution of higher education.
This foundation also created the International Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur, at a cost of RM100 million. This four-storey building is the first museum in Asia Pacific that showcases Islamic works of art. Yayasan al-Bukhary also built 16 mosques all over the world.
Prior to 2000, Yayasan Al-Bukhary donated about RM7.75 million to Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, a world-renowned centre of Islamic studies. And starting from November 2007, Yayasan Al-Bukhary will sponsor 28 more students to study at the International Islamic University Malaysia. Yayaan Al-Bukhary is also involved with the Al-Bukhary International University’s construction project in Kedah, which costs RM500 million. It will cater to 3,000 students of whom 70 percent are foreign students fully sponsored by the foundation by 2009. Last 6 September, Yayasan Al-Bukhary donated AS$1 million to the Lebanese Humanitarian Fund in order to lessen the burden suffered by people of that country, who are victims of Israel’s atrocity. Besides that, this foundation also helps non-Islamic based organisations. For example, around RM1 million was donated by the foundation for the Langkawi Project, an effort spearheaded by the MCA, in the area of education, particularly in providing scholarships to financially needy students from rural areas.
THE GREAT IDEAS IN THE ORGANIZATION
The great ideas in my organization come from the organizational culture. According to Lim and Daft culture is defined as the set of key values, assumptions, understandings and norms that is shared by members of the organization and taught to the new members as correct. When any problems occurred in the organization, we will try to think and act for the best solutions.
Culture gives employees a sense of organizational identity and generates commitment to particular values and ways of doing things. Culture serves for two important functions in organizations which are internal integration and external adaption. Internal integration helps members to develop a collective identity and know how to work together effectively. For example, if there is any work given by the management that need to be settled or submitted on the certain date given, we will try to manage and finished it early or on time. Organizations are putting increased emphasis on developing strong cultures that encourage teamwork, collaboration and mutual trust. It links the employee with another employee in the organization.
However, cultures for the external adaption determines how the organization meets goals and deals with outsiders. Culture can encourage employee commitment to the core purpose of the organizations, its specific goals and ways to accomplish the goals. For example, when my organization arrange a chandat sotong program with the other organization to have a close relationship with them. Program conducted by the teams have meet the objectives because of the strong culture build in the organization.
MISTAKE THAT LEADERS MAKE
There are some mistakes that leaders make. They always said that mistake is one of the ways to learn, however it is better that the leaders avoiding the mistake at first. It is because the simple mistake might make your followers or outsiders interpret the organization wrongly. The mistake that always been made by the leader are:
- Failing to define goal
When the followers do not have the clear goal in the organization, they will not become productive. They do not know what they are doing and cannot identify the priority of their workload. Therefore, it is important to clearly define your organization’s goal to the followers and make them understand their duty and task.
- Misunderstanding motivation
Some of the leaders misunderstanding the ways to give motivations to their subordinate. They always think that their subordinates are working for the monetary reward only. People seeking for the work and life balance. So, the leaders should look at also for the non-monetary rewards like recognition awards, medical expenses, continuous education,
- Customers feedback
It is important to know about the customer feedback. Organization can be improved base on the customer feedback. However, some leader avoid the customer feedback because they feel that it only wasting their time to entertain customer that are not giving them a huge benefits or profits.
- Not delegating
Leaders will make mistake if they do not delegate their tasks appropriately. They do not trust people to do their job. So, they will become stress because of the workload burden. They should have trust towards their employee and monitor their task whether it is rightly performed or not.
A FEW RESOURCES TO BECOME BETTER LEADER
There are two books I suggest for the person who want to gain insight in becoming a better leader. The first one is the book with the title of The leadership experience in Asia. This book will give you the explanation about the leadership theory and ways that the leader can apply to lead their followers such as how to communicate with people, understand what are the followers want, how to motivate the followers, what is the leadership power and influence and many more. The title of the second book is Total leadership: Be a better leader, have a richer life. This book is designed for anyone in the organization and in any career stage. The author write this book based on the research and the practical knowledge. It provides to you an insight how to become a better leader by using the total leadership which are the leader should act with authenticity by defining what is important, act with integrity by respecting the whole person and act with creativity by experimenting get done. Moreover, it also explain about the leadership vision, how the people in the organization learn and change, the expectations of the stakeholders and so on. I hope these two books will give you an idea in becoming a better leader.
WAYS TO ENSURE A PERSON GROWING AND DEVELOP AS A LEADER
When we know the ways to be a better leader, it will develop your leadership skills. There are a few ways to ensure a person to grow and develop as a better leader. The first one is learn from the experience. The experience that we face can be good or bad. It is important to learn from the past experience because I will become more careful on doing things. The experience that I get from doing things is very precious. It is because the experience that will get is not the same like reading a theory in the book. It really happened in your life. Therefore, I will learn from the experience that I have to become a better leader.
Besides that, I will provide the direction for my followers in achieving the organizational goals. Inspiring teams means painting the clear pictures of what the success means. Although, it takes time and energy to learn what motivate each persons but that is the true leader do.
Last but not least, the important thing in becoming a true leader is acquire more knowledge through reading and make research about something that I do not know. It will give me an idea of doing things and shares that ideas with the teams members.
Lim, G.S. & Draft, R.L. (2009). The Leadership Experience in Asia. Singapore: Thomson.
McCrimmon, M. (2008). How to define leadership and management. Retrieved October 29, 2012, from: http://www. leadersdirect.net
Friedman, S.D. (2008). Total Leadership: Be a better Leader, Have a Richer Life. United States of America: Harverd business press.
Conger, J.A. (1989). Leadership: The Art of Empowering others (3), p.17-24. Retrieved October 30, 2012, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4164863
Galford, R.M & Maruca, R.F. (2006). Your Leadership Legacy: Why Looking toward the future will make you a better leader today. United States of America: Harverd Business School.
Abd Aziz Bin Ahmad
Diploma Pengurusan Awam (DPA) bil.1/2012