Perspective on Leadership & Managing People – Strategic Clarity


There is enough training to go around, and if you were to adopt the methods used by some self learners, we would be learning a lot. However, we would agree that from outside looking in, sometimes there is no change. Happens in our workplace, and at other places, too. Reading along, I came across a very interesting article, which questions are set out in the next paragraph. This flows to the point of clarity and with it a little bit of discussion on “integrity” and the concept of “al quwwah wal amanah”. I welcome feedback and discussion on this subject which focuses on Teen Talent Development.

If your organisation answers NO to any of the following questions, then the organisation spends much on training and education but fails to put talent development in its proper strategic change context:

  1. Is the leadership team aligned around a clear, inspiring strategy and set of values?
  2. Has the team collected unvarnished employee feedback about barriers to effectiveness and performance—including senior managers’ own behavior?
  3. Has the team redesigned its organization, management systems, and practices to address the problems revealed by that diagnosis?
  4. Is HR offering consulting and coaching to help employees learn on the job so that they can practice the new attitudes and behaviors required of them?
  5. Do corporate training programmes properly support the change agenda, and will each unit’s leadership and culture provide fertile ground for it? (Reference 1)

The case made in the article was that at training, “Participants described the programme as very powerful. For a whole week they engaged in numerous tasks that required teamwork, and they received real-time feedback on both individual and group behavior. The programme ended with a plan for taking the learning back into the organization. Pre- and post-training surveys suggested that participants’ attitudes had changed.”

When HR experts follow up on this type of event, it was discovered that little had changed as a result of the training, even though it had been inspiring at the time. There are many reasons for this failure to change – due to leadership barrier from the top : a lack of strategic clarity, the previous GM’s top-down style, a politically charged environment, and cross-functional conflict.

In training young leaders in our schools, we need to be asking ourselves similar questions as above. This is to ensure that we can contribute towards talent development of our nation.

Talent development must not be founded on propaganda.

Talent development must have an eye on the future, balancing the public will and the greater good. The leadership must not set talent development on the basis of a certain altruism, but more interest should be imputed towards capacity building.

The leadership should not view the teenage population as an inert mass; it must recognize that public opinion could (and will) assert itself in the future. As a nation we had a minister as young as 26 in YB Syed Saddiq bin Syed Abdul Rahman (Born 1992). A focused youth leadership training with strategic clarity towards capacity building will have added an additional five (5) year training (from as early as 14 years old).

Fair and reasonableness should be the target.

From an article on Industry Tap written by David Schilling, the host went on to say that not only is human knowledge, on average, doubling every 13 months, we are quickly on our way, with the help of the Internet, to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. To put it into context, in 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every 100 years. By the end of 1945, the rate was every 25 years.

Given this scenario, propaganda is not relevant but capacity building is. Based on this precept, there is 2x human knowledge in 2020 then in 1995. Which means, the *during my time* propaganda of 1995 could not be used today, and of 2005 may already be obsolete.

Trust and Integrity to complement Innovation and Entrepreneurism

Of many definitions of integrity, this of is very instructive “Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all aspire to — unless you’re a dishonest, immoral scoundrel, of course. Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver.”

“Note that I talk about values, for firms have two sorts of values: business values like innovative and entrepreneurial, and ethical values like trust and integrity. So someone with strong values of the business sort could bring lots of energy and intelligence to your firm, but not necessarily enough integrity.” (Reference 2)

In his analysis of the famous Warren Buffett quote on Integrity, Minty restated the principle of selecting the man for the job as stipulated in the Quran.

One of the women said, “O my father, hire him. Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.” He said, “Indeed, I wish to wed you one of these, my two daughters, on [the condition] that you serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be [as a favor] from you. And I do not wish to put you in difficulty. You will find me, if Allah wills, from among the righteous.” (Al Qasas 28:26-27).

As integrity is a personality trait most admire, the leadership ought to lead the way in displaying this trait, to ensure that the teenagers in leadership training will emulate and buy into the talent development programme.

Having said that, in the Quranic verse, “al-quwwah” precedes “amanah”, and as Minty pointed out, the innovation and entrepreneurism would have to be there first before integrity is relevant.

This principle puts paid to the half quote attributed to John C. Maxwell “Everyone is a leader …”. The full quote reads “Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone.” And we ought not to take it too simply. Influence is an element of inspiration. The ability to inspire “others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”. Leadership needs to be built daily, and is not built in a day. The socialisation of key leadership traits are important for teens to develop.

Al Quwwah can be represented by a single word strength, and in the context of an individual (including a leader, or a leader in training) will show in several areas: commitment and passion, good decision making process, ability to deliver, and resilience. Any individual aspiring to be a leader must show that he or she has these traits. Only in that way, he or she will be able to maintain the people’s view of him or her as one who is strong. Likewise, selections of leaders in training must prioritise these key traits.

In Malaysia, Kolej Yayasan Saad (“KYS”) is a market leader in teen leadership training with strategic clarity provided from the very top and is immersed into the faculty and the student population. Other educational institutions may get better results in talent development by benchmarking to KYS and similar standards.

I am of the view that the training programmes may by themselves be wonderful and can be implemented. However the success must be motivated by the leadership by exhorting strategic clarity, genuine purpose and by being passionate. In that way, our teenagers, our leaders-in-training can get on board with the programme and grow to be leaders of the future.


  1. Thank you for this piece.

    In my line of work, ‘strategic clarity’ is seldom deliberated only because the goals set for the construction and built environment seemed very accomplished and well defined – only sometimes, like many other things, poorly executed; that’s all. I like that this two, key words are placed alongside each other in creating awareness for an acceptance that essentially targets young minds. Break it down further for its application in dealing with life’s realities (harsh at it may seem for some) it drives a simple message on the need for a greater reach and absolute focus. After all, teen years (and thoughts) carry with it much ‘sway’ and distractions especially so in this extremely challenging context and current environment.

    Benchmarking KYS, for example, in its teen leadership training is arguably (at least from my perspective) is drawing a parallel to what MCKK was in its early years of formation back then. In a nutshell, all the essential learning policies formulated were aimed at educating a younger mindset in its raw and critical developmental period of a little under six (6) years in order to establish and nurture strong leadership with unwavering fundamentals in each and every student. Driving ‘passion’ into anyone and everyone hasn’t been all that easy, I’m certain. Nevertheless, when it’s done with sincerity and selflessness, it more than warms your heart to witness our young ones taking their rightful place as leaders in their own right.


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