July 15th, 2015

NST my cup of tea since I was in Standard 4 (1962)

I REFER to Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar’s article “NST — incredible 170-year journey”, which took us down memory lane of a newspaper that is an institution and has whet the appetite of successive generations of readers for news, information and knowledge.

I started reading The Straits Times (now New Straits Times) when I was in Standard Four in 1962 when I studied at Batu Road Boys School 2, Kuala Lumpur. It cost 15 sen then.

I had to have the NST every morning, which my mum would buy for me. If she was busy selling food, I would go to the shop and buy it. I cannot remember my favourite column.

The Straits Times’ front-page story on the birth of Malaya on Aug 3, 1957.

But, certainly, the editorial was out as it was too high sounding and difficult to understand. But I read all the news about the Vietnam war, Arab-Israeli skirmishes, sports and cartoons. I remember keeping up with the English league as Manchester United was and still is my favourite team.

At that tender age, I also supported Derby County and Leeds United.

Over the years and till today, the NST is still my cup of tea. I feel there is something missing if I don’t read it at breakfast.

There is something about the NST that attracts me as it has the “oommmph” over other newspapers. I am not exaggerating if I say that it is good reading compared with many United States and British newspapers as it gives a wide coverage of local and foreign events.

I find the reporting to be fair, balanced and transparent with the goal of creating a knowledge-based society. Of course, there are those who see the NST as a government mouthpiece.

As educated readers, we should read it with an open mind and not rubbish it. Despite all the knowledge we can get from the NST, Johan observed: “The New Straits Times used to be the biggest-selling newspaper. It isn’t now. It’s readership is dwindling, but so too other major newspapers the world over...”

There are reasons for it. In the case of NST, the main reason for the “dwindling readership” is not so much due to competition, but mainly due to the present generation being unable to read it as their level of proficiency in English is weak.

It was not the case when students sat for their Senior Cambridge in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

I agree that the hallmark of NST that keeps it going is the culture of “thriving for excellence”. There are many good articles written by international personalities on various issues.

Local columnists also contribute great articles. Perhaps the editorial should use simpler language so that the message is easily understood.

Many times, reading it can be laborious.

NST — An incredible 170-year journey

IN a matter of days — on July 15, to be exact — two days before Muslims in Malaysia celebrate the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, this newspaper will be 170.

This is the nation’s oldest surviving newspaper. When it started in Singapore, it was named The Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce.

It started as a weekly, and hardly 100 copies were printed each time. The words “and Singapore Journal of Commerce”, however, disappeared in 1861, 16 years after its first publication.

The Straits Times Malaysian edition dated May 15, 1969
As the name suggested, the newspaper was meant for the “mercantile community” in Singapore, a thriving port at the time. Its “journal of commerce” section was “a vehicle for mercantile information” though, interestingly, this statement was included — “a defender of trade principles”.

The first copy was a hotchpotch of items, randomly chosen to reflect not just the “news” of the day (which wasn’t much), notices and various announcements, including one pertaining to “Singapore Dispensary”.

There was a need to publicise, among others, the price of Madras cotton (per pound) and Benares opium (per chest). The newspaper has come a long way since that historic Tuesday, July 15, 1845. It became a full-fledged daily in 1931.

The complex journey of this newspaper reflects the story of the nation as well. Back then, local people were never on the radar. They were the insignificant “Other”.

They lived in villages, surviving on meagre earnings. Their rulers lost much of their power to the British. Real education was many decades away from the indigenous people.

Labourers from China and India were brought in to work in mines and plantations. This newspaper, too, has seen 170 years of the history of the nation, replete with stories of turmoil, conflicts, uncertainties, clashes and, of course, development, hope and optimism.

The world was changing fast; so, too, Malaya at the time. Malay nationalism and national consciousness redefined the idea of nationhood.

This newspaper saw the birth of a nation, some 112 years after it was published, when Malaya was born in 1957. In the same year, its Bahasa Melayu edition, Berita Harian, was born, which, not surprisingly, was nothing more than a translation of The Straits Times, with an added slant for Malays.

Six years later, Malaysia came into being. Two years after the formation of Malaysia, Singapore became an independent nation. The Malaysian edition of the newspaper, which was renamed the New Straits Times, was officially launched in 1974.

Its first edition trumpeted the idea of “Your national paper”, taking advantage of that year’s national day. The lead story was “The way to ensure unity”.

That has, in fact, been the guiding principle of this newspaper — championing and arguing the case for a united and moderate Malaysia, and taking the middle path long before any such notion became trendy.

The newspaper has never wavered in its role to understand the difficulties of a fledgling nation. It was even more daunting for a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural Malaysia.

It had been chronicling tumultuous events, social upheavals and economic turmoil. This is not a nation made in heaven. The leaders were not perfect.

But within such imperfections, they guided the nation to a pinnacle envied by many. And again, they should have done more and, perhaps, even better over the years.

But, you can’t fault them for not trying. When Robert Carr Woods single-handedly edited this newspaper at a godown in Singapore at what is known today as Raffles Place, it was beyond his imagination that the New Straits Times would transform into what it is today.

It went through 170 glorious years of newspapering. It produced some of the best-remembered editors; some of them became the nation’s iconic figures.

There were many who carved their names as reputable journalists, many winning coveted awards in the process. The company, too, went through some interesting times — it became a public entity listed at the bourse; but, with the merger with the Media Prima Group, it was delisted on Sept 27, 2010.

It went through various corporate exercises even prior to that. The New Straits Times used to be the biggest-selling newspaper. It isn’t now. Its readership is dwindling, but so, too, other major newspapers the world over.

Inevitably, this newspaper has to embrace the digital onslaught. On Aug 23, 2004, it became the first English newspaper available in digital format.

The digital challenges, while frightening, provide new opportunities and use the strength of other platforms in the country’s only fully integrated media group.

The newspaper is embarking into new and exciting digital territories. The New Straits Times has been called names — unapologetic cheerleader of the ruling elites, a party mouthpiece, the “Hang Tuah” of journalism, you name it.

Supporting the government of the day has its perils, and the newspaper is not apologising for it. Sadly, the same people condemning the newspaper were the ones unabashedly using it for their own agenda when they were in power.

The same people who worked without complaining for years suddenly became vociferous critics of the newspaper for its journalistic independence or lack of it. Similarly, as its sibling, the Singapore Straits Times, celebrated its 150 years 20 years ago, the editors admitted there was no shame in supporting the PAP government.

A press that was adversarial on principle did more harm than good, they argued. How things have changed the last 170 years. So, too, the dynamics of society.

The editors of this newspaper are aware of the insurmountable odds facing the newspaper industry, at home and abroad.

Editors and journalists are aware of their vulnerabilities. But, they have to work harder now, for the world of information and the advancement in technology are changing dramatically.

A newspaper organisation can be a totem pole of obscurity in the digital age if adjustments are not made or differentiation not found. This is a time for reflection, for circumspection, for taking stock. The issue of relevance is always there.

The survival of this newspaper, or any other newspaper, depends so much on how it positions itself in ever-shifting dynamics. Thriving for excellence is the hallmark of this newspaper.

It has proven its worth the last 170 years. It is as influential as it was before, revered and hated in equal terms, even.

This newspaper has learned one valuable lesson in newspapering: it takes passion to ensure every page is readable, liked and palatable to readers.

The last 170 years, it has whet the appetite of successive generations of readers for news, information and knowledge. It has enlightened millions.

It will do so, perhaps, for another 170 years more. Dirgahayu New Straits Times. To all Muslim readers of this column, Selamat Hari Raya. Twitter: @Johan_Jaaffar NST Letters to the Editor 11 July 2015

NST turns 170: A front - row seat in the nation’s history

This newspaper turns 170 today, a long way from that inaugural July 15, 1845, edition called The Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce.

Initially published as a weekly, the Straits Times became a daily only in 1931, and remains to do so to this day.

Any study of this newspaper would be a study of Malaysian history itself, as given its very early start, the New Straits Times, as it is now known, has always had a front-row seat in every momentous and historical event the nation went through.

The Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce dated July 15th 1845.

Through the years, the New Straits Times has been edited by many of the renowned editors in the newspapering industry.

The newspaper owes its continued existence to them, their outstanding contribution, and often selfless commitment to the profession.

The New Straits Times has, and still is a newspaper that steadfastly sticks to its editorial role of helping society master its world. It shall continue to do so.

In conjunction with its 170th anniversary, several changes will be introduces soon to maKe the New Straits Times a more attractive and current journal.

Changes in the new media sector will also be introduced.

Description in Constitution needs relook

WHO or what is a Malay?” asked Syed Nadzri in his column, “Defining and redefining Malay” (NST, June 16).

His question is a very complex issue to answer, argue or debate; and to which there is no straightforward answer. I think it depends on one’s perception of the Malay race today, which is also as complex as the question.

However, Article 160 of the Federal Constitution did not stipulate as to who or what is a Malay in Peninsular Malaysia, but merely described the criteria of a Malay as one who professed the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay customs, and was, before Merdeka day, born in the Federation.

The Malays of today are different in look and characteristic from the Malays of generations ago.

One may ask as to why the Chinese, Indian, Sikhs, Pakistanis and others were not individually stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

Obviously, Article 160 was meant to spell out that Malays have been the people of the Malay Archipelago and the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula long before the arrival of other races.

They are not considered as pendatang as popularly believed. So, they are entitled to the Bumiputera status and receive certain privileges.

For more then 500 years, they were colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and, for a short spell, the Japanese.

Before Merdeka, the Malays were economically poor and educationally backward, compared with the other races, and as a result, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced to uplift their status to be on a par with other races.

Coming back to the question, I feel that we have to go back into history to find out the answers as to who or what is a Malay.

History has shown that historically and geographically, Malays were people of the Malay Archipelago that stretches from the Philippines to the Malay Peninsula, comprising the islands of the Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia.

The Malay Archipelago is the world’s largest cluster of thousands of smaller islands in the equatorial waters between Australia and mainland Southeast Asia, including the big islands of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Celebes.

It also includes Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Stamford Raffles described the people of the Malay Archipelago as a “Malay Nation”, as one people speaking one common language besides hundreds of other ethnic languages, though spread over so wide an area, preserving their character and customs in all the maritime states lying between the Sulu Seas and the Southern Ocean.

A.R Wallace describes the tribal proto-Malays as being sea-faring people. They were once people of the Celebes and of coastal Borneo, who expanded on to Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula as a result of their trading, fishing, and sea-faring way of life.

These people played an important part in the making of the great Malay Empire of Malacca and Johor.

The Malay is distinguished physically from other marked races of man, being of medium height, stout and well-made.

The colour of their skin is pure reddish-brown (as often referred to by Tun Mahathir Mohamad, “sawa matang”), their hair coarse and straight, they have a flattish oval face with high cheek bones, straight and rather broad but ever prominent nose, a rather rounded forehead and flat eyebrows.

In youth, the Malays are often good-looking.

Today, 21st century Malays are different in look and characteristic from the Malays of generations ago. They no longer fit the above description by Western explorers and writers.

Through centuries of European colonisations, and the migration of the Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Europeans and others into Peninsular Malaysia has created a new Malay race which does not have the characteristic of the original Malay.

Through inter-marriage, they are a mixture of all races that migrated into Peninsular Malaysia. Perhaps the Tamils, who are Hindus and Buddhists from southern India, were the first to arrive in the Malay Archipelago more that a thousand years ago, and this is evident from the ruins of Hindu temples found in many parts of Indonesia, including here, at Lembah Bujang in Kedah.

Through the influence of the Tamils, the Malays were Hindus first, before the arrival of the Arab traders more than 500 years ago who converted the Malays to Islam.

The Spaniards brought Christianity to the Philippines and converted the Malays there. Pick any 10 Malay men and Malay women today and put them in an identification parade dressed in Western clothing, and I can bet my bottom dollar that none will look similar.

Most have foreign blood running in their veins through inter-marriages with the migrants that came to Peninsular Malaysia. Some are much fairer and whiter of skin, some are light brown, and some are hitam manis with dark skin.

They have straight and high noses, higher cheek bones, dark hair, a good set of white teeth, are much taller and well-built, have shapely bodies and larger bosoms.

Article 160 of the Federal Constitution is no longer relevant to describe some Malays because some have mixed parentage and do not habitually speak the Malay language nor adhere to Malay customs and culture, or remain a practising Muslim.

And yet, their MyKad or passport shows that they are Malays.

Warganegara ekspres boleh hakis kedaulatan negara

Isu rakyat asing yang mendapat kewarganegaraan mudah atau 'kewarganegaraan ekspres' menjadi isu lagi. Daripada laporan akhbar, ada kemungkinan kewarganegaraan ekspres ini didalangi sindiket yang menawarkan perkhidmatan mengeluarkan kad pengenalan atau pasport Malaysia.

Maksudnya ada orang 'membuat duit' dengan bisnes yang begitu tinggi risikonya kepada negara. Dalam laporan juga, ada yang mendakwa bahawa ada kemungkinan sindiket ini didalangi penjawat awam. Ini belum dibuktikan dan kita mengharapkan ia tidak benar.

Oleh itu, kebimbangan rakyat mengenai kewarganegaraan segera atau ekspres ini timbul lagi. Sebelum ini, sudah berkali-kali isu ini ditimbulkan. Kebimbangan rakyat ini menjadi-jadi ekoran kebanjiran warga asing ke negara kita.

Misalnya pada akhir 2014, ada kenyataan yang menyebut bahawa jumlah rakyat asing di negara kita ialah seramai 6.7 juta orang.

Ancaman keselamatan awam

Walaupun kedatangan pekerja asing itu tidak semestinya dengan sekali gus memberikan mereka taraf kewarganegaraan segera, tetapi kecenderungan untuk berlaku begitu agak besar.

Selain itu, rakyat juga bimbang mengenai pembabitan warga asing dalam perbuatan jenayah dan juga ancaman kepada keselamatan awam.

Begitu juga dengan kebimbangan mengenai aspek kesihatan dan penyebaran penyakit dan ketidakseimbangan fabrik sosial.

Keadaan ini berbahaya kepada negara. Warga asing ini, seperti kebanyakan kita tahu, mempunyai daya survival yang tinggi. Mereka tidak mudah mengalah kepada pihak penguat kuasa.

Dalam pembinaan rumah atau premis perniagaan, mereka akan kembali meneruskan aktiviti rutin seberapa segera selepas diambil tindakan.

Kejayaan survival

Dalam bidang perniagaan pula, ramai dalam kalangan mereka memulakan perniagaan sendiri dan mengambil pekerja bukan saja rakan senegara, malah juga warga tempatan.

Dalam keadaan ini saya percaya, ada faktor yang mendorong kejayaan survival mereka yang mungkin tidak dapat kita nafikan. Mungkin orang kita tidak mampu atau tidak mahu; tetapi kejayaan survival mereka itu tetap menjadi isu.

Ini kerana negara ini adalah milik warganegara. Maka rakyat melihat kehadiran mereka yang tidak dikawal selia dengan penguatkuasaan undang-undang yang baik sentiasa menjadi ancaman.

Dari segi istilahnya, warganegara ialah rakyat atau penduduk sesebuah negara yang diterima berdasarkan perlembagaan dan undang-undang negara.

Kewarganegaraan adalah antara perhatian utama dalam pembentukan sesebuah negara. Ini kerana identiti warganegara itu akan mencorakkan identiti negara.

Sebagaimana sejarah negara kita sendiri, hal kewarganegaraan telah mendapat pertimbangan panjang sebelum kita memutuskan bentuk, cara dan syarat kewarganegaraan.

Anugerah tertinggi

Sementara itu, bagi individu, identiti sebagai warganegara adalah anugerah tertinggi yang boleh diberikan oleh sesebuah negara kepada seseorang.

Ini kerana dengan identiti sebagai warganegara, dia akan mendapat bukan saja 'identiti' tetapi juga keutamaan atau kemudahan dan hak yang tidak dimiliki oleh individu bukan warganegara.

Namun begitu, di samping hak yang dianugerahkan serentak dengan kewarganegaraan itu, sekali gus menjadikan individu itu menggalas tanggungjawab untuk taat setia dan menjulang kedaulatan negara.

Ada tiga cara untuk mendapatkan kewarganegaraan Malaysia; secara operasi undang-undang, pendaftaran dan (yang berkaitan dengan warga asing) dengan cara kemasukan atau naturalisasi.

Dalam permohonan kewarganegaraan, secara naturalisasi, menurut Perkara 19 Perlembagaan Persekutuan, orang asing yang berumur 21 tahun atau lebih bolehlah membuat permohonan untuk dimasukkan menjadi warganegara.

Mereka hendaklah memenuhi beberapa syarat berikut.

Perakuan naturalisasi

Pertama, sebelum perakuan naturalisasi diberikan, seseorang itu dikehendaki bermastautin dalam negara dengan agregat 10 tahun daripada jumlah 12 tahun dan tidak meninggalkan persekutuan dalam tempoh 12 bulan sebelum tarikh perakuan.

Kedua, hendaklah berniat untuk kekal bermastautin di negara ini.

Ketiga, berkelakuan baik. Keempat, mempunyai pengetahuan bahasa Melayu yang cukup.

Kelima, hendaklah mengangkat sumpah taat setia kepada persekutuan sebelum diberikan sijil kemasukannya itu.

Sumpah taat setia itu menyatakan bahawa individu berkenaan hendaklah bersumpah meluputkan segala taat setia kepada mana-mana negara lain, jujur dan taat setia kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong dan menjadi warganegara yang jujur dan setia.

Sekiranya hal kesetiaan dan kejujuran kepada raja dan negara tidak diberikan keutamaan, maka akan hilanglah kedaulatan negara. Inilah kebimbangan paling utama dalam isu kewarganegaraan ekspres ini. Moga kerajaan memberi perhatian sewajarnya. Dr Shamrahayu A Aziz  Berita Harian Kolumnis 15 Julai 2015

Leadership in everything

Back in college, my Economics lecturer once asked a classmate a very simple question, “Who are you?”

My classmate stood there baffled by the simplicity of it. After gathering his thoughts, he finally replied, “I’m in university now, pursuing my degree in business.”

Our society holds quite strongly to a working belief that what you do defines who you are. If someone is a chief executive officer (CEO) of a renowned company, he or she is expected to have the profile of a CEO.

This gives the implication that the person always dons a power suit, carries the latest smartphone, is chauffeur-driven and has a personal assistant constantly.

How are you wearing your ‘hat’?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.– Peter Drucker

The projected image of a leader is one of immaculate attire and articulate speech in the presence of others.

However, the reality is that there are many different aspects to leadership. Every one of us has different roles and responsibilities in life. We wear different “hats” for the many “roles” we play.

When we step into our workplace, we immediately put on our “boss” or “employee” hat. When we reach home, we discard it for our “mum” or “dad” hat for the children in the family.

Once we have tucked the children into bed, we put on our “wife” or “husband” hat.

We swap, rotate, and sometimes put on more than one hat in serving others. Despite all that, there is one hat that we never take off: the “leadership” hat.

The Oxford dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organisation. It is not in the act of instructing people, but through showing them.

So how do you make the best of this hat you inherently own?

1 Choose influence over authority

Influence is the ability to affect someone or a group of people with your words, actions or position. Authority is the power and position in which one holds to assert dominion over others through orders.

A manager of a retail store has authority over his or her employee, but it is based on the position that he or she holds, not through influence.

Although it is true that both leadership and management go hand in hand, at the root of it, these are two very distinct perspectives. This is vital in knowing your own leadership style.

In his book, On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis compiled a list of differences between a manager and leader.

Bennis wrote:

i. A manager administers; a leader serves.

ii. A manager gives instructions; a leader shows instructions.

iii. A manager focuses on systems; a leader focuses on people.

iv. A manager relies on his/her authority; a leader relies on his/her influence.

v. A manager depends on control; a leader inspires trust.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.– Peter Drucker

2 Putting people first

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many other social media have turned the world into a self-absorbent culture of “Likes”, “Comments”, and “Re-tweets”.

Social media is not necessarily negative, but the compulsive need for social acceptance that it brings out in us, is. We want the latest gadgets, to own a house and a car that we cannot even afford to maintain.

These individualistic pursuits for material gain shape the way we think about ourselves, and others. Oftentimes, it’s the former.

However, as leaders, people should matter the most. Your employees need to be your priority. The thing is, people need people. Investment in the lives of those who work with you is significant.

A leader sees employees as human beings. Therefore, he or she treats them as human beings, not as people who “work for them”. Showing appreciation to your employees after they have accomplished a goal empowers them as well (Marshall Goldsmith, 2008).

Praise pays off when it comes to increasing the overall success of your company (Pozin, 2013).

Recognising your employees’ accomplishments increases their interest in their work. This goes without saying that honesty is the best virtue when it comes to praise and affirmation.

Responsible leaders always look for decisions which benefit the company and the people, never for themselves. Possibly the most important, yet often forgotten fact about an organisation is that your assets are your employees.

3 Lead by example

Leadership is serving. Being a leader does not free you from getting your hands dirty. In fact, more often than not, the opposite is true.

Successful leaders work the hardest to show and set the bar for all employees to follow. Many leaders of the world today strive to be successful, rich and powerful. They want to be the next Steve Jobs, or Henry Ford. But many more are not willing to do what it takes to get there.

Sam Walton, owner and founder of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retail store which began in the United States, showed us an excellent example of a leader.

Walton despised corporate fat cats.

He would handle the cash register as well as stock the shelves in any of his Wal-Mart stores all by himself if there was a need to.

Although his company’s operating income in a year averaged between US$10bil to US$12bil, he still chose to drive his old, rusty, dented pickup truck because it had plenty of good mileage left in it.

Walton captures the perfect picture of what every leader should aspire to be like. Humble and open in character, ready to serve the needs of others when the opportunity arises.

He told his employees that “if American management is going to say to their workers that we’re all in this together, they’re going to have to stop this foolishness of paying themselves US$3mil to US$4mil bonuses every year and riding around everywhere in limos and corporate jets like they’re so much better than everybody else.”

To run a company, a leader’s main role is to delegate to his or her workforce. But when you pick your spot, roll up your sleeves and are prepared to work, you will see the entire organisation following your lead.

I think Walton summed it up best by saying, “If you get your hands dirty, you become involved in something where the realities might compromise your principles.”

“It can also mean that a person is not just stuck in an ivory tower dictating strategy, but is prepared to put in the effort and hard work to make the details actually happen.”

Concluding Thoughts

Till today, nobody has fully grasped or understood the meaning of leadership. This is because it is an area so subjective and broad that each individual carries his or her own unique leadership style.

It is easy to wear the “leadership” hat when we step into our office in power suit and tie, easier still to tick off checklists simplifying leading qualities.

But the truest test comes in the form of our integrity in our actions when no one is around.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own form of leadership, be it in the role of management or parenthood. These are tools to be used to add to your arsenal as you strive to be a better leader or simply, a better person.

What makes a credible leader?

Credibility is the foundation of leadership in the 21st century and would be the most important aspect of leading a team or running a business effectively.

This topic got me thinking hard whether credibility may be a fixed theory.

As I sipped my coffee, I pondered if people with varying experiences across different generations would have different perceptions on credibility. Almost instantaneously, I whipped out my phone and dropped texts to people on their thoughts about credibility.

As a result, I got three people that I interact with on a daily basis and from different generations – Gen-Y, Gen-X and a Baby Boomer.

Five ways to discredit yourself


Saarvin Vignesvaran, 26, is an engineer with a large multinational oil and gas organisation who is based offshore most of the time.

Working alongside personnel from diverse age groups, background and cultures, he said credibility is firstly built from SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Time-bound) communications that enable effective delegation and execution of tasks.

Saarvin continues that the credibility of leaders is elevated when they acknowledge achievements of their subordinates and subsequently take the effort to create a desirable working environment for all.

He adds that a leader’s credibility is largely gauged based on the importance to the subordinates’ welfare.


Jeffry Sashitaran, 35, is currently running a start-up in the medical line.

He pondered on the word “credibility” in relation to his business and said that a start-up is like a hot air balloon that has not taken off.

For a hot air balloon to be flying high, some amount of hot air has to be blown into the balloon. He says that the hot air for a start-up would be credibility.

Jeffry believes that business growth is exponentially proportioned to credibility that is gained through reputation, past successes and trustworthiness from the ground up.

He stresses that the core to building credibility for the business and business leaders starts from the provision of great service to clients in all situations, and to deal with them with total honesty, high morality and integrity.

Baby boomer

Dorai Raj, 56, is a director of finance with one of the fastest growing chains of five-star international hotels in Malaysia.

Having been attached to the same company for 27 years, at different locations and positions across the region, he believes that credibility is intertwined with trust that is built over the years of loyalty.

Dorai Raj says: “To be a credible leader, we must firstly associate ourselves with the organisation we are in as one.”

“This is followed by a lot of hard work and commitment which must contribute to organisational growth.”

He adds that as a credible leader, one must be open to communication and constructive discussions.

A credible person should also have the right balance of having a tough front and being able to lend a shoulder to cry on.

What I can deduce

Despite the different perspectives on credibility from the three different generations above, I can clearly draw a parallel that all of them strongly relate credibility to trust and integrity.

They gave the impression of how vital credibility is in different situations, businesses and positions.

I quote from this book, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It by Kouzes and Posner, “We want to believe in our leaders, we want to have confidence in them as people, we want to believe their word can be trusted, and that they have the knowledge and skill to lead, and that they are personally excited and enthusiastic about the direction in which we (the organisation) are headed.”

Although credibility is imperative, we seem to hear more and more about leaders losing their credibility lately.

What leads to this phenomenon? Let’s now focus on the five common factors.

1 Practising dictatorship in leading

As a leader, one must be prepared to listen to other people’s constructive feedback. After all, leaders are the epicentre of a vast web of relationships.

Failing to build an emotional connection with others disrupts their credibility to lead well. Allowing others to share opinions towards taking a right decision increases the respect gained towards a leader’s credibility.

So, talk less and listen more to develop the ability to influence and develop great credibility.

2 Unwillingness to share information and knowledge

A credible leader is always willing to nurture his followers to become greater than who he is.

Frequent failures in credibility happen when a leader withholds acquired knowledge and refrains from sharing information with others.

3 Not taking ownership

Referring to a quote by John G. Miller, “Ownership is a commitment of the head, heart, and hands to fix the problem and never again affix the blame.”

I believe that taking ownership of an issue, good or bad, is the foundation upon which a leader’s credibility is built.

Many leaders tend to push the blame onto somebody or something else when things go wrong. This response actually breaks the trust that people had placed on them.

Instead, when one takes ownership despite failures, he builds a great reputation as a credible leader and would be trusted by more people.

4 Not bothering about others

A self-centred leader would crush his credibility faster than ever.

A leader who couldn’t care less about others would disrupt the whole ecosystem of building an emotional connection with stakeholders, which is an important tool to ensure high credibility.

It is important to ensure that everyone is given great attention and treated with care. This will eventually bridge great gaps towards credibility.

5 Lack of understanding of own business and job

Credibility always goes back to one’s ability to carry out the task and in keeping updated on the latest changes.

People will always prefer to follow leaders who have a very clear understanding of what they are doing as they will be able to innovate ways to improve the team and the business.

The top gun, being an example to others, will aggravate the need in the others to give their best in what they do.

Concluding thoughts

Credibility definitely makes a huge difference in current times. It is undeniable that credibility will be the key that differentiates a common leader from a great leader.

No matter where we are in the leadership journey, credibility is needed at the core. We also need to understand that credibility cannot be built without the trust and support of others around us.

Stand out from the crowd

Having just attended my convocation late last month, it was clear to me that I was merely one of the many hundreds of thousands who were graduating with a bachelor’s degree for the year 2015.

Data released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the United States showed that 1.5 million students graduated in 2014. This got me thinking about what I had to offer to employers in order to stand out from the rest?

What would differentiate me from that RM50,000 piece of paper? Coming from the human resources line, my father had always told me that when push comes to shove, your degree merely serves as your passport for an interview. It will be your soft skills that gets you hired and promoted!

What are these soft skills everyone is talking about?

Soft skills refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that describe an individual’s ability to interact with one another and is usually linked to a person’s emotional quotient, or EQ.

Say you visit an optometrist for your yearly eye checkup, but beyond his or her technical skills, what else do you look for?

Would you prefer someone who is warm and takes time to answer your questions or would you go to someone who talks to you as though you owe them for taking up their time? In this circumstance, soft skills matter.

With more Gen-Ys entering the workforce, the diversity in age, experience and work ethics now becomes more apparent. Here are the most important soft skills:

• The ability to communicate

Everyone always talks about the importance of having communication skills but no one actually feels the need to improve themselves. Why? Because people feel that communicating appears to be so common that it should be innate.

The question is: What do employers want to see? Would it be in terms of learning how to listen instead of just hearing?

Hearing would be the act of perceiving sound by ear whereas listening is something one consciously decides on doing.

It is something that requires attentiveness in order to process the meaning from words and sentences. Knowing when and how to speak in the workplace is essential as it will dictate your success of sharing ideas between one another.

• Developing Initiative

It is always difficult to be the one who makes the first move. That first move becomes even harder when it involves making decisions with regards to organisational matters. However, this is where initiative comes in.

The ability to act without being told is what makes someone a proactive worker, who is able to think and foresee problems rather than have to solve them later.

These individuals are motivated to perform above and beyond their line of work and that is important as they are usually the inciters of change!

Criticism can be crippling but when taken in stride it allows for personal growth. Only when we welcome failure are we able to learn from it and to focus on our strengths.

Personally, I used to be someone who took criticism too much to heart but I have learnt to embrace it.

The ability to accept criticism from others has made me more open to the possibilities for coaching thus in a roundabout way, making me more teachable.

• Fostering Creativity

Conventionally, art, music and dance are considered to be creative outputs. In the workforce however, creativity refers to one’s ability to transcend what is ordinary and to think out of the box.

Flexibility refers to the readiness to adapt to changes given the constant evolvement due to globalisation.

Rather than resisting the adjustments by kicking and screaming, why not jump on the bandwagon early and be noted for your willingness to try new approaches?

Individually, I would use that opportunity to equip myself with the necessary skills to cope with that change rather than to fight it.

Creativity also refers to problem-solving skills. When conflicts arise, it should serve as a means towards improving relationship and work performance rather than for it to be of negative connotation.

The ability to understand the issues at hand and to critically and creatively come up with solutions with consideration of everyone’s interest is an important aspect in problem solving.

• Dependability

In order for things to run smoothly and as planned, a sense of reliability is required to be displayed by employees as it ensures completion of every task assigned to them.

A key point would be in terms of actually doing what you’re assigned to do without the need for supervision.

Never shirk your responsibilities, instead always strive to deliver your best work. It is also essential to do that within the deadline for it to be laudable.

• Enthusiasm and Positivity

Having a positive attitude may seem trivial to some when in fact, it carries significant weightage in light of performing in the workplace.

With the right attitude, one would be willing to go above and beyond in completing the task at hand.

They would also be able to translate that positivity within their team members to be able to improve overall functionality.

Concluding Thoughts

Having said that, these are skills that should be developed from a young age for it to become a habit.

With Leaderonomics Youth, we help develop soft skills such as communication and performance characters traits such as creativity, initiative and dependability through our DIODE camps and Leaderonomics Clubs in schools.

So while it may be important for a surgeon to know how to make proper incisions, an importance must still be placed on fine-tuning one’s soft skills in dealing with patients empathetically.

Now wouldn’t you say that it’s a good time to grant equal importance to soft skills as you would to a degree?