Leadership Lessons from the Tiger

By Dr Vimi Ramasamy

K.Ramasamy PPM; AMN; AMP; PJK; JBP

Leadership is a term that has been extensively used for many decades and may refer to different things in different parts of the world or situation. When spoken among the corporate folks, it mainly refers to organisation leadership; but religious leadership, community leadership, political leadership and many more are existent.

Apart from different leadership across different segment, scholars have further dissected leadership into different styles such as transactional, transformational, laissez-faire, democratic, autocratic and servant leader. However, one thing that remains consistent across different segments, styles or countries, leadership is essentially the ability to influence others to a common goal, hence creating followership.

Many renowned leadership gurus’ like John C. Maxwell, Marshall Goldsmith, Ken Blanchard, Robin Sharma and others have shared many theories, proven concepts and structures on how to develop leadership capabilities, which have been extensively successful and recognised worldwide. 

Remarkably, my siblings and I were extremely blessed to have acquired a lot of the leadership lessons from an early age through my tiger dad. My dad, born in the Chinese year of the tiger – was indeed a tiger at his best, sharing his goals, values and strategies to achieve them and more so showed all of these through living them in his life’s journey.

As I reflect on leadership lessons from my dad, specifically when I embarked on my corporate journey, I realized there were so many similarities on what was being preached by the leadership development programs. Unknowingly, there are many lessons that we do not learn while it was being taught but we realize them years after.

#1. Take charge of your own life

My dad’s first lesson on leadership – “take charge of your own life”. To him, the most important thing is knowing and establishing who you are, understanding your values and determining your behaviours are paramount as a human being. He was truly clear with his values in life, family, integrity, and commitment – although not explicitly said but reflected in all his decisions and how he conducted himself. He believed by leading yourself well, you can automatically influence others to follow what you do as action speaks better than words.

He is a man of his words, once committed – it’s either do or die. It may be scary to some, but it is this determination that he had succeeded in all facets of life. Integrity runs in the blood and this is something my dad drills us from a young age. He was certain that, if you embrace integrity and you have your own moral compass, then there’s nothing to fear and you are free to challenge anything and anyone and move ahead with a good night’s sleep.

#2. Having clear goals

The second lesson on leadership – having a clear goal or ambition on where and what you want in life. He coached us in having yearly goals in schools which then changed to mid-term and long-term goals for career and family. Goals are particularly important for one to see where they are going after knowing who they are. As my dad says, goals drive one to define the path and help you to make the right choices in life. Without which, one will be like a lost lamb and he genuinely believed education is the strongest foundation for everyone. He reckoned the process of acquiring knowledge enables one to interact with all levels of individuals, not only helping oneself but beyond – serving others to the best! 

#3. All about proactive planning

The third lesson on leadership – transform your goals into actions, all about proactive planning. Dad’s favourite quote “a man who fails to plan plans to fail”. There was no value to a goal if it is not executed and with his commitment philosophy, it’s always about delivering to what you planned for. In current terms, it is execute, execute, execute! He took pride in doing everything in advance and was extremely punctual – as time is an asset not to be wasted.

#4. Never give up

The fourth lesson on leadership – never give up, no matter what happens you need to stay focused on where you want to go and find all the ways to achieve them. He acknowledges that everyone has their strengths and we need to help each other in finding that strength and we can move forward together better and stronger. He always reminded us that glory is not just in success but having the courage to rise from each failure.

#5. Give and serve

The fifth lesson on leadership – give and serve others wherever and whenever possible. To him, everyone born in this world has a purpose to serve and it just differs to how, what, and where; in giving you create abundance. He was an active community leader who contributed through leading social activities at the grassroots promoting unity, creating awareness, educating, coaching the needy, enabling the helpless and more, for almost 60 years and never once felt that it was enough! 

My siblings and I were extremely blessed to have witnessed first-hand the lessons through his actions and coaching throughout his life’s journey.

I am certain, as you read the article it may relate to you on how you had received the similar lessons, the only thing that matters is how we use the lessons’ learnt to continue to strive and be better every day!

These lessons learnt from home are the ones that set the very foundation as one venture out in their career and life. Thus, instead of developing leaders when they embark on their career journey, let’s part that knowledge to every child who is born – creating leaders who blossom as they age!  

This first article is a tribute to my dad who was my first hero, coach and now my guardian angel.

Thank you, Appa!