Leaders Are All Fools!



By Matthew Kwan

Principal Consultant of Adams (www.adamshk.com)

Copyright © 2010.



Too many of us are under the illusion that people who are in leading positions are leaders.  In my own mind, they are just positional leaders and NOT true leaders at all!  In a lot of cases, these positional leaders are not even possessing the basic qualities of a leader.


So who are true leaders?  What leadership is about?  A lot of great authors have already written extensively on this topic.  Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once replied in a TV programme to a MBA student that “Leaders are those who do the right things…”  I would agree very much from a 50 thousand feet level.  However, I would like to address this topic from a different angle.


Leadership, in a business context or any context, is not about the position you hold but the way you act.  We are not talking about your skills and knowledge but how you would react in a given circumstance and environment.  Even a fresh graduate, straight out from college, without any real working experience can be a true leader.  It is not a matter of qualifications as certificates would not help you to become a true leader.   However, I think all successful and respectful leaders are fools and a lot of them are foolishly making extra effort, believing in big and difficult to achieve visions, lowering themselves for the good of the whole, and as well as sacrificing personal belongings to reach new grounds.  In summary these sounds like foolish acts are:


1. Running Extra Miles

You will only be a follower if you are not running ahead of the game.  In order to be ahead of the game, it means you need to run not only an extra mile but breaking away from your own competitions.  Even though you are breaking away, it does not mean your competitors may not catch you and overtake you in due time.  So there is no easy way out, you just need to keep running if you want to stay in your leadership position!  I would like to share a mindset I often talk about “you can only know what I know yesterday but not tomorrow as I am moving forward all the time!”


2. Seeing Great Visions

Leadership is about leading team, group, department, organization…etc.  However, you can never lead without a vision.  Given any point in time, your vision must be clear enough to lead you towards the right direction with clear outcomes and at the same time being shared with your team.  You cannot be a true leader if your team cannot see what you see!  Though it is a very difficult and sometime painful process, you do not have a choice but to share your visions!


3. Being Noble

It is nearly impossible to be a great leader without integrity.  Your followers will only choose to follow you if you are respectful and noble.  Humility is often a function of nobleness.  It sounds very strange in our world today but it works perfectly in many ways!  A noble leader is someone with integrity and who is willing to trade off personal benefits for the sake of the followers and others.  The end result is your followers will follow you unconditionally in return.  I guaranteed you the joy of this if you dare to try!


4. Sacrificing Time, Money, Family, Relationships, Life…

Scientists are excellent examples of leaders that do not have positions (…well, until they get recognized and rewarded!).  They generally work very hard and very concentrate in their fields of research with most people thinking they are crazy and wasting time.  Yet they are all leaders in their own fields and often they are sacrificing personal time, money, family and relationships in order to breakthrough and reach new grounds.  True leaders must be prepared to sacrifice if you believe in your visions.  In some extreme cases, you may even be threatened to sacrifice life as your followers and oppositions are reluctant to follow when you are trying so hard to make changes for the good but damaging their personal interests!  Are you really willing?




About the Author

Matthew Kwan is Principal Consultant of Adams Company Limited (www.adamshk.com) responsible for business consulting and enterprise training.  He is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, lecturer, consultant working with enterprises and organizations in both commercial and Christian communities.  He served many years in multi-national companies including Intel, JP Morgan, Jardines with broad experience of Sales & Marketing and Management in multicultural and international settings.


Business is all about negotiation!

Business is all about Negotiation!

Business is all about Negotiation!

By Matthew Kwan

Principal Consultant of Adams (www.adamshk.com)

Copyright © 2010.

Do you realize how much negotiation do you do everyday? You may negotiate with your customers for the most favourable prices, order quantity, delivery timeand condition. You may push your sub-ordinates and co-workers to deliver the jobs on time and with high quality that meet your expectation. You may try so hard to show your performance to your boss and managers in order to get a better pay rise or promotion in the next review cycle. All these show that doing business is all about negotiation!

Fundamentals of negotiation

The Chinese characters for business (“生意”) have a wonderful meaning of “flexibility of an intention”(i.e. 靈活生動的意向). Hence, you must view doing business as a negotiation process to reach an ultimate goal which leads to a mutually agreeable intention. I personally think that you will never reach the ultimate and sustainable results if you are not thinking win-win during any business processes! You may win once or twice but you will not get far if you are not gearing towards a mutual benefit in a business agreement. Believe it or not, giving way may actually result in gaining ground! This is exactly the platform of negotiation.

Strategy of negotiation

Understanding of the intention of the other party is the fundamental skill of negotiation. Without realizing the other party‘s underlying needs and intention is not going to help reaching any agreeable results. Another very important basis of negotiation is focusing on the big picture rather than on specific details. You may trade off something small in exchange for a bigger, more meaningful and longer term benefit. Therefore, at the end of the day, it is all about return on investment (ROI) calculation in the macro view.

Tactics of negotiation

You have to be courageous enough to explore the depth of the water. In the same sense, you have to be courageous enough to make your offer during a negotiation. Otherwise, you would never know exactly how far the other party is willing to give way. Don’t be shy to make your offer yet the offer must be “reasonable” enough to justify by itself. You could start high as it gives yourself enough room to back down. Don’t hit your baseline so early and easily. By doing this, you are likely to gain ground than hitting a dead end!

Best negotiators are those who have high Emotional Quotient (EQ) with calm and firm responses.Sometimes, sense of humor can be a very good tool to ease the tension during tough negotiation but never overdo it with sarcasm as it will create a disrespectful impression! This is definitely not easy when you are facing unfavorable situations without too much ground!Hence, before you enter into any negotiation no matter it is a customer meeting, a job interview, a performance review…etc, you should really get yourself well prepared with options of possibilities including competitive information and competitive offers from other parties in order to gain ground.However, as mentioned earlier, win-win should be the ultimate objective but we have to also accept the fact on the other hand that such status is not always possible!


In certain culture, negotiation is just part of life and people would expect to negotiate at all time.However, majority of us are not natural born negotiators.But with some very simple training, we can be a better negotiator in a relatively short time. One very practical thing to do is to remind ourselves in all circumstances that to ask if the offer made by the others, including your customers, suppliers, co-workers, managers…etc., the best they can do? You will be surprised that 80% of time you will get a discount, a better offer, a faster response or even a better career at the end without much negotiation! So, are you willing to ask?

Matthew Kwan is a Principal Consultant of Adams Company Limited (www.adamshk.com) and is responsible for business consulting and enterprise training. He is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, lecturer and consultant working with enterprises and organizations in the commercial and Christian communities. He served for many years in multi-national companies including Intel, JP Morgan and Jardine and has broad experience in sales & marketing and management in multicultural and international settings.

Magical Top Three Things – Priority Setting for SME

By Matthew Kwan
Principal Consultant, Adams Company Limited
© Copyright. May 14, 2007

Managing time and priority in SMEs is extremely challenging as it is largely due to the fact that resources are limited and things have to do are so many. SMEs have no exemption from doing Sales & Marketing, keeping Accounts, managing Personnel and Office Administrations and yet at the same time keeping all Operations running smoothly.

One very simple way of priority setting I learnt during my Intel days is to always ask ourselves which are the most important Top Three Things (I call it as 3T from here on) at any given moment. Why it is so magical about 3T is once you ask this question, then you don’t have many choices in setting your priorities. Naming your top 3T does not mean you need to ignore all other important things you have to do, but rather keeping yourself stayed above the water with all the things needed to be accomplished in a timely fashion.

I understand that every opportunity is important to SMEs but if we cannot even handle 3 things at a time, we just have to simply “say no” or push out things to allow enough time and resources to deal with 3 things first.

Before I go in details, there are some rules that we may follow when we are using this 3T approach:

We only select the most important 3 things at a given moment; hence the list will change subject to the change of moment.
The given moment can be within next hour, next day, next week, next month, next year and so forth…
Before we can decide which are the most important 3 things, we should have a clear idea in mind what are things are required to complete by when across the board including Sales & Marketing, Accounting, Personnel & Admin and Operations…etc
Deadline is a good indicator for setting priorities of things but I would rather use “Impact of failure” to decide the priorities. The bigger the impact, the higher the priority it should be!

With the above rules in mind, now I want to list a few sample questions that we may ask ourselves when choosing our 3T in different aspects of our business affair. I am sure you can add other relevant questions to the list!

- Which top 3 customers or market segments that will bring majority of our revenue?
- Which are the top 3 deals in this moment can bring higher income to the company?
- Who are our top 3 competitors in the market in the specific product segments?

- Which top 3 products/services of our company have higher growth potential?
- Which top 3 media are most cost effective to support our sales?
- Which top 3 marketing channels can help our products/services get more awareness in the market?

Finance & Accounting
- What are the top 3 accounting gaps that our company is facing most challenges?
- What are the top 3 financial issues in our company may hinder our growth most?
- What are the top 3 areas that we can improve our accounting accuracy?

Personnel & Office Administrations
- What are the top 3 requirements we want most in an opening job position?
- What are the top 3 problems that may deteriorate our working environment?
- What are the top 3 areas that can motivate our workforce?

- Which top 3 top 3 processes may need attention in order to improve efficiency?
- What are the top 3 issues that may hinder our overall productivity?
- What are the top 3 areas may need to increase resources?

The ability of identifying our 3T is not difficult to learn but whether we can master this art is a matter of discipline. It is so easy to make a plan without any desire of execution. I have experienced this fact myself and witness many other fellow SMEs failing in doing so very often! Therefore, my advice is making your 3T list as open as possible to your stakeholders including employees, business partners and to certain extends your customers. In such case, we may ask our stakeholders help and safe guard our 3T as well as to avoid false expectation or false understanding of our priorities. 3T may not solve all our priority conflicts but it should give us a good guideline when to distinguish our top 3 priorities when we are so buried in our work with confusion!