#IWD2024: Stepping up to be a great leader at SPH Media

Teo Lay Lim of SPH Media shares how she believes organisations can identify leaders and retain their best talent.
By: | March 12, 2024

International Women’s Day 2024 is celebrating the achievements of women in the workplace and across all aspects of their lives. With the theme of “Inspire Inclusion,” IWD 2024 aims to showcase how women in the workplace can help to widen the gaps between barriers that affect women and minorities within the workplace. In our special IWD 2024 coverage, HRM Asia spoke with women leaders to gain insights on how women can inspire inclusion within their workplace, and the role their organisations can play to create a more equitable and inclusive world for all. 

“Strong leaders have the confidence to seek out and hire talent who are ‘stronger and better’ than they are. Only then can we be sure that the organisation grows from strength to strength.” – Teo Lay Lim, Deputy Chairman and CEO, SPH Media

Leaders are not born but made. As such, it becomes increasingly imperative for organisations to search, cultivate, and mentor budding mentees to one day lead teams within their workforce. But what motivates aspiring candidates to be confident leaders to take charge of others? And what is the best starting point to become a leader?

Teo Lay Lim, Deputy Chairman and CEO of SPH Media, believes it starts with having a voice. 

“As someone who grew up in Singapore, it is more common to wait to be asked a question before speaking up, or offering a perspective,” she said. As a young professional, she shared with HRM Asia, in a more global context, it is important to have a voice. This tip has served Teo well: she started her career in Accenture as a young executive and has since held several leadership roles across different roles for over 30 years, such as leading the setup of Accenture’s Customer Relationship Management service line in 2000; Asia Pacific Managing Director for the CRM Service line; and Country Managing Director.

She reflects on this when contemplating her journey as a leader, citing that her experience in Accenture helped shape the leadership she sees and practices today. “I grew up in a global professional services organisation, and who I am as a leader was very much shaped by the culture, values and experiences in that world,” she shared.  “However, as my clients spanned the private and public sectors, I acquired the broadest base of exposure and experiences.” And based on her experience? Employees in Singapore tend to hesitate before sharing an opinion or answering a question. 

“Hence, I pushed myself, as well as the younger people who worked with me to speak up – to have a point of view and to express it, because if you are not heard, it is almost as if you were absent, or worse, disengaged,” she opined. 

Challenges when it comes to retaining good talented employees and great leaders are something that many organisations are facing, and Teo suggested that being able to understand the expectations of each generation and be willing to listen, understand and adapt is one of the solutions to tackle these challenges, regardless of gender.

“One key challenge is that of work-life balance – or perhaps now it is more a matter of work-life integration,” she cited. “Recognising that need and how each generation seeks to achieve this balance, or integration, will be important to attract and retain the best talent.” 

So how are leaders in any organisation found? To Teo, it is a matter of finding them, and the willingness of current leaders to find successors. “Strong leaders have the confidence to seek out and hire talent who are ‘stronger and better’ than they are,” Teo shared. “Only then can we be sure that the organisation grows from strength to strength. Weak leaders have the need to be indispensable, and this insecurity does a disservice to the organisation.” 

Next, leaders need to seek out diversity and complementarity in configuring teams. “A team of highly motivated, energetic and talented team members who engage and challenge one another with ideas and opinions creates an environment open to change, one that is growth-oriented and recognises the collective strength of the team,” she shared. 

READ MORE: #IWD2024: Creating inclusive societies within workplaces

Finally, Teo believes that asking the right questions is more important than obtaining the right answers when it comes to finding leaders, as leaders who can ask the right questions will be able to identify issues within organisations and resolve problems. “In today’s world, the ‘right answer’ changes constantly – and there may even be more than one ‘right answer’,” she concluded. 

International Women’s Day 2024 Features:

Why inclusivity is the lifeblood of Linklaters – Laure de Panafieu, Asia Head of Employment, Linklaters Singapore

Cultivating inclusivity and diversity for women at work – Karen Ng, Head, Digital Solutioning, ENGIE South-East Asia

Celebrating female employees’ achievements – Koren Wines, Managing Director, Xero Asia

Creating inclusive societies within workplaces – Toyin Ope, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Asia Pacific at Visa

The future of technology is diverse and inclusive – Dr Shang Gao, Global Education Asia Pacific Director, Amazon Web Services (AWS)