The case for transformational leadership in Asia-Pacific

Grace Ho, who leads Commvault in Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific, shares some insights from a long career of change management.
By: | August 7, 2019

Your corporate culture has a major impact on how your company accomplishes its most significant goals. This can often require adapting the company’s culture to match the disruptive changes in the market – something that is especially true in the technology sector. But to do so, we must first transform the individuals from within.

Whenever change takes place within a company, people are, and must be, impacted. We challenge ourselves to influence others to accept and be part of the transformation with positive attitudes and mutually beneficial changed behaviours.  That is why transformational leadership is so crucial.

As a transformational leader, it’s not about the title you have or the position you hold. Whether you are a C-level, an executive, or an HR professional, you have the power to become a transformational leader. You should lead by example, inspiring and motivating employees, by asking them to do as you do, as well as what you ask – which in turn results in employee job satisfaction and engagement, while enabling better performance and growth for individuals and the company.

Stay true to yourself

We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Leading disruptors of today’s business world, including new technologies, changing customer behaviours, and shifting regulations, are compelling organisations to rethink their business models, talent strategies, and roadmaps for value-creation. It’s therefore crucial for company leaders to be strategic in their thinking, while also being operationally-ready to adapt to abrupt changes, in order to ensure business continuity.

To achieve this, transformational leaders need to be anchored to an aligned set of core values so they can make sound and informed decisions. As you lead by example, your values will trickle down to the rest of your teams and staff.

My core belief has always been the need to embrace change as a team, to be transparent, to be infectious, and to above all treat others with respect. My personal transformational journey included embracing changing roles in product marketing, marketing, sales, commercial operations and business development; moving from American and German multinationals and a Singapore national entity across hardware, software and services businesses throughout a diverse Asia-Pacific region.

One thing that has remained constant throughout my professional journey of growing and transforming companies has been the frequent reorganisations. Staying true to my core values as I executed on each transformation agenda has helped. It’s also in line with what my mentor once taught me: understanding the difference between “doing things right” and “doing the right things”. I still practice this as I drive changes in the teams I lead.

Walking the talk

In my last three roles, I have had the opportunity to lead specific transformation agendas, all very different in scope but anchored on a common set of principles that drove favourable outcomes. The first of these was designing a talent transformation agenda, consistent with, and aligned to strategic business priorities.

This included:

  • Getting the right people in the right positions to develop and grow high-performing teams
  • Modernising and transforming the organisation to meet changing business needs, workforce demographics, and new service models
  • Nurturing the next generation of leaders

Secondly, since all changes involve people, adopting a managed phase transition approach with a long-term view is critical.  It ensures that changes are thoroughly and smoothly implemented so that lasting benefits are achieved. Moreover, people can have the appropriate time to adjust to the changes, ensuring greater business stability.

Finally, as with all transformations, there will be people who are impacted negatively in some way. Designing a thoughtful plan so that any transitions are conducted with dignity is crucial. Most people can understand and accept that organisations need to make changes. However, they are too often disappointed when these progressions are not handled thoughtfully and empathetically.

Ensuring success by empowering teams

At the end of the day, we need to be held accountable to a broader goal. Simplifying how we work around a “START” model: “S” – stabilising the team; “T” – focusing on talent and ensuring thoughtfulness about placements; “A” – aligning the transformational agenda with corporate, regional and local goals and priorities; “R” – making sure we are results driven and finally “T” – tracking performance and results – is how I track personal success, and also guide my work in the organisation.

Agile organisations built around empowered teams can effectively match the right talent to the right strategic initiatives, while being responsive to disruptive market influences more effectively. Ultimately, it is a long-term process where one has to constantly work on building bench strength and culture, but the final payout is immeasurable.

Nurturing our talents, building a strong culture, and letting the world know what we are made of are the defining characteristics of genuine transformational leadership.

About the author

Grace Ho is Area Vice President for Commvault in Southeast Asia, and also the company’s Chief of Staff for Asia-Pacific.