February 11, 2019

Are you a football quarterback or an orchestral conductor? One sweats it out on the ground with the players and leads the team to touchdowns. The other, though less skilled in the individual instruments, has a clear view of the big picture and unites the musicians to produce silvery symphonies. The quarterback and the conductor are two rather different types of leaders, yet they are equally effective in elevating the collective.

Similarly, in the business world, charismatic CEOs use their soft skills to motivate and empower their employees, while entrepreneurs lead by example, choosing to be in the front line alongside their staff. Depending on the kind of culture they want to create, even totalitarian management styles, which aren’t exactly healthy, can lead to significant, industry-shifting results (think: Elon Musk).

Here are 10 business leaders in Singapore, who share their approach to leadership.


Tjin Lee, Founder and CEO of Mercury Marketing & Communications

“I like my team to walk with me, not behind me. My leadership style is very flat and there is no hierarchy. I choose to sit in the centre of everyone in my office because I like to be in the thick of the action.”

Andrew Walsh, Chef & Owner of Cure

“Firm and fair. I’m firm, but I look after my guys too; they have good working hours and staff outings. They’re an amazing team but if someone steps out of line, I will let them know. We’re all here to do a job together, so no one is bigger than the restaurant, not even myself.”

Dione Song, Chief Commercial Officer of Love, Bonito

“We have weekly meetings to discuss everyone’s objectives and also understand what different team leaders are working on. I let my team leaders take charge of their respective portfolios but I’m pretty hands-on for the bigger campaigns. I do get a bit OCD. I try to do “softer” meetings on a monthly basis, where we talk about inspirational and aspirational stuff.

I think I can switch easily from being a friend to saying “no” to something. Ultimately, I am friendly towards my staff but when it comes to work, it is important to draw the line.”

Vince Tallent, Chairman & CEO of Fastacash

“My style has always been open and transparent. Having been in big companies, mid-sized companies, and smaller companies, I can say that for the latter, it is hugely important for people to know, very clearly, exactly what the objectives are, and what you are trying to achieve in the short-term and long-term. There has to be no ambiguity. In larger companies, that tends to be lost.

There should be no cracks between management and employees. When you see cracks between management and employees, that’s when execution does not happen. But it can be fun as well; it’s not work all the time. We try to organise events every now and then. We try to keep our people incentivised and focused on our mission.”

Peter Koh, CEO of Oceanus Group Limited

“When I became CEO, I told the staff their priorities are first their health, family and well-being, then the company. No matter how busy they are, those things are more important. We work in a very open, family-oriented atmosphere. I joke and talk to the staff, and have my meals in the canteen with them. When I visit our farms, that’s where I sleep—I’m one of them.”

Pat Law, Founder of GOODSTUPH

“I’m like Gordon Ramsay. I am very in-your-face if I disagree with something. Internally, I will shoot down 9 out of 10 ideas from my staff. If you are insecure and do not have a thick skin, then you are not going to survive in my company. I like to question every idea incessantly because I am trying to fill in the loopholes. Subsequently, if the idea goes through, I will give credit to the person and boldly tell the client that it’s not mine. I never take credit for someone else’s work—in fact, I will help the person polish his or her idea.

I have seen people with 101 loopholes at the beginning, but now their foundation is so strong that they are spotting my mistakes. I am also very particular about making silly mistakes like misspelling the client’s name or an extra spacing between two words. It might be very small and insignificant, but I will scream. You need to be diligent in your work. Such mistakes should be avoided.”

Kenny Yap, CEO & Executive Chairman of Qian Hu Corporation Limited

“I want people to respect what I do. Any leader who wants to be popular cannot do the right things. Certain right things are not popular. I’m not running for a popularity contest. I’m not a politician; I do not need votes. Plus, my character is such that I do not care how people see me. If you always live in other people’s opinion, you will lose yourself. You must know how to define yourself. I know who I’m; I know what I’m doing. I don’t care about your opinion; I don’t need your approval.”

Tan Min-Liang, CEO & Co-Founder of Razer

“I like to hear feedback all the time on any decision, but once we make a decision, the entire company moves forward with it. We do make u-turns from time to time, but we move at the speed of light and we expect everyone to do that too.”

Pete Overy, Co-Founder of AGENCY Singapore

“I see myself as an enabler to the people in the studio as well as my clients. I adopt a nurturing mindset and try to construct the right amount of permission and exploration for people to execute their projects. Along the way, I offer guidance to achieve the intended outcome. In addition, as an organisation, I try to ensure transparency around the decisions we’re making – so rather than it being top-down, it’s about having a conversation with them. As a leader, I don’t have all the answers, but we try different approaches because we may be passionate about it or have some form of evidence from market research that supports what we are doing.

Neo Kah Kiat, Founder & CEO of Neo Group

“I like to share, I like to come up with new things for my staff, and I like to value-add. For example, we have a happiness index and every day before our employees go home, they have to indicate if they are happy. We also have happy sweets and magic mirrors. My plan is to make my people happy so that they will feel like this is a place for them to build a career.”

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