What does it mean to be a leader?
Many budding entrepreneurs start their journey with the mindset of being their own boss, being the ones in control of the business and making the tough decisions. But being a boss and a leader are two different things, and it takes a certain kind of person to be able to lead a team towards success. Much like the leaders behind Shariah-compliant investment holding company, Radiance Assets Berhad.
The two leading men of Radiance Assets Berhad, Mr. James Galloway Stevenson (left), CEO of Radiance Assets Berhad and Dr. Mohd Ezman Bin Zamani (right).
“Personally, I think a good leader is somebody who leads by example. My motto in life is 'do good’, and as someone who has been blessed with a fulfilling career, my goal is for the younger generation to gain from what I've learned,” says Mr. James Galloway Stevenson, Chief Executive Officer and Director.
“I don’t really like being referred to as a ‘boss’,” adds Executive Chairman Dr. Mohd Ezman Bin Zamani. “To me, entrepreneurship is not about yourself, but being able to open up more opportunities and help people.”
Though coming from different backgrounds, both Ezman and James are a match made in corporate heaven as the leaders of a rapidly expanding company. Under their leadership, Radiance has managed to become a preeminent Bumiputera-owned Shariah-compliant company over a short time, which Ezman credits his formidable team for backing him and James’ extensive experience in the financial industry.
“I didn’t accomplish this on my own, it's because of our team and our trust in them. Even with all I've accomplished now, I still feel like there's a lot for me to learn and my business still has a long way to go.”
“I think it’s important to have a good team working with you. I use the term ‘with’ rather than ‘for' because I believe the team stretches from top management to the rest of the Radiance team,” adds James.
Last year, Radiance acquired 100% stake of a Mongolian resort, which they hope to cultivate into the first-ever Halal resort in the country, and just recently acquired a college, adding to the many properties and industries managed and owned under the brand.
Their next big step: taking over the agricultural sector. The company is getting ready to launch their own cattle farms nationwide, hoping to capitalize on the affordable Halal-certified beef market. But this is all in a day's work to grow the business into the biggest Bumiputera-owned Shariah-compliant investment holding company in Malaysia.
Looking at the pair, you'd think they had it made, but like any good leader, it came from having to learn how to overcome hardship and stepping out of their comfort zone. “I never really had success. In fact, I failed a lot, but the reason I am here now is because of those failures. You need to be trained through hardship for you to reach a certain level of success,” shares Ezman.
"The hardest thing I had to learn as a leader back in the day was delegation,” comments James on his own experience. “When I was much younger, I found it very hard to delegate, not because I didn’t trust my team. It was just easier to do things myself. I had to get used to taking weeks or months training people to do the things I already knew.”
“The important thing that I've had with all my mentors is trust, and that's how I run my team. I don't believe in micromanaging because if I were to, I might as well do the work myself. Why would I employ people to do the job, and not trust them to do that job?"
With that said, it takes more than entrepreneurial drive to lead a company to success. As Ezman would put it: “Everyone can be an entrepreneur. The thing is, when you talk about entrepreneurship, you can't go at it alone. Every successful business has a team. Be transparent and invest in people because you don’t know what they can bring to the table.”
“Don't get frustrated and give up when you face adversities. It's better to have failed many times because those experiences will make you a better leader. You need to learn how to stand on your own and taste bitter failure before you can taste sweet success,” he adds.
For The Fun Of It How would you define a “good life” and/versus a “successful life”?
Ezman: “Everyone can have a good life. It could mean having a family, and I consider that a good life. For me, the difference between that and a successful life comes down not to financial freedom but how many people you can help. It's not about what we leave to them but what we leave in them.”
James: “I think a successful life is generally associated with professional success whereas a good life refers to your family. I like to combine the two and, at the core of it, when we feel fulfilled at work and we know that what we're doing can feed their families, it leads to a happy life.”
What is the bravest thing you've ever done?
James: “Going out to the Middle East for the first time, moving to a culture I was unfamiliar with and doing business in a language I didn't understand. From a business perspective, that was a very brave decision, and it has helped me to become the person I am.”
Ezman: “Marrying my wife when I had and was nothing. She's my backbone and makes me strive to be a better leader.”
Dr. Mohd Ezman Bin Zamani (right) pictured with his wife, Khishigdalai Dashdorj, also known as Sarah (left).