Leadership is earned, says Tsinoy next gen | Inquirer Business

Leadership is earned, says Tsinoy next gen

/ 02:10 AM February 08, 2024

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, let us hear from a Filipino-Chinese next-generation leader of their family business.

“No one is really entitled to lead,” says Eleanore Lee-Teo, director of marketing and operations of Caylum Trading Institute. “Many people assume that they deserve to be captain of the ship. Some base it on birthright, some on tenure, some on credentials; no questions asked.

“Leadership has nothing to do with these. I have seen spectacular leaders who run a warehouse armed with nothing more than a high school degree, but they have earned the trust and respect of their peers. The only two honorary degrees that they worked hard for are trust and respect. No one is entitled to either of those two.


“My father Edward always said that if no one was qualified to lead his business, he would find someone [outside] of the family to do so, or he would willingly let it come full circle into completion. But giving it to someone who was not capable of caring for employees, customers and shareholders, that was simply not an option.”


In an era where entitled heirs hinder succession, Eleanore Lee-Teo is a refreshing model of humility and sense, so much so that I featured her book “Raising Heirs” in this column (Aug. 10, 2018) and quoted her to clients. I was honored to be a panelist in the 8th Entrep Summit spearheaded by marketing expert Josiah Go last week, and I was doubly glad that Eleanore addressed young leaders directly.

My favorite part of her message was, “Life is not fair.” I repeat this to my students and clients, and add psychologist M. Scott Peck’s first line in his classic work “The Road Less Traveled,” which is “Life is difficult.” The earlier we realize this, the less bitter we become and the more we tackle rather than moan about problems.

“My parents told me time and again, life is not fair,” says Eleanore. “And complaining will not solve anything as well. If I have to work 10 times harder than the person next to me to achieve the same goal, then I have to roll up my sleeves and work 10 times harder. No excuses, no pointing fingers or blaming others for difficulties. We work to find solutions, not to simply stare at problems miserably, waiting for someone else to fix them for us.”

“Set yourself to a higher standard,” Eleanore tells the next generation. “When you are in a position of leadership, self-awareness is critical because rarely will anyone tell you if you made a mistake. Once I was asked to draft a proposal, on which I worked hard before submitting it to higher management for approval. I expected feedback, because that’s usually what happens. Instead, I was told that it was great, and I took their words at face value.

“Only after a week did I realize that they had certain concerns, but requested someone else to change them because they were worried about criticizing the work of the child of the owner. The problem with this behavior is that it gives us no opportunity to grow. You never want to surround yourself with everyone saying ‘yes’ to whatever you do and not pushing you to be better.

“We find the most joy in our work when we are in the presence of effective leaders who inspire and motivate us. I have been very lucky that in every step of my career, from working in radio to working in corporate marketing to teaching now at a university, all my mentors inspired me to the point that I would wake up each morning excited to go to work, to learn and to anticipate every new opportunity. “Look for these people who will empower you. They will build your skills, earn your respect through their actions, not only by their words. They are authoritative in their decision-making, but they are also considerate of those affected by those decisions. It is really about serving others and it has nothing to do about others serving you. And after you find those people, strive to be that leader as well.”


Kiong hee hwat tsai! Wishing you prosperity in the coming new year.

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TAGS: All in the Family, leadership, Lunar New Year

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