A good leader is a good listener
In 2007, I was appointed to be the host in my school’s forum team and to lead it, when I was preparing for my PMR examination. I was the youngest forum’s host in the whole district of Klang, at the age of 15.
Four years later, during my STPM examination year, my team managed to win the forum competition for the first time. As the leader, I gave my 101% effort to make us win. Of course, the effort was smothered with tense, pressure, sorrow, and tears, but these were the catalysts of our sweet victory in my final year of school.
A forum competition requires a team of 4 people, to be on stage, to present their forum about a specific topic. (Imagine it like a talk show.) The team consists of one host (that is me), and three panels.
The host asks questions to the panels about the topic that would like to be discussed. The discussion must be within 20 minutes.
Basically, everything is scripted. We as a team, need to present our forum in front of the judges. The judges evaluate the content of the forum, on how we deliver the forum, and how we speak and interact with each other on stage. Hence, that is the indicator for them to choose the winner of the forum competition.
So, what did I do as the team leader of my forum’s team? Everything.
In 2007, I was so young. My teacher, who was the advisor of my forum’s team, was an experienced teacher in the forum competition arena. She picked me to be the host because she knows that I am talented and I could go far in the competition. My team entered the finals. We were one of the top 10 teams in Klang, but we did not win the competition. The dream to represent Klang in the Selangor state level competition, destroyed.
When 2008 commenced, it was the tsunami of my life. In my second year being in the forum team, my teacher advisor left my school. A new teacher was appointed to be my team’s advisor, but she has no experience to guide her students in the competition during that time. I am the only one with the experience here.
This is when, I started to think and act as a leader, when I was as young as 16 years old.
I needed to accomplish everything. From finding the right topic for the forum, to writing the script. I needed to scout the talents, to be my panelist for my forum’s team. My previous teammates in 2007 has already graduated from secondary school.
When I already found the right talent, I trained them on how to speak well in the forum. I was the one that managed the practices. I was the one that motivated my team to be better, to thrive, to be confident on stage, to ensure that we will do our best and win the competition.
Unfortunately, luck was not on our side again in 2008. We managed to go to the finals, but we did not win the competition. But, as a leader, I never give up. I continued to lead my team in 2009. I was so dedicated with the team, because I wanted to make my school proud by winning the forum competition.
During my SPM examination year in 2009, when I was positive that the team I led was doing great, but once again, we went to the finals, but we did not win the competition. It was a huge blow. The lowest pin point of my teenage life and my secondary school life. I thought that we would win, but we did not. I have tried for three years in a row to win, and the result was devastating.
After SPM, I was determined to enter Form 6, to pursue my pre-university by excelling my STPM. There were three reasons why I wanted to be in Form 6. One: it is the best platform for you to enter the public university. Two: it is cheap. Three: I have one last shot to win the forum competition. It is now or never. It is the only time I can get it right.
In 2011, I wanted to be a better leader. I learned from my past mistakes. I learned that as a leader, you need to listen to other people’s opinion. Which I did not in 2009.
During that time, I incorporated a modern themed pantun (poem) in the forum’s script. I wanted to create something new and fresh for the audience to get amazed with the modern pantun. This was something that my teacher advisor disagrees. A Malay pantun suppose to be in a classical language and it has traditional touch to it.
But, I did not listen to her. It was ego that was controlling me. I know that as the leader, I brainstormed the topic, I wrote the script and I scouted the talents. Thus, I was going overboard that I discarded my advisor’s opinion. That decision contributed to our lost in 2009.
Thus In 2011, I started a new chapter. I still did everything as the leader, but I learned to be open minded, to listen to my advisor’s and teammates’ opinion. Being a leader is to be a team player. This creates teamwork. In order to install teamwork in a team, it is very important to have the ability to listen and to maintain understanding with each other.
Finally, when I was 19 years old, my forum’s team managed to get into the finals and we were the 1st runner up team to win the competition. I was awarded the best host in the forum competition. Sadly, we still had no chance to be in the Selangor state level competition. But, for four years of being the team leader, it taught me the art and science of leadership. It has groomed me to be brave on taking chances. And to be a good leader, is to be a good listener.
PS: This article was sent to the Axiata's Young CEO Development Programme as part of their application process. I did not get the offer to join the program.