Our 25 Leading Lights

A message from our Headline Sponsor
Asia Square
Kindness. It’s what great leaders have in common.

The business world is quick to celebrate leaders of profitable and productive workplaces. But how often do those celebrations recognise the part played by kindness? The answer? They don’t.

At Asia Square Tower One, we want to change the conversation around kindness in business. It’s not just something that’s nice to have. It drives success.

It’s why we’re proud to support Kindness & Leadership, 25 Leading Lights Southeast Asia. We want to shine a spotlight on the kind leaders amongst us, and recognise their contributions to business, the economy and society.

So, here’s to the leaders we celebrate today. Leaders who inspire creativity and productivity. Leaders who create an environment for others to succeed. Leaders who transform organisations and change lives.

May we all aspire to their example and recast kindness as the greatest strength in leadership.

Yunquan Qin

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Kapap Academy

Qin has trained over 58,000 people in self-defense. Of these, approximately 15–20% are women and children who are former victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and bullying. Under her leadership, the Kapap Academy is now collaborating with Indian social enterprises to train disadvantaged women and children from rural areas and city slums so as to empower them with self defense skills. In 2017, Qin became the only self defense expert in the world to be awarded the Queen’s Young Leadership Award for her continual effort in helping others stay safe.

“Under her leadership, the Kapap Academy has helped women and children begin their journey of recovery and regain their confidence and self-esteem through personal empowerment. Her commitment to the cause is inspirational as she chooses a life of frugality and contributes 70% of her salary to help support social initiatives. Such self-sacrifice and willingness to give to others embodies a leadership style that is rare and exemplary.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
I believe that kindness is a leadership quality that is often overlooked or not emphasised enough in corporations and business schools. To me, the purposeful practice of kindness helps to promote trust amongst co-workers, and between superiors and subordinates. This in turn helps to improve performance as people are generally happier in their workplace. Importantly, it also makes us, as leaders who practice kindness at work, happier people.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness may sound like a weakness in our survival-of-the-fittest world, but this could not be further from the truth. In my own experience, the act of being kind towards my colleagues, makes me more appreciative of their efforts and sacrifices. By expressing our appreciation to them, we are inevitably learning to celebrate their achievements, and building trust. Enjoying sincere and authentic relationships and more motivated teams, also motivates me.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
My mentor taught me the importance of kindness. When faced with family opposition to my choice of career (self-defence instructor), he gave me moral support, provided a stipend and a place to stay so that I could be free from emotional pressure. His faith in me gave me the strength and the motivation to carry on until I could prove to my parents that my decision was not a reckless one.

Vichka Vantha

Founder, Dai Khmer Natural Products

With no experience in business, but a deep passion for protecting Cambodia’s natural environment and helping other women, Vichka founded Dai Khmer, a small company that trains and employs vulnerable women to become local artisans, making coconut soap, coconut oil and other beauty and household products from only natural ingredients. Over the past two years, the business has grown from a small home-based business, employing only one woman to a small company employing women across three locations, in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

“Vichka is the perfect example of someone who leads with kindness. She is working tirelessly to bring eco-friendly products and lifestyles to Cambodia. She also cares deeply about the women who she trains and employs: she trains them with love, teaches them new skills, and works hard to create a supportive, kind environment for them to work in each day. She does not want to just run a business; she is dedicated to creating employment opportunities that make women feel truly empowered.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Today the world is complex, with each team member bringing unique experiences, motivating and challenges in both their professional and personal lives, to work. Kindness and empathy as a leader are key to building trust, allowing individuals to open up about their true feelings.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
kindness costs nothing but means so much. Kindness creates positive working environments where teams not only trust their leader but trust one and another too, due to the contagious effect of kindness. Kind leaders also act as positive role models to colleagues.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
I am proud to have inspired one of our staff to take a step to reach her dream. I supported her by sharing my own struggles when I started the business and also mentoring her each step she made. She now creates her own products and helps other women in Cambodia. It makes me proud to see her reach her dreams and also to see her support other women

Sui Wei Law

General Manager, Shared Services, NTT

Sui Wei has over 13 years of experience in the shared services sector. She has successfully built shared services at Dimension Data Asia–Pacific, growing headcount by over 200% within the first two years of her leadership. Sui Wei’s kindness in leadership is evident by the small 10% attrition rate, compared to an industry average in Malaysia of between 15–20%. Always putting her team’s wellbeing at the forefront of everything she does, Sui Wei makes time to mentor and foster young talent. She is an inspiration within NTT and beyond.

“Sui Wei embodies the qualities of a great and effective leader with a heart. She is assertive and firm with her decisions and executes the strategy to a tee. Sui Wei exemplifies kindness and empathy throughout her leadership by placing the wellbeing of employees at the forefront. She sets policies and programmes to foster a great and conducive workplace. In situations where Sui Wei is required to choose the benefit of the business or the wellbeing of the employee, she always chooses the employee.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
People are the core of every business, making empathy and the ability to understand different needs and wants crucial so that people will in-turn help the organisation achieve its goals. At the same time, being assertive in making business decisions is the balance that I seek. Kindness should already be a norm for every leader – treat others the way you would want to be treated.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
It is always difficult to equate kindness and business; or make a business case for it. Only leaders who practice kindness understand the significance of its impact on their people. It is when people start looking at leaders as ‘caring leaders’ and not leaders as ‘authoritative bosses’ that we see positive business impact because it results in putting heart and soul into every task performed.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
I inherited teams in finance, HR and procurement who were nervous and sceptical about change. They were overworked and demotivated with six to nine-month backlogs, resulting in daily complaints from internal and external stakeholders. Understanding their plight, setting strategy, operationalising by having task forces to just focus on one thing at a time and rolling up my sleeves to work alongside them, they quickly realised that there was light at the end of the tunnel. In two months, we brought all processes up-to-date without backlogs, without any changes in headcount or system. Everyone was cheering for us because the backlogs had affected every department in the company. It was a very satisfying experience.

Shivkumar Seerapu

Chief Executive Officer, Asia–Pacific, Lloyds Banking Group

Shivkumar has 23 years of experience in the transaction banking space. He is the Chief Executive Officer, Asia–Pacific for Lloyds Banking Group. Prior to this role, he held numerous roles at Deutsche Bank, including Regional Trade Product Head for Asia–Pacific; Global Product Head for Financial Supply Chain Solutions and, in 2011, he became the Regional Head for Deutsche Bank’s trade finance business in Asia–Pacific where he managed a team of over 100 colleagues in 14 countries.

“Shiv’s leadership motivates people to have pride in their work, their team and the bank. This has led the team to deliver outstanding results and superior client service. His authenticity and kindness promotes trust and empowers the team – this makes people feel good about themselves, which translates into a general can-do attitude across the business. He understands and values the different personalities of the people he leads, which fosters a culture of acceptance and collaboration and allows for people to feel comfortable being themselves at all times.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
I firmly believe that kind leaders make the best leaders. Especially in today's world when all stakeholders in society (including customers, employees, regulators and investors) expect more from businesses than a cold-nosed pursuit of profit at the expense of everything else. A kind leader is able to better engage with his team to ensure that they all rally behind a common purpose with a sense of shared objective.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness makes business sense on many fronts. Kind leaders bring the best out of their teams because people identify and engage better under kind leaders. If they believe that the leader is genuinely interested in their well-being and development, a high level of engagement is more likely. It also fosters an open environment where people are more willing to share ideas and highlight areas of concern that the leaders of a firm might otherwise not be aware of.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Early in my career, I was part of a team formed to set up a new business. We felt we didn’t always have the full backing of the organisation to succeed at what we were tasked to do and went through a very challenging phase. Respect for the team leader and the strong desire to succeed, not just for our own sakes but because we didn’t want to let the leader down, was what drove each of us to come through.

Richard Ruddy

Chief Retail Officer, Lazada Group

Richard is Chief Retail Officer for Lazada Singapore. He leads a rapid and innovative growth agenda for the grocery and retail divisions and is responsible for all insight functions. Lazada Group was founded in 2012 and is the leading eCommerce platform in Southeast Asia, now including the recently acquired RedMart. Prior to joining Lazada Group and RedMart in Singapore, Richard spent four years as Managing Director for Hope and Greenwood; over ten years in supply chain at Ocado and four years at Nestlé.

“Richard is a strong leader who is able to listen without giving judgement; he is open to different opinions while keeping a close eye on what matters in business. He is managing multicultural teams smoothly and motivates his teams to take initiatives by giving freedom but still being hands-on when needed. Richard is that person who sees you, looks out for you and gently guides you in the right direction without giving you the feeling of being pushed.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
In our fast-paced world led by new technologies where change is the only constant, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that people are the core of our businesses. This is an increasingly demanding time for leaders, who need resilience and a razor-sharp balance of IQ and EQ. Most of all, leaders must be genuine. At the heart is the bond with people; they must feel valued, to be able to contribute and to be rewarded. This requires trust, which cannot be built without kindness.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Making conscious behavioural choices enables us to be better equipped to face more situations. Kindness is vital – a little goes a long way. Teams are more engaged and motivated. I can honestly say that I have found deeper, more resilient solutions. Kindness is a strength. It’s hard to achieve. It’s the key to high-performing, happy teams.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Jacinda Ardern stands out for me. In the wake of a terrifying national incident, she demonstrated a rare level of vulnerability and kindness, paying respects to families and faiths, and with the clarity to drive changes in legislation on a national level. She effortlessly became one of her own people, her words, her actions were incredibly genuine and demonstrated a unique kindness which was a break in convention, little seen by heads of state in modern times.

Renita Sophia Crasta

Group Legal Counsel, Capitaland (Temasek)

As Group Legal Counsel for Capitaland, one of Singapore’s largest real estate players, Renita is extensively involved in advising on legal matters across her group of companies, from operations to management levels. In addition, Renita is also currently the Co-Chairperson of the Younger Lawyers Chapter of the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) and recently assisted to launch the SCCA Pro Bono Programme to encourage in-house counsels to engage in pro bono legal work. She also sits on the committees of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection and has founded the Female & Fearless series of workshops to build leadership, confidence, and communication skills among underprivileged teenage girls. She is also involved with various non-profits including Beyond Social Services, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, and Its Raining Raincoats, an initiative spreading kindness to migrant workers in Singapore. More recently, Renita has co-founded the start-up of 2 Facebook communities, being the Kindness Initiative SG and The Chatty Caterpillar, to encourage acts of kindness and better mental health.

“Renita’s warmth and personality permeates in all she does as she constantly extends herself in and beyond her legal role. Amongst others, she has helped her company’s Foundation attain a “Company of Good” award from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre through various initiatives that were undertaken. As an enterprising women leader, she is also extremely hardworking and a passionate self-starter, and is able to constantly rally others to support all she does with genuine warmth, to understand strategic and complex concepts, and to deliver execution. She is thoughtful, articulate, and conducts herself with the highest level of professionalism in leading her peers and managing senior stakeholders. Simply put, she is wise beyond her years. Her dedication and knowledge of law, business and public policy, coupled with kind demeanour, has made her an invaluable asset to every community that she is in, impacting many and we expect to continue to be a highly influential stakeholder as she goes on.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Kindness represents the very essence and success of a true leader in today’s world. Given how far we have come in today’s societies and the lessons we have learnt, my sincere hope is that we realise the value and need for kindness in all of our interactions, and know that it is possible to maintain such kindness even amidst the many challenging and dynamic situations we face. Let us not forget to embrace it in all that we do.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
It is often said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and that people will do anything for you if they know how much you care. Having seen and experienced a vast number of different companies, it is, without a doubt, the kindest leaders who have the most lasting and effective impact. It creates a resilient, happy and motivated workforce.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
As part of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection here in Singapore, we share a key belief that kindness is an extremely important part of being an authentic and effective leader. Such kindness permeates the culture wherever we are and creates a ripple effect to those beyond. As such, with the volunteering and mentorship that we do, we have in turn encouraged and empowered others to also understand that there is room for kindness, always.

Phil Pomford

General Manager, Global eCom, APAC, Worldpay from FIS

Phil leads the Worldpay Global eCommerce team across Asia–Pacific, operating as General Manager from offices in Singapore, Japan, China and Australia. Under his leadership, the eCommerce APAC region has grown its revenue to more than double within four years and become well known for its OneAsia culture – a culture that Phil has been instrumental in shaping. Prior to Worldpay, Phil spent over 12 years in financial services with companies including Citi, Diners Club and American Express. Having lived in Asia for 19 years, he has held diverse management roles across Asia–Pacific and developed key strengths in customer development, strategy, financial planning, and new market entry.

“Phil strives to achieve a balance between being objective and empathetic when making decisions on most people-related matters. He truly believes that this is important in cultivating a respectful, inclusive and family-oriented culture which is key to the success of our diverse region. Despite his hectic work schedule and the high pressure in meeting business goals, Phil makes the time and effort to listen to employees who need to speak to him; and even discuss alternatives with his leaders on how we can support our colleagues who might be in different work and personal situations without compromising business operations and revenue.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Kindness enables stronger relationships through openness, honesty and transparency. With this transparency, greater trust is achieved, resulting in the ability to build a more positive organisational culture.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness opens the way to stronger interpersonal relationships and impacts culture in a positive way, leading to more positive outcomes in both business and personal development.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
By treating all with equality and allowing all voices and opinions to be heard, we’ve been able to overcome challenges we’ve faced in multiple areas.

Molyka Brasoeur

Director of Legal Affairs Department, Ministry of Public Works and Transport

Molyka is a young, empathetic leader with a diverse background. She has enjoyed a fascinating career journey: working as an educator for children and students for more than ten years before  entering the corporate world as a professional trainer. She is now the Director of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in Cambodia. She has brought together her many talents to build a newly established department with a strong foundation and clear vision.

“Molyka demonstrates her compassion and kindness at work. She spends time meeting her team, asking about their work and personal issues so as to provide emotional support and better understand their needs for growth. Additionally, she gives equal opportunities and delegates work to her team so that they too can participate in important programmes, build their confidence and be exposed to new ideas. Molyka’s core values have fostered a culture of caring and togetherness within her organisation.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
In this modern world, a leader who has great influence is not always rich, powerful and bossy but is empathetic, trustworthy, and caring. It was different in the past, when a leader was ‘required’ to be a strict commander. As I have experienced, a kind leader attracts people regardless of their backgrounds. Thus, kindness becomes an influential and inspiring trait that most great leaders of today's world have in common.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
One of my colleagues was almost abandoned by a former boss and others because of his underprivileged background. He was reserved, passive and sad. I got to know him and saw he was honest, hard-working and had big potential. When I was promoted to director, I brought him in, trained him and gave him opportunities to grow professionally. Now he is cheerful, confident and active within the team.

Mohaiyani Shamsudin

Chairman, Maybank Group

In 2011, Mohaiyani became the first woman to be appointed Chairman of the board of the country’s largest public listed company, Maybank. With extensive experience and an impressive career in financial services and public service, Mohaiyani has held senior roles at Amanah Chase Merchant Bank Berhad and Seagroatt & Campbell. During her active involvement in the stockbroking industry, she was appointed Deputy Chairman of Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange and Chairman of the Association of Stockbroking Companies of Malaysia. She had also been appointed as a member of several high-level national working groups such as the National Economic Action Council and the National Advisory Council for Women, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

“Datuk Mohaiyani is indeed a leader with kindness. Her leadership trait is not limited to her good decision making capabilities but also her ability to inspire others with her empathy, commitment and passion. She is a leader who expresses kindness in various areas. Her sincere desire to help the foundation from board level to employee issues, has made her an exemplary leader with kindness. Through her influence and networking, she helped the foundation build stronger relationships with other organisations and their staff.”

Mazuin Zin

Managing Director, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide

First Malaysian business leader to feature in the prestigious 2018 FT HERoes Top 100 Women Leaders worldwide. A three times winner of the prestigious CMO Asia’s CEO of the Year (2019/18/17) award, Mazuin Zin takes immense pride in helping transform Edelman Malaysia from a Pure-play PR Consulting company, to Malaysia’s leading Communications Marketing & Creative business solutions firm with Strategy at its core. A proven business transformation leader, Mazuin is passionate about creating a workplace culture that empowers young leaders hone their both managerial and entrepreneurial skills in the real world. As she believes that ‘Shaping Talent & Culture’ is not merely a departmental function, but a key responsibility of the CEO. In a career spanning two decades, Mazuin has led business transformation assignments at some of the country’s most respected MarCom Consulting firms like MullenLowe Group, Leo Burnett Group and Ogilvy.

“In the past two years Mazuin has clearly demonstrated her ability to combine a sense of purpose to turnaround Edelman Malaysia, with a strong resolve to grow the people under her wings into world class professionals. In a leadership role tasked to balance business with building reputation and culture, Mazuin champions a people first policy, driving a ‘family culture based on caring for each other’.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
I’ve always maintained that kindness is integral to any leadership role, especially when nurturing a team around you. It serves as a foundation for creating human bonds that go beyond workplace challenges, helping to break barriers and nurture an organisational culture that serves in the long run. Certainly, the role of kindness is more pronounced in today’s world when we are looking to rally a diverse workforce (Millennial, Generation X and even Baby boomer) around a core value system.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
As trust at the workplace becomes a business reality of our times, we’ve seen kindness provide the much-needed social glue required to forge and fortify human connections at work, leading to a happier workplace culture and weeding out the cliché workplace evils of insecurity and politics.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Kindness not only brings a sense of empowerment and ownership amongst our youngest members and encourages them to lead from the front, it also accelerates their growth trajectory.

Kum Ying Tham

Senior Consultant, Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Dr Tham was instrumental in setting up the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore’s newest medical school in 2013. She is a Senior Consultant on professionalism training to Singapore’s Ministry of Health and leads several humanitarian missions every year to nearby Asian countries, delivering healthcare to underprivileged communities.

“Kum Ying has amazing energy and drive – but there is space in all this to be kind. She genuinely puts her patients, colleagues and trainees at the centre and goes beyond to ensure the very best for them. She dedicates personal time to overseas community projects, delivering help where it is desperately needed, providing support to medical students alongside her.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Leadership with the right amount of kindness is effective, makes the leader approachable and has the best chance of achieving long-term goals. Too much kindness puts the leader at risk of lacking in discipline. Too little kindness makes the leader harsh and unapproachable.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
A peer did a series of acts that was indirectly linked to a junior member's suicide. During the internal inquiry I was asked if this peer should be prohibited from working with and supervising junior members henceforth. I said No but this peer should be counselled and coached and continue to work with junior members. Three years later this peer was one of the winners of the best supervisor award in our organisation.

Kris Ke-Shyang See

Medical Director, Chief Clinical and Innovative Scientist, Osel Group

Kris has worked for various medical institutions both in the public and private sector and is currently serving as the Medical Director and Chief Clinical Scientist at the Osel Group of clinics. With his creative ideas and vision, Kris has driven his team to research cutting-edge medicine including genomic testing, biomarkers and regenerative medicine. He has received numerous awards for his ground-breaking work. In 2018, Kris received a scholarship for the prestigious Harvard Medical School, Leadership in Medicine, Southeast Asia programme. In the same year, he was awarded the JCI Peace Angel Award for his role and innovative work in the Nepal Earthquake Relief programme.

“Giving back to the community is an integral part of Kris’ mission and so the clinics have underwritten to provide free medical services for specific groups of people in need, including low income families. As an active board member and advisor on many committee panels, Kris helps organisations strategise and provides insight into the development of these companies that is not exclusive to medicine or healthcare but spans music, art and sport. These include an education scholarship fund, a financial literacy NGO start-up, and a music festival to bring people of different backgrounds and cultures together.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Kindness is the ultimate form of self-discipline and personal development. When a leader demonstrates humanistic leadership, it brings about appreciation and connection. This positivity can transcend workplace performance. It inspires us to be better human beings.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
We are increasingly talking about well-being in the workplace; bringing an authentic quality to our work; being gentle with ourselves, and with others around us. Especially in my field of work in medicine, kindness begets kindness. It encourages patients to open up and thereby improves healing. Kindness also pumps up our organisation’s morale and boosts services. Kindness in work relationships is impactful as it encourages the team to relax, to be more open to sharing, and to be more cooperative.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
In 2015, on a humanitarian mission to Nepal, I was unexpectedly caught in the second earthquake. All modes of transportation were suspended. I volunteered to lead a team of locals to the Himalayan mountains where villagers were cut off from help. I was the first doctor they had seen in weeks. I must have seen at least 3000 people during the first week. This experience inspired me to start a social enterprise called Ramro Cha that contributes to rebuilding efforts.

Keemin Ngiam

Director and Senior Counsel, Netflix

Keemin is a high-impact leader who has built the legal team across the APAC markets for Netflix, spending considerable time onboarding teammates in each of the markets in which Netflix is rapidly growing. He forges strong relationships with both his teammates and the local business teams across APAC, with many leaders in cross functional teams looking to Keemin, not only for his expert legal advice, but also as a valued thought partner. Prior to his current role, Keemin served as an associate in the corporate department of Latham & Watkins, first in Los Angeles and then in Singapore, focused on complex, cross-border transactions.

“Keemin exemplifies what it means to be a leader. His legal expertise and contribution to the business as a lawyer is exceptional, but it’s really the manner in which he interacts with his teammates and business partners that makes his leadership stand apart. People trust Keemin and people want to hear his opinion. Keemin is a great listener, team player, and a magnetic leader, chiefly due to his core characteristic – kindness.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
In a business world that tends to value quantifiable metrics and efficiency, we need to put humanity first to avoid anomie, loneliness and despair. Kindness in leaders reminds organisations that people and human dignity fundamentally matter. When teams and peers know that you intrinsically care about them and not just for their utility, you earn respect and trust. These are essential for building and leading united teams and healthy organisations.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Many questionable things have been done in the name of ‘business sense’ because we are often confused about the purpose of business. Businesses exist to create utility and value, but because economics defaults to measuring these with money (because it's easy), people think ‘business sense’ should be measured monetarily. But any sensible business needs to please its customers, vendors and staff. People remember kindness, especially in hard times when kindness is costly, and they reciprocate when you need kindness.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
As a young law clerk I once committed a ‘reply all’ email gaffe, creating a sticky situation for the firm. The partner in charge could have excoriated me or worse, denied me a full-time position with the firm. Instead she kindly accepted my apology and reassured me that she'd take care of it, even checking in on me later. Her example has inspired me to do the same as a leader.

Karen Teo

Vice President APAC, Global Business Group, Facebook

Karen is Facebook’s first Singaporean female Vice President in APAC. She is an outstanding business leader, advocate for LGBTQI communities across Asia–Pacific and a regional sponsor of the One World Social Entrepreneurship award. She is committed to driving inclusion, diversity and impact through her professional and social work. Prior to working at Facebook, Karen spent years in the gaming industry, at Universal Games and at Microsoft, where she helped launch the Xbox 360.

“Karen adeptly balances the needs of our clients, our business, her team and the broader organisation. She understands how to negotiate outcomes that can balance the needs of all of these groups. Karen demonstrates empathy and a flexibility in her leadership style that drives inclusion of diverse stakeholders and ideas. Best of all, Karen recognises the need to be kind to herself. In this way, she often takes stock of her internal narrative and adjusts her actions to allow herself the space to learn, grow, innovate and fail. She is an excellent role model in this regard and is setting the pace for other leaders at Facebook and also in the greater technology community across the region.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
I think of kindness as care, generosity and consideration. In a world where there is high stress, lots of uncertainty and scarcity of resources, kindness creates a safe nurturing space. These safe spaces allow people to grow, heal and innovate. It's contagious. Knowing that there is a leader in your organisation, someone who is invested in you, also allows people to look beyond themselves and for the wider organisation, including their co-workers.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Business is best run in a respectful, transparent, honest way which leans heavily on established trust. When kindness creates safe spaces, it also fosters feelings of trust, which can make collaboration smoother and it’s more likely that all parties will aim for mutually beneficial outcomes. Also, in contributing to the betterment of the world, businesses can do so at a greater scale than just scattered individuals, whether it’s rallying volunteers, fundraising or evangelism for a worthy cause.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Where I work, I see this all the time. The care and consideration to ensure that employees of all race, background, gender, sexual orientation are given equal opportunity has given us a colourful, communicative workforce that has forged many lifelong friendships, supported families and built careers. This has resulted in a high employee retention rate.

Jelen Villareal

Chief Executive Officer, Mayad Post Production House

Jelen is the Chief Executive Officer at Mayad Post Production House (MPOST), a recognised authority in the art of editing cinematic wedding films. Jelen also heads up marketing, creative direction and serves as a business consultant to international partners. She has played an important role in MPOST’s transition from being Mayad Studios’ exclusive post production house to becoming an outsourcing company. She currently manages a team of 45 creative individuals who are behind MPOST’s successful collaborations with various wedding cinematographers from different parts of the world.

“Mentoring young leaders so that they can also one day mentor younger leaders has always been in Jelen’s advocacy. Through her mentorship many have grown and stayed to become leaders themselves within the organisation. Jelen strongly sharpens one’s potential, and it’s the secret behind MPOST’s progressive production of leaders and talent.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
For me, kindness is the foundation of power and strength in leadership. Amidst all of our struggles, from personal life to career life, differences of beliefs and views, imperfections and failures, kindness can heal. Kindness in leadership inspires people to be better individuals not just in their work but their influence on other people as well. When you demonstrate kindness to your employees, business partners, clients and customers, you will reap better results.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness makes collaboration with our business partners stronger, despite the distance. Most of the customers in one of our departments are from the US and kindness is one of the bridges that enables us to fulfil our mission in the creative industry. Understanding the value of collaboration for the growth of our company gives us more confidence in meeting our deliverables, the quality of service, internal processes, organisation and leadership, and above all, for the growth and direction of our people.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Personal growth and the development of our people is important in our company. The world is already hard and we, as leaders, need to invest our time in leading them to a future full of hope. Leadership is a gift and an opportunity to show how powerful kindness is in its ability to transform a person.

Elke Biechele

Chief Executive Officer, RisikoTek

Elke is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of RisikoTek, an anti-financial crime intelligence system company, dedicated to reducing the impact of financial crime and its predicate offences on society. She helps the financial sector, NGOs and law enforcement all over the world to detect criminal activity such as human and wildlife trafficking and corruption that reduces the quality of life for millions of people across the developing world. Elke has over 20 years of experience in the banking sector – she is now a global leader in risk management, regularly using her experience to address the challenges she has observed across the industry.

“Elke is a prime example of effective leadership through a kinder use of mentoring and education without the need for a more adversarial, stricter approach. She realises that great leadership comes from earning respect through knowledge, attention to quality and enabling people to unleash their creativity and make use of their diverse skill sets. Elke can see the value and ability in people – looking beyond their current circumstances and challenges that may have held them back from achieving their full potential. Her team regularly exceeds expectations in delivering high quality solutions that make a positive, real-world impact. Elke has the unique ability to merge everyone’s strengths into a cohesive set of high quality deliverables.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
When people can operate to their interests and strengths and are allowed to experiment with ideas, it is amazing to see what they are capable of. The solutions they find can be extremely rewarding. The role of a good leader, guided by kindness, is to give people the high-level objectives and lead by giving space, cooperation, advice, ideas and encouragement to achieve.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
In my observations, people being led by kind leaders tend to take personal ownership of the task they are hired to do, and they enjoy it too. Kind leadership also leads to stability and excellent innovation.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Leading with kindness enables people to try new technologies and experiment with their own talents. A good example is the tech start-up sector. Creative minds can flourish. The result is positive with so many truly innovative tech solutions created. This shows that employees who are encouraged through kind motivation feel free to discover and operate to their strengths and, as a result, they exceed expectations.

Christine Amour-Levar

Founder and Co-Founder, HER Planet Earth and Women on a Mission

Christine is a philanthropist, adventurer, entrepreneur and author. A passionate advocate of female empowerment and environmental conservation, Christine set up Women on a Mission and HER Planet Earth, two not-for-profit organisations in 2012 and 2017 respectively. Both of these organisations take all-female teams on pioneering expeditions to off-the-beaten-track locations as a way to support worthy causes. HER Planet Earth’s primary objective is to raise awareness and funds for underprivileged women affected by climate change, while Women on a Mission aims to support and empower women who have been subjected to violence and abuse.

“Kindness and leadership are a very powerful combination in a person. Christine truly embodies both and demonstrates them every day. I have had the great privilege of joining several of Christine’s expeditions in favour of underprivileged women impacted by climate change. Christine has this incredible ability to motivate others to take action. She has inspired hundreds of women to join her expeditions to support others in need, but she also encourages us to continue to make a difference in our own way and with our own projects. Christine demonstrates a deep sense of empathy when she manages her teams and constantly puts the team and others first.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it. For leaders to have credibility and influence, they need to ‘walk-the-talk’ and reflect admirable qualities such as integrity, courage, humility, authenticity, and especially kindness to the people who support their careers each day. Not only does kindness in a work environment increase profitability, it also leads to better employee retention and engagement.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Our future is a world where technology and automation are on the rise and, because of this, there will be a massive swell in demand for leaders who have the valuable skills of kindness and empathy. These will be some of the most critical workplace skills in the future because of their power to boost quantifiable business results and increase employee satisfaction.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Some of the kindest bosses I’ve had during my career have been the ones for whom I’ve wanted to work the hardest. Kindness empowers and encourages people to push their limits and to excel far beyond what they thought they were capable of. It is a beautiful and inspiring quality that is vital to human existence, and one that we need to keep harnessing.

Chris Wei

Executive Chairman Asia & FPI Global Chairman Aviva Digital, Aviva

In July 2015, Chris was appointed to the newly created role of Global Chairman, Aviva Digital. He also serves as Executive Chairman for Aviva Asia and Friends Provident International (FPI). As Global Chairman, he leads Aviva’s global drive in digital, and has transformed the 321-year-old insurer into a leading InsurTech disruptor. As Executive Chairman, Chris works closely with senior leaders on setting strategic direction and managing the operations of Aviva and FPI across Asia.

“Actions speak louder than words. While random acts of kindness are important, Chris embodies kindness through the intentional practice of kindness. Chris says: “I truly believe that people are the foundation of every successful organisation. Through the practice of kindness, our employees can be confident of who they are, do their best work, and have honest conversations. This intentional kindness has permeated our company culture and influenced employee behaviour, regardless of whether they are customer-facing or not. By practicing intentional kindness amongst employees, it creates a positive working environment which drives employee engagement, and in turn productivity and performance.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Trust is earned, not gained. A true leader can balance kindness with running the business. People are the foundation of every successful organisation. Through the practice of kindness, employees can be confident of who they are, have honest conversations and do their best work.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness influences employee behaviour, regardless of whether they are customer-facing or not. Practicing intentional kindness amongst employees creates a positive working environment that drives employee engagement and, in turn, productivity and performance.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Our inclusive beliefs and practices have created an engaged workforce, which has helped us achieve strong business success and accelerated growth. In the last two years, Aviva Ltd has grown faster than the industry average.

Bruce Bromley

Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Soneva Resorts

After a career as an investment banker and hedge fund manager, Bruce joined Soneva in 2012. Soneva owns and operates some of the world’s most extraordinary ultra-luxury resorts in the Maldives and Thailand. Bruce is currently the Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer. He is considered to be a ‘rock of Soneva’, helping to create a culture that ensures goals are reached. For seven years, Bruce has been Soneva’s ‘Guardian of the Mission’, developing the business after its split from Six Senses. He has nurtured the programmes and success of the Soneva Foundation and formulated Soneva’s future growth plans, while focusing on the development of a high performance team.

“Bruce’s main focus is on developing others, whether through encouraging continual learning (such as introducing a free open online course policy in the company), or developing a culture of reading. He has extremely high standards and pushes all hosts to do their very best. He has a fierce sense of justice and uses his wit and intellect to protect those who need protecting, and push those hosts who can achieve more. He is highly professional and extremely knowledgeable.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Leadership requires humanity. Kindness is the only way that we can truly connect with our colleagues. A corporate culture without kindness embedded in its leadership model cannot sustain in the long run.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
An obvious manifestation of kindness in business is mentoring – taking time to share one's experiences and supporting others, particularly young employees. The saying ‘people don't leave bad companies; they leave bad bosses’ is valid. Leaders who invest time, effort and genuine thought into the development of their teams will see the benefits in team morale; commitment to the work and to the organisation; lower staff turnover, and high numbers of staff returning if they choose to expand their horizons elsewhere.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
We are fortunate to have many graduates coming into our organisation each year. We invest tremendous amounts of time in helping these bright young minds expand their CVs in terms of personal interests and educational qualifications so that they are in pole position to land their perfect job when they do decide to spread their wings. Funnily enough, those with the best CVs – by extension, the most in demand – are those who choose to stay with us for the longest time.

Brian Shuptrine

Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Turner & Townsend

As Managing Director at Turner & Townsend in Singapore, Brian supports clients and leads delivery teams across the Asia–Pacific region. With a background in technical project and programme management in the real estate and technology sectors, Brian specialises in regional and global portfolio management to achieve better outcomes, assurance and benefits for Turner & Townsend clients. He has worked all over the world including Australia and Japan.

“Brian shows empathy, understanding and kindness in this very demanding industry. As consultants in the construction industry, we are trusted advisers who can influence our stakeholders to make choices in the built environment sector so as to create a better world. Brian constantly reminds us that our role is not just to serve our clients, but to also make an impact in our day-to-day activities through our humble interactions, our aspirations, and with kindness.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Kindness in all aspects of life is important. However, in today’s world we too often rely on emails, messaging and social media to engage with the people around us. I firmly believe that in order to be an effective leader you need to engage with people by being kind, providing a personal touch, caring about their well-being and, in return, developing long-term relationships based on mutual respect and trust.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Helping my team navigate their way through the complexities of the construction industry, being a mentor in their career development, and supporting them during the ups and downs of life, is fundamental to the success of Turner & Townsend. By being kind and leading by example, you can attract and retain the best talent, motivate the team to deliver great outcomes, support their ambition to succeed, and grow their careers. In return, our business succeeds with them.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
In my experience there are many small things that accumulate to make a difference. As a leader I have the privilege of supporting our talent development programmes. The significant impact is seeing people who, over the years, have become recognised construction professionals with a strong voice, helping to shape the future of our business. I also get a lot from engaging with the next generation, understanding the challenges they face and seeing the world from a different perspective.

Azliza Ahmad Tajuddin

Chief Executive Officer, Blu Inc Media

In 2004, Azliza joined Blu Inc as its Chief Executive Officer. Blu Inc is the largest magazine publisher in Malaysia with over 23 titles, including Harper’s Bazaar, Her World, Female, EH!, Glam, Men’s Health and many more. Azliza believes that women’s magazines have a powerful role to play – they give us an opportunity to share empowering stories and highlight often difficult subjects, from domestic violence to maternal guilt and mental health.

“Azliza has initiated many fundraising projects, including the yearly Pink Project that is run in collaboration with local Malaysian designers to create awareness and raise funds for organisations such as the Breast Cancer Foundation. She has also set up the Her World Woman of the Year and Young Achiever of the Year awards. Since 1992, these awards have paid tribute to high-achieving women who have made breakthroughs in their industries and have made a positive impact both locally and overseas.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Reap what you sow... if you sow kindness, then you shall gather care, love and affection. Kindness is the most underrated act in leadership and yet the most powerful and profound. It’s the least costly and everyone and every leader can help someone, with a simple act of kindness.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12
“Show forgiveness, enjoin kindness; avoid ignorance.” – Quran 7:199
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness in the workplace ensures employees feel good; it boosts loyalty and performance. It helps build meaningful relationships, not just with employees but between clients. Once relationships are built, support for each other can last a lifetime. Kindness leads us to humility, and forgiveness – and from these, we will never stop learning and growing every single day.
“Every act of kindness is charity.” – Prophet Muhammad
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
As a mother, I lead on my maternal qualities, which means sometimes being stern and disciplined and sometimes being caring, supportive, understanding and empathic. Showing emotions is important to me and acting like a mentor more than a boss helps me to nurture more kind leaders who then grow, not just in the company but outside in other companies when they leave.

Ashley Prail

Former Managing Director, Infrastructure and Major Programmes Asia, Turner & Townsend

Throughout his 38 year-long career within the built-environment sector, Ashley has been instrumental in the successful delivery of major programmes both within Asia and around the world. Projects include major infrastructure development such as Hong Kong and Changi airports and developing further opportunities in rail, aviation and power. He is highly experienced with a deep technical knowledge in programme management, project delivery and project controls. After 16 years at Turner & Townsend, Ashley retired late last year, leaving a lasting legacy.

“Ashley has dedicated his life’s work to bringing out the best in others by unlocking their undiscovered potential. He has grown a local team in Singapore and helped develop them into the future leaders of our Asia business. Ashley is a truly inspirational leader and has impacted many lives from our (now retired) Chief Operations Officer to our Singaporean graduates who are just starting their careers.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
For me, kindness is about supporting your team members to recognise and realise their full potential. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, we need to be flexible, adaptable and highly innovative. No one person can cope with the complexity and diversity of the business challenges – it’s a team game, and we need to give all team members the confidence to put forward and enact their ideas within a supportive environment.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
As a leader, part of my role is to translate the business objectives into tangible goals. But I don’t have all the answers as to how to get there. By supporting and nurturing my team, we are collectively able to develop a strategy that we all believe in and feel motivated to drive towards. My view of kindness is then to help my team remove the interferences and blockers that stop them achieving their goals.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Our infrastructure business in Asia started four years ago and has seen rapid growth, securing long-term contracts with flagship infrastructure programmes. We built a new team, relocating and attracting many talented young professionals. This was done by extensive two-way dialogue, to understand the aspirations of the individuals and explain how we could support them. Developing this team has been my proudest business achievement.

Ariel Muller

Managing Director Asia–Pacific, Forum for the Future

Ariel leads the Forum for the Future APAC team, a leading international non-profit working with business, government and society solving complex sustainability challenges. Using a range of approaches including futures, systems thinking, and human-centred design, Forum for the Future creates programmes that advance the circular economy, sustainable nutrition, sustainable value chains and livelihoods, and the de-carbonisation of our economy. Ariel has previously worked with Saatchi & Saatchi to design and deliver sustainability programmes with companies such as Walmart, NBCUniversal, Duke Energy and Procter & Gamble, and at the collaborative strategy and design firm, Helsinki Group.

“Our world needs leaders willing to choose purpose before profit; who use collaboration and inspiration as their chosen archery, not fancy titles and power; leaders that create tribes; who are kind, compassionate, and lead by actions… I believe Ariel to be such a leader. Ariel listens more than she speaks, leads from the front, with kindness and empathy, creating a safe environment for the team to thrive. Her team knows they will be supported, not only in success but also should they fail.”

Anthony Thompson

Regional Managing Director, Asia and Global Executive Board Director, PageGroup

Anthony moved to Asia 19 years ago. He is the current Head of Asia and an Executive Board Director at Michael Page Group, the global recruitment agency. Since he joined the company, over 120,000 candidates have been placed, changing their lives and those of their families and clients. Under his leadership, headcount has also radically increased from 40 members of staff to more than 1,400. Anthony leads from the front when it comes to Michael Page’s strong focus on corporate social responsibility and giving back to the community.

“Anthony spends a lot of time and effort in the old fashioned but vitally important practice of listening, giving counsel and helping to solve problems. He is a ‘pick up the phone’ person, and embraces the old-school qualities of sales and service: a firm handshake, good listening, and a strong level of empathy. Politics and hierarchical bad habits are not in his leadership pallet. Instead, his day-to-day style of leadership lies in consistency, calmness and motivation. The solution generally lies in teamwork, finding consensus, and maintaining a constructive, solutions-driven growth mindset in the face of challenges.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
Organisations rely on people and these people need to be motivated to perform at their best. Most successful leaders are authentic and create an environment of trust and engagement with kindness being integral to that. A positive culture and a sense of belonging is essential for most people to be engaged and that cannot be achieved without leaders demonstrating kindness.
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness and other related traits such as empathy, warmth, respect and care cost absolutely nothing but the benefits are enormous. These are all part of an attitude and style leaders have complete control over. Failing to pay attention to this will ultimately lead to lower levels of success and potentially failure overall.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
Thirteen years ago, I forged a relationship between PageGroup and St Baldrick’s, an organisation providing support to children affected by cancer. This has since expanded to also involve Hair for Hope, an organisation with similar goals. I have had my head shaved every year since with colleagues and raised over US$300,000. This simple gesture aligns with our purpose of positively changing lives while having a transformative effect on our people through their understanding of the importance of kindness and ‘giving back’.

Amélie Perdu

Human Resources Director South Asia, Richemont

Amélie is a seasoned human resources director in the luxury goods and jewellery sector. She puts the ‘human’ at the centre of a role that would otherwise focus largely on productivity, compliance and budgeting. In her current role as Director of Human Resources at Richemont in Singapore, Amélie has brought the shared services and brand teams together through collaborative projects and networks, developing a top-rated reputation for her humanity and results. Previously, as Human Resources Director at the prestigious watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, Amélie helped form a new international executive committee that integrated talent reviews and people management in order to better plan business objectives.

“In my 20 year career in the luxury goods sector in various roles, across multiple countries, Amélie truly stands out – for her determination and kindness; dedication to excellence and humanity. From mediation and on-the-ground talent spotting to setting up high-performing mentor pairings, there is nothing that Amélie hasn’t touched and made a success of. Her positive outlook and her can-do attitude see her rising above the challenge of corporate HR inertia, identifying opportunity and making it happen.”

Why is kindness essential for a leader in today’s world?
For me a leader should inspire others - in their job, in their career path, in their work life balance. To inspire others respect and trust are essentials. To build respect and trust, kindness it essential! Everywhere, anytime with everyone!
In your experience, how does kindness make business sense?
Kindness can allow employees, managers and leaders, at any level of an organisation, to leverage communication style, to develop smooth relationships with others, to reduce tensions or even sometimes to solve conflicts.
Can you give us one example of kindness in leadership making a significant impact?
As HR Director, part of my daily job is to deliver feedback, constructive feedback to allow any employee to grow, to improve, to learn - to learn from success and also sometimes from failure. Delivering feedback is like a gift, a gift is something you offer to someone else, to please him. To make him or her grow. And to offer this gift, kindness is everywhere: on the "how" you deliver the feedback, on the "why" you deliver the feedback.