Life lessons from Dr Hamzah Kassim
By SANDY CLARKE
One of the main reasons we gravitate towards great leaders is that they always treat their work as a purpose and never a job – arguably, it’s the secret to any leader’s success.
To love what we do, to be driven by meaning, ensures that we invest everything we are and have into creating the best for ourselves and others.
From here, not only do we flourish and thrive, but so do those who work alongside us, as well as those we serve. This is the wonderful effect for any leader who views their life as a service to the greater good and benefit of others.
One such leader, who has given over 30 years of service to Malaysia, is Dr Hamzah Kassim, the co-founder and managing director of the consultancy firm, The iA Group.
Affectionately known as ‘Doc Hamzah’, he has worked for both government and multi-national companies, and as a serial entrepreneur, he has created and invested in a number of businesses.
Appearing on The Leaderonomics Show, Dr Hamzah talked about his journey; from studying at a liberal arts college in the United States to gaining his Ph.D. in the UK, to coming back to Malaysia in the 1980s and helping to shape the future of a young nation.
In the 1990s, he held several senior government positions overseeing strategic developments in industrial research and development, technology, and innovation at a time when the country was transitioning from an agricultural-based economy to one driven by industry and innovation.
As seen from the conversation between Dr Hamzah and host, Roshan Thiran, they share common aspirations: to help build a bright future for Malaysia, one that is built on the talents of home-grown leaders who can lead the country forward as bold and creative entrepreneurs.
What does it take to be successful?
When asked what it takes to be successful in whatever field we find ourselves in, Dr Hamzah spoke about the attitude that’s required to push past the challenges and obstacles that will surely arise.
1. Be passionate
He said, “You have to know your passion, what you like to do. To me, it’s not working; it’s just enjoying what you’re doing. I wake up in the morning and, on Saturday and Sunday, I can’t stay home – I’m looking forward to Monday. On the weekend, my staff know they’ll get a bunch of emails from me, and sometimes they answer!”
The passion that Dr Hamzah has for consulting – helping businesses, organisations and institutions solve complex problems and thrive – is clear when he talks about his experiences in working to help Malaysia move past its previous difficulties, and work towards realising its true potential on the world stage.
2. Be patient
He also highlighted the importance of being patient as leaders and being strategic in how we manage ambitious goals and objectives.
He said, “I would suggest to people that they really find their passion and take the long-term view – put money aside. Sometimes, if people worry about the profits of a company, you have to take a long-term view and know where your company is heading and how you create value. You also need trust. In business, you can’t survive without strong relationships and trust.”
3. Build networks
Dr Hamzah revealed that he often asks young people today how they go about making connections and building their network. In any business, leaders need to realise that fundamentally, any endeavour is created and shaped by people.
When we can understand the needs and desires of those we work alongside, and if we can use our skills to be of benefit to them and create strong bonds, that’s when we see the fruits of collaboration begin to blossom and grow.
4. Have a purpose
But there are more qualities required for success. “To know that what you’re doing has a purpose and that you’re doing good is important,” according to Dr Hamzah. “The staff who come and join us are encouraged to think about what kind of value they want to create, what kind of legacy they want to leave, and how they’ll be remembered – these are important issues.”
5. Anticipate change
Sharing more of his valuable insights, the serial entrepreneur shared that it’s crucial that leaders be able to anticipate change, prepare for opportunities as technologies evolve, and make the most of the possibilities that can arise from tackling the most pressing issues and needs of the day.
He said, “We are always moving through different stages of development and each stage requires a different set of capabilities and mentality.
You cannot bring in the old to do new things, and so I find that some of the old institutions that my generation built have reached their life cycle and need to be revamped.
“The strong capabilities of any leader or CEO includes being able to know where the next challenge is coming from, to ask ‘What if…?’ Sometimes, people don’t like coming out of their comfort zones, but growth comes from asking tough questions.”
Watch the interview with Dr Hamzah Kassim in the video below:
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.