Malaysia has voted, and the results are in.
The 9th of May 2018 marks a historical day in Malaysia’s progress as a nation. On this day, the 14th General Election (GE14) was held in Malaysia, which marked a historic defeat for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which had ruled the country for 61 years since its independence in 1957. Led by Tun Dr Mahathir, the Pakatan Harapan coalition achieved a simple majority of 112 out of 222 parliamentary seats and won the mandate to form the federal government for the next 5 years. On 10 May 2018, 93-year-old Tun Dr Mahathir was sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia – carving another history as the oldest elected leader in the world.
However, there’s more to this election than meets the eye!
Apart from deciding the fate of the nation, GE14 with its interesting developments and dramatic turn of events does carry many valuable life lessons for us. We have analysed the strategies and events of GE14 to break down for you four crucial takeaways that you can learn and adopt to your professional career development.
1. Be a Team Player: Group effort above individual performance
While it may be tempting to say that Pakatan Harapan’s victory is primarily attributed to the “Tun Mahathir” factor, there is actually a lot that goes on beneath the surface. In reality, it was a group effort contributed by many brilliant individuals behind the scenes working together to pioneer a new form of political marketing – from the social media and research analysts to the MCs and logistics team.
The same can be said for the corporate world. No matter how “indispensable” a person may be, a company can only thrive when the employees from every department collaborate to form good business synergies. As a young professional, it is essential for you to develop great communication and people skills to be able to effectively contribute to your team.
2. Confidence is Key: Age is only a number
In the recent GE14, we saw not only the oldest Prime Minister being sworn in at 93 years old, but also the youngest MP (P. Prabakaran) being elected into office at a mere age of 22 years old!
Times have changed. Translating this to the context of professional development, you should try to refrain making career decisions based on your age. For instance, if there is an opportunity for you to take on a bigger role or project, don’t dismiss it just because it is beyond your paygrade or because you’re relatively new compared to your peers. Instead take the initiative to upskill yourself after working hours to develop the relevant skills.
Consider a different scenario: if several years into your job, you realise that your job scope is no longer aligned to your career aspirations, don’t disregard a career transition just because of your age. Instead, have meaningful career conversations with peers in the industry to explore opportunities and weigh your options. To learn more about how to effectively plan for a career transition, read this article about a journalist who became a business consultant at the age of 30.
3. Embrace Diversity: Gender and cultural diversity is the only way forward
Malaysia is home to one of the most culturally diverse societies in the world. In GE14, we observed more women leaders at the forefront of their political parties, compared to previous elections. Additionally, Malaysia is also expecting to welcome our first female Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Wan Azizah Ismail) – something never seen before in the nation’s history. The new government has also demonstrated enhanced racial unity in their parties and ambitions.
In order for a nation to truly unite and benefit from its cultural diversities, it is unwise for us to completely rely on our political leaders to facilitate the change. We have to play our part at work too. Young leaders must learn to empower women, by giving them mentorship and leadership opportunities, and encourage the formation of more diverse workstreams at the working level.
4. Connect with the Grassroots: Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
As we move up the corporate ladder – climbing from a supervisor to a managerial role, it is not uncommon for people to neglect the front-liners. We tend to focus on socializing upwards with senior leaders and horizontally with other peers. However, similarly to early-stage startups and even politics, it is important for team leaders to frequently connect with their members and sub-ordinates to provide proper mentorship and understand the situation on-the-ground.
As seen in the recent GE14 campaigning period, even the top leadership of the political parties can be seen physically engaging with the grassroots level in both the urban and rural areas, despite the existence of social media and other digital platforms that enable mass communication. Why? Because humans are ultimately social creatures, and technology can only facilitate interactions – not completely replace them.
A good example of how corporate leaders and managers can physically connect with the working level is to consider organising weekly brown bag sessions over lunch or monthly “Teh Tarik” engagement sessions to catch up with their department. These casual settings tend to be much more effective than a formal company-wide townhall.
What other leadership or career lessons did you learn from your reflection of Malaysia’s GE14? Do share them with us!
Written by: Lucas Khoo
Lucas is an Editor and Employer Branding Consultant at ProspectsASEAN. Prior to ProspectsASEAN, Lucas was a management consultant in Accenture, focusing in the area of Project Management and Talent & Organisation (T&O). He graduated with a Masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Birmingham.
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