The Mark of a Leader

What makes a good leader? Are leaders born or made?

I get asked these questions often.

My reply is, “Everyone has the potential to be a leader.”

There are many opportunities to lead. It’s all about taking responsibility.

These opportunities are not only found at work, but also at home. As a spouse, we lead our significant other. As parents, we lead our children. If you’re a stay-at-home mother, your children look to you for guidance. You would also be responsible for leading your domestic helper.

The question really to ponder is, “Are you taking on the responsibility to lead?”

To be a good leader, there are two things you need to know and understand.

1.      Know your end destination

The first rule of leadership is to know where you’re heading, and ensure that is the right path. The right path would be the path of goodness, morality, kindness and compassion. A good leader would not lead people to danger.

2.     Walk the talk

Secondly, good leaders practise what they preach. For example, we would advise our children not to pick up smoking because we know it’s harmful. For them to take us seriously, we shouldn’t be smokers ourselves.

True leaders don’t contradict themselves. People choose to follow a leader if they trust and believe in that person’s mission.

A modern example of a common leader is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. He has always espoused the importance of hard work and passion in achieving success. Gates is one of the richest men in the world but has donated a significant amount of his wealth to charitable causes. Who can forget his pledge to donate all of his fortune to charity? His passion in contributing positively to the world led him to start the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the world’s largest private foundation.

“If you want to become a leader that people admire and respect, you must become a person of significance. People don’t follow you because you take from them; they follow you because you give to them,” he says.

His passion in giving back to society compels people to respect his leadership.

Let’s ask ourselves if we are that kind of leader. Would we want to follow our own leadership? If the honest answer is no, let’s change that. If we do not have faith in ourselves as leaders, others would find it hard to have faith in us.

Leadership is about doing what needs to be done. Responsibility comes when you truly care about something. That sense of ownership and responsibility is the mark of a true leader.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director
QI Group


A Threatened Leader Cannot Lead

Many leaders feel worried and threatened when the people they are leading start to become independent, or start to excel. I am curious why this is. Does that not mean that they have been a good leader? The fact that the people they are leading are growing and developing is surely a good thing. Why is it that sometimes leaders feel that they must always be the ones in the spotlight?

Thinking of this made me happily recall one of my favourite verses. It is a verse that I think we can all learn from in order to better ourselves and others. Let me share parts of this verse with you.

One should think oneself lower than the straw on the street…

In many places of the world, you see bits of straw all over the street, such as in India or the Philippines. This straw is being walked on and cars are driving over it. It is flattened to the ground. Now I ask you – what could be lower than this straw on the street? And in that consciousness of feeling lower than the straw on the street, who could ever offend you? No one could put you down, as you are already lowly and humble on your own accord. Some people think being humble means allowing people to step on you and exploit you, but being humble is never that. It is a state of consciousness where you always walk on criticism and in that state, how could you even be angry? It is so fulfilling to be at this state of consciousness, where you feel at peace because you are not trying to climb on top of other people. And in this type of consciousness, you could be a king or be in high positions, but this is the consciousness you must have in order to lead people. You must think of yourself as lower than the straw in the street.

One should be more tolerant than a tree…

How could you be more tolerant than a tree? A tree is so tolerant. You can cut off its branches, it stands forever under the hot sun or torrent rains, sways with the strong winds, has ants crawl all over it… and yet it still stands, tolerant and accepting of what is going on around it. Now, this verse says we should be even more tolerant than that tree. If you are a tree – in terms of patience, endurance, fairness, and temperament –  then who could move you? You could not be pulled over. It is a great virtue to withstand any onslaught of challenges and not be swayed by the winds of emotions. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel it and that you’re numb to it. It just means you are steadfast and you have belief in what you stand for.

One should be devoid of all sense of false prestige.

False prestige is thinking, “I’m a powerful lawyer” or “I’m a successful businessperson”. We always think we have to be somebody for others to love us. We strive so much to have it all – material possessions, driving a certain type of car, having the right image, and so forth. But with this comes a whole lot of anxiety. How could there be peace and how could you be at peace if you are worried about all these things? This sense of false prestige just gets in the way. There is no criticism about the duties and titles that you have been given. Your job may be very important and you may have worked hard to get there. But that doesn’t give you a licence to be arrogant. It does not mean you can demand respect from others. But no matter what you do or who you think you are, you should always be giving your respect to others. A leader cannot lead if he is blinded by his own sense of false prestige.

Please take a moment to ponder… If you want to be a good leader, should you feel threatened if those you are leading start to succeed? If you want to be a good leader, shouldn’t you rather place yourself beneath those you lead, be tolerant and steadfast, and undress yourself of all false prestige? Ponder on this. I thought of this verse as being a guide for someone who wants to be not only a good leader, but who wants to be happy and at peace.



Joseph Bismark


Group Managing Director, QI Ltd



Authentic Leadership

Being candid is essential to authentic leadership.

You have to learn to speak your mind. You have to convey your opinion without fear, pretty language and qualifiers. Authenticity is about the truth. The truth requires candour.

Any leader knows when and how to be candid and they don’t avoid it!

Please take a moment to ponder. Be brave and always be candid!

People want to hear the truth even if it may hurt to do so.


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

Are You a Leader?

The day-to-day chaos, wars, crimes, and 9-11 events brought focus on the timeless relationship between leadership and service. Leadership is not about having the biggest house, the latest technology, the most friends, the most power, or the most political connections. Leadership is about serving people in whatever situation life may thrust upon us.

What excuse can we have not to serve? Service is what brings happiness and fulfilment.

Please take a moment to ponder… Service is the very core of our being… our very essence… like wetness from water… or heat from fire… service is that essence you can never separate from the soul… To serve is to live a life of a human.


Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd

Are You Managing Perception?

I believe perception management is very much misunderstood in our company and is used negatively so much that it has lost its meaning.

I would like to shed some light on perception management in today’s Gems of Wisdom, as I have understood it by attending one of the TRUTH APPLICATION PROGRAMME SESSIONS (TAPs) conducted by Dato’ Vijay Eswaran, who has taught me to manage perception from the very outset of our partnership.

Firstly let me give you a definition of leadership as follows:
“Leadership development is the expansion of a person’s capacity to be effective in leadership roles and processes. Leadership roles and processes are those that enable groups of people to work together in productive and meaningful ways.”

We are all leaders to one degree or another. What sets great leaders apart is their ability to ‘manage perception’. What people observe or assess as your ability to be a leader and your effectiveness becomes their perception, which in turn becomes reality.

Perceptions that are not managed become rumours, then gossips and backbiting, which leads to destruction. Unmanaged perceptions become a reality that was not intended. Perception management requires asking questions and getting feedback from others.

Most leaders typically do not receive feedback very often and, in many cases, when given it is usually not in the most constructive manner. However, effective feedback provides information that lets you know how you are doing. It involves giving and receiving, reinforces the changes you are making, and encourages you to continue. It is balanced and positive as well as constructive and corrective. It assumes that everyone is not out to get you. It recognises that each person is doing his or her best and that although each one of us is unique, we all have a great deal in common.

Most of us know that we need feedback but are unsure how to get it or use it.

In one of the TAPs leadership trainings that I have attended, a format was presented using a process which I will call Assessment, Challenge and Support (ACS).

In the assessment phase you seek feedback from others. You look for people who are able to observe your behaviour and have an interest in your effectiveness; people who are able to speak to you directly, honestly and specifically.

Once you have received feedback, it is important to take time to reflect on your experiences and evaluate the content of what was shared.

During the challenge stage, we are reminded that challenging experiences stretch us and foster the development of new abilities. They force us to move out of our comfort zone and help us acquire skills and abilities that may have seemed beyond our current reality.

Mechanisms that provide a supportive environment include encouragement, advice, growth and acceptance. These help to create an atmosphere in which learning and growing are valued. They open people up to new learning possibilities and enable them to handle the challenges of development. It is critical to maintain positive viewpoints and the motivation to develop.

These three areas combined – Assessment, Challenge and Support – add up to growth and development.

The goal of the TAPS process is to allow people to focus their attention and efforts on learning. The benefit of receiving feedback is an increased understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses and we are able to confer this benefit on others by giving feedback.

I can personally attest to the benefits of perception management. This is what we do best during our TAPs that I still conduct for our IRs and leaders in the field.

Your friend,

Joseph Bismark
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd