Asian Executive Presence: Evangeline Leong
Having determination and passion is good for success, but it is not enough to build a presence for yourself. One person who understands this all too well is CEO and founder of Kobe Global Technologies, Evangeline Leong.
Armed with just an idea to bring a transparent and authentic model of marketing to social media platforms, Evangeline went on to put together an 11-man power team that now manages 4,000 influencers. Read what she has to say about leadership and presence...
1. How do you view the role of a leader?
My concept of leadership is about being the supportive role – to bring out the best in my team.
I subscribe to the servant leadership style. Hire not the best, but the most relevant to what you need. Place the right people at the right spots and help the team see where they excel best at and help them work on where they can improve. Remove the roadblocks, so it’s easier for them. And guide them in the right direction without being overly spoon-feeding.
I make sure great performers get the best they deserve concerning opportunities, training, value and remuneration. This means that when my team performs, I will have to pay them more. However, I also can sleep well knowing that my business is well taken care of. And I’ll choose ‘sleep’ over ‘eating’ anytime!
Leadership is also the ability to set the team in an aligned vision and direction – where everyone knows where we’re heading, are motivated to run together, and the executive leaves no one behind in the race.
2. What does having a “presence” mean for you?
We all know how to be determined, passionate and more. However, I think the most important trait in having a presence is to be authentic.
To me, authenticity is not about being sincere, honest or straightforward. It is about being vulnerable to who you are; and who you are not.
Being vulnerable to your weaknesses; and being confident, rather than arrogant, about your strengths gives you authenticity. And that translates to a strong sense of faith in the leader by the team.
For example, my strengths are in an extended experience in digital marketing, and my weakness is in the lack of understanding of influencers’ needs.
If despite this, I claim that I can understand influencers’ needs well, it would put me under undue pressure. I might end up in a nervous breakdown, and hence lose my poise in situations where I have to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of this area. Others would lose confidence in me, which then diminishes my executive presence.
I would instead acknowledge this weakness of mine in the team.
I have since had found a partner that is entrenched in the influencer space who does this much better than me. She understands influencers to the blood and bones, loves what she does.
It is a win-win outcome for the company. Sometimes, being vulnerable to what you don’t have brings magical returns. Unfortunately, too often, people are unwilling to let loose. I also try to add value to my team and the digital marketing community by offering training and sharing my in-depth knowledge and experiences. This allows me to harness the full potential of my strengths for the benefit of others.
3. Did you tap into any Asian wisdom, values or traditions in building your presence?
Absolutely! From the company name Kobe (口碑) you can tell how much I’m into Asian origins and Chinese culture. My business philosophies are inspired from many Chinese cultural books such as 孙子兵法(Sun Tzu Bing Fa, Art of War) and 三國演義(San Guo Yan Yi, Romance of the Three Kingdoms).
Here are just a few of the Chinese values I subscribe to:
借力打力(Jie Li Da Li) –This is about leveraging on the strengths of others. In a business context, I think of it as the art of collaboration, borrowing of energy for combined forces. This was my inspiration in coming up with a partner programme for Kobe.
以柔制刚(Yi Rou Zhi Gang) – This is about the art of not going head-on with competitors, but being able to use the gentlest force to win over the market silently. I welcome competitions as this would mean that the industry is attractive. However, I would not place much emphasis on competitors. My focus is on the industry trends, businesses and influencers’ behaviours.
以退为进(Yi Tui Wei Jing) – This means slowing down to speed up. I always believe smart is knowing what to do, but wise is knowing when to do what to do. As mentioned earlier, I hire the most relevant but not the best. This may not seem like the best business decision to make, but I believe this will bring me more significant benefits in the long run. Once I mould my team into what they can do best, I feel like I have achieved a sense of accomplishment, both personal and for my company.
卧薪尝胆(Wo Xin Chang Dan) – This means one has to be able to suffer hardship patiently to attain great successes. When I started Kobe, we did not have any investors to back us up. With only a team of 3 people, we work hard to push the company forward. The effort paid off, and Kobe achieved 1.3M sales in the first year of operation. And for the second year of operation, I am aiming for an even higher standard.
疑人不用，用人不疑(Yi Ren Bu Yong, Yong Ren Bu Yi) –This is my philosophy in leadership and management. It teaches me to recruit people that you have faith in –and giving them full ownership after that. After all, employees who feel valued in the workplace often work and play the hardest.
4. What was your moment of greatest fulfilment so far?
My greatest fulfilment so far is to be able to build a business with influence. We have 4,000 influencers who can provide a total of 25 million outreach. And this makes the company with the largest number of influencers in Singapore. We were also the first in the industry to use Artificial Intelligence technology.
5. What advise you would give to an entrepreneur aspiring to build his/her presence?
“Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless.”
Set your eyes on the stars, and put your feet on the ground. Set a vision that excites you and has the discipline to work and achieve your vision. Review your vision and have the discipline to put in the work. It is a never-ending process.
“We have the answers, all the answers; it’s the questions we do not know.”
If you have a business idea or you’re struggling to get your startup kickstarted, congratulations! You have a good idea, and you know an awful lot about your industry. With enough grit, you’ll find the answers. Just make sure you’re asking and working on the right questions the right questions! You will be able to find your way out.
ABOUT ASIAN EXECUTIVE PRESENCE
The Asian Executive Presence is a movement started by Dean Shams to bring an Asian perspective and voice to the topic of developing Executive Presence. The blog features Asian executives, entrepreneurs and leaders who exude presence. They are either hand picked by Dean or nominated by someone.
The interviews are meant to gain a deeper understanding of how these individuals think about leadership and build a strong presence.
You don't have to be a top executive to exude presence. Leadership can be displayed and experienced at any level of the corporate ladder. And the movement celebrates that.
Know someone who exudes presence?
Nominate the individual to be interviewed by clicking here. Yes, you can nominate yourself too.