5 Most Valuable Life Lessons from Top CEOs

The experience of writing CEO profiles is a humbling one. (Photo credit: Mine)

EXHAUSTED but relieved and elated.  That’s what I really feel right now. It’s perhaps similar to what a mother or father feels after a newly born baby finally in their arms. A gruelling nine months have passed and now it’s time to unwind a bit and celebrate.

With hindsight, I can sense a great deal of passion spilled into the book. My passion, too.

The project was a blast and came to me without any warning. I was recruited as one of the writers because interviewing and writing [and rewriting, if needed] profiles of more than 30 CEOs in several months with tight deadlines was too overwhelming for one or two writers.

Anyway, here is five hugely valuable life lessons  learned from a number of CEOs I interviewed in person.

Courage to move and start anew

It’s a lesson I discovered when I interviewed Mindaugas Trumpaitis, CEO of PT HM Sampoerna Tbk. He admitted that his success is thanks to his family. His parents allowed him to leave their politically turbulent country, Lithuania, for working overseas. He had roamed Latvia, Switzerland, Finland, Mexico and Ecuador and Peru. Now he also explores Indonesia, making a history with the company he is leading.

Reinvention for improvement

Sometimes we have to let go our current career and be daring enough to take risks and ‘jump to another boat’. That’s what Trumpaitis taught me. He worked as a lecturer at Klapeida University for a decade before he made up his mind to enrich his knowledge and insights and reinvent himself as a businessman. Imagine that, from an academician to a business executive. Quite a move, isn’t it?

Making the most of what you have

Another example of this lesson is Rino Donoseputro’s career journey. The leader of Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia said bluntly he never wanted or dreamed of – even the slightest – that he would someday take the helm as a business leader at a bank. What he wished for was a career as a diplomat, traveling from a country to another. A career of banker, therefore, never crossed his mind. But then destiny led him to another path somehow.  He even described himself as a reluctant to passionate banker.

So if you think your dream is unreachable, think again. What you have now is probably what will eventually make you successful. You just have to find a way to be passionate about it. Don’t do the job just because you need the money [though it really matters in fact] or because you want the pride and prestige of being a part of a cool company or workplace.

In Rino’s case, he managed to show his best and impress his then global CEO Mervin Davis in a taxi trip to the international airport one day in 2002. That’s when he knew his life would never be the same again. He was offered by the CEO to move to London, where the bank’s headquarters was located and worked there as a staffer directly working for the global CEO. So never compromise your quality performance even if you think your job is not the best in the world. Strive for the excellence no matter what. Because that’s how you’ll get noticed by the universe.

Integrity

Paulus Sutisna of DBS Bank Indonesia learned a lot about this when the crisis hit his former workplace, Citibank, in 1997-1998. As a banker, he knew and experienced firsthand the bitterness of Asian financial crisis. That was the right time to learn people’s real characters. Some are deceitful, he discovered. They showed no intention to cooperate with his bank and then got away with the loans. “Some looked very rich but after the crisis, they refused to pay and even avoided us,” he recalled the darkest days in his career. However,  very few still had their last shred of dignity, trying to negotiate their loans with him and his bank, and maintaining good relationships even they could escape and disappear if they wanted to. Then he learned his clients’ characters and that proves to be useful later on.

I see this as a good point. Regardless of the industry we work in, integrity is so important and should never be compromised. It’s the last quality that has the greatest significance other than competence and many others. If one has integrity, anything else in him would be appreciated. But once integrity is fading away, any other factors would fail to be taken into account.

Organization

Get involved in an organization so that you can learn a lot about leadership and humans and how to manage them. All these skills are always useful even if you’re living as a hermit in the middle of a jungle.

Iqbal Latanro of Taspen taught me this. He has always wanted to be actively involved in any organizations since his days at elementary school because he knew that way his leadership and communication skills would grow rapidly.

You may find the more complete narrative of these CEOs’ thoughts inside “Indonesia Most Admirable CEOs 2017”. It is now sold at Periplus, Gramedia and Book and Beyond outlets in Indonesia. (*/)

In the Era of Self-Appointed CEOs

Being a CEO or leader has never been this easy like now. You can easily claim you’re a successful person as you wish, merely because you claim yourself to be so on the social media, whether it be your LinkedIn profile, your Instagram or Twitter bio, even on your About.me page.

SILLY!

I’ve seen lots of people like this. They’re great except that they overestimate themselves. I tell you I’m not that good at tolerating this self-bragging attitude and behaviors. Hence, I’m venting here, on my own blog, which is legal but still I need to watch my words so as not to overly offend those who feel they’re part of the group. Here’s my disclaimer: only A LIMITED NUMBER of startup CEOs, NOT ALL OF THEM.

My story went like this. I met with a guy, a future entrepreneur, who claimed to be a CEO of an online business -which is nothing than a parked domain to me- but still works as an employee of an established corporation. And he claimed he is truly experienced in this field, in that sector, in this area, in that niche. Possibly he’s right in some statements, the rest of them? There’s a huge question mark hanging there. He has done A, been in B, as he claimed on the bio page. Also, he poured it all on his LinkedIn profile, crediting also some hard works of his colleagues. It’s so sickening that you feel this person must learn a lesson:appreaciating someone else’s hard work as well.

So much, I don’t want to be such a person. Awful and obnoxious on so many levels. Desperately seeking for attention of head hunters or potential investors or … ? Maybe that’s the way he is.

Too long a preamble, I suppose.

What I’m trying to say is this:Self-deprecating attitude and behaviors are very much welcome, more than the self-bragging ones. No matter how shiny the facade of a building may get, it won’t impress people much when they get into the building only to find crappy interior design and unclassy taste or savage dwellers inside.

Never brag too much. It won’t work anyway.