Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fawzi koofi - one of the icon of women human rights in afgan

Yesterday went to fawzi koofi talk At the arts house. The reason that prompted me to go was the fighting spirit of hers -

She spoke about her reason of 'fighting' - its for the basic rights of women. For the current generation of women. For the future generation of women. For the transformation. For change.

She also shared : To us, the violence against them could be seen as a form of silencing. However on a positive note, it could be also seen as a victory where the violence happens because their voice has been heard and the taliban is now fearful of their influence. And this helps to exemplify their cause and give strength to women, giving them a greater voice.

Next she shared about the culture of men in her country. In family. - the issue of family violence. Due to religion teaching and also them under the Taliban ruling they have grown up under the trend of conservatism where they have the misconception to protect the women they need to make sure they understand the rules, listen eg wear the burqa so it will tempt others hence the importance of them having power and control. And they do it by violence. By using fear. By not supporting the women's education - forbidding them to go to school ; to drive etc 

Why education?  "stop education, you will kill a nation" if you kill individuals, you won't. Think about north korea. Lack of knowledge will keep their people in. 

Then of course we touched on the topic of politics where she is planning to run for presidential election in 2014 and the issues they are looking into and preparing. Where will happen when the unites states withdraw their troops from afgan in 2014? Will power struggle create chaos? How will the people react under uncertainty? For the current generation, how can one use social media to facilitate transparency with the elections and promises by politicians? 

Joining her was also another upcoming women politician

For this event, we were able to 'dwell' in the justice chambers which seemed like an apt place for the conversation. As a women in Singapore, I never felt strongly about inequality about women and men and hence women issues never struck a strong chord within me.
However hearing from her, made me realize indeed out there in the world, such division does exist. And they have to fight even for a very small basic right that we all take for granted living in a developed world. Though many say glass ceilings exist, which I personally don't really agree because I believe strongly its a choice, lets remember at least we have our basic rights given to us.

Also reminded me of the old days where people drown girls because they want a male.
Reminded me of my literature text " Sing to the Dawn"

Wishing both of them all the best.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1st Adventure race after graduation ( which was many years ago) ffwwwiigghhtting

Heard me ranting about wanting to join an Adventure race? I finally did it. Last Saturday. And I nearly died. Bruises everywhere is my mark of victory.

Ace adventure 2013. (21.09.2013) We were kept in suspense on the disciplines. And we told to just report with our bikes, harness and other equipment at botanical park at 730am. And the night before I had a meeting that lasted till 1am - and the excitement caused me to roll in bed for quite sometime- and when my alarm rang at 530am - I groaned!

Made sure my bikes were fully pumped and my equipments all in check. I made my way to botanical gardens.

Us full of energy and pumped.
At 830am we waiting in front of the big countdown clock,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1..... And off we go!
First leg being running. And boy was it a long run of all terrains. All the way from botanical gardens to macritchie reservoir.
I think it was close to 12km. (I felt so sorry to my teammates but I had to speed walk at multiple parts of the running journey as my heartrate was racing and I did not have my music to calm me down and pace me - making me fully aware of my heart beating hard against my chest)

And in the middle of it all, they made us climb that never-ending stairs at the Jelutong Tower.

With all competitive adventure races, there are always pacers and navigators in a team. Here's one way of helping one another in runs.

Second leg of the race was biking off road. Totally my thing. But the worse thing happened. I ran out of water and the water points ran out of water too. And under that hot sun. And heat emanating from the ground. And muddy paths. I'm glad I made it to the point by stopping the other cyclist along the way and asking for a sip of water from their water bag! Dehydration!

At this pit stop 4?point telok blangah ? Bus terminal, nearly shouted hallelujah that when I saw it was a water point. Drank my fill. ( I really can't imagine those countries in drought and during heat waves). And we made our way to the nearby hdb block park that needed us to climb many many steps up to Hort park? Area. My legs were jelly by then.

Finishing pit stop 5? Went back to pit stop 4 to do the biathlon. Now. 2 persons have to run and 1 cycle. Still under that crazy hot sun.

And at pit stop 6 we cycle all the way back to pit stop 3 and beyond to find some old bridge and small path ( which had many of us lost) and we finally appeared at some quarry after getting lost in some forest. 

The sad thing was by the time we completed these and made out way for pit stop 7 and 8 for the abseiling etc the station had already closed. We missed it by 20 minutes. It was such a sad and disappointing feeling since we rushed and tried to reach that point afte buying all the equipments.

But anyway a pat on my back. Good job! Till the next adventure race. 

Us after close to 9 hours of adventure racing.
Dirty. Tired. But satisfying.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thank you Aung San Suu Kyi for the insightful leadership sharing

Yesterday was  a well-spent day. Leadership sharing by Aung San Suu Kyi reminded me alot of what I have experienced before and what I still have to learn about.
Her model of leadership focus I would say to be " Servant Leadership" which would be most practical for politicians but as someone working in the private industry, I think some parts would also work right with us.

Here's a video if you would like to hear what she said

A summary of my take-away :)
1. Management is successful when you can inspire / reach others to follow your lead. You need the support of your people. So you can 'protect' them and they can 'protect' you.
2. For one to be a leader, It's important to know how to be a follower
3. 3 words - Believe. Commitment.Conviction (Determined to get to the end of the road)
4. Leaders inspire people to a unity
5. Determination and commitment to serve not just to lead
6. Courage in humility - admit when you are wrong. Be Transparent.
7. Stewardship is based on acceptance. Inclusiveness.

Though putting it in words is easy, doing is indeed a bit of an headache. How do you inspire others? Fulfill the need of the people who are willing to be lead by you.
Help them see what they are doing is beneficial and for them to believe in themselves 
Respect them
Value them
Professionalism (Teamwork) - making it possible for people to work together 

An insight that struck a deep chord in me was when she described how many people in leadership positions now sees a team being given to them as a responsibility because in their mind, they have a sense of superiority and thinks of them having to train people rather than focusing on teamwork. They are unable to believe that people can help and not as a liability.

And most importantly, success can only be achieved with the willing support of the people - one need to be convinced willingly.

Next, she went on talking about vision. Most leaders know where the final destination /goal is but how do you convey it to your people. The solution is actually very simple yet we do not do it at many a times. Vision is knowing where you want to go to and explain to them why you want to go where you want to get to - and It's not just where but also how to get there together as a team.

But of course, as we all know, man's heart are every changing and politics among one another always happen despite trying to make an environment not be, so when that happens, Leaders sometimes have to make "hard" choices which are the ones best for the country or the project at hand.
In this form of leadership though, she reminds one must be prepared to win some and lose some.  One must have reasoning and a belief that is solid enough for people to follow you in the long run.  Its either you want to do the right thing which is important to you or does winning the election? What matters to you is what others also can see and feel.

In management, your goal is to bridge the gap between how the leader thinks and the way the people thinks. - leadership means accepting that your decisions might be unpopular that might cause you to lose the next elections but if it's what you believe in people will understand if you explain with them clearly what you are trying to do as equals

An example she gave was her own experience in having to widen roads and thus have to take away the poor farmers land. 
Her solution: Sit down and talk. Be transparent. Hear people's ideas. She explained to them that this needs to be done to help improve the roads and the nation transportation , tell them clearly the width that was needed to be taken from them and let them know the compensation they will get.Then she asked them how they felt about it.
The farmers were understanding and told them they did not need compensation and that this small portion of land taken away is still manageable for them.

Was their magic in the solution? No. It was a simple reasoning - Treat others how you want to be treated - Consult them first before the decision is done for it shows you remembers and respect them. 

Some sideline issues that were mentioned in the speech which were interesting.
(a) A struggling point for many foreigners who have gone overseas for better opportunities.
Should I go back to my country to help or further advance my own life?
Her answer: There is no answer to this. Its a personal decision and it has nothing wrong. Some decides to take more while some decides to give more. It doesn't matter when but she hopes people will somehow still help alongside to grow this 'young' nation that has just gotten its sprouts - Myanmar/Burma.
(b) Touched on the point of violence happening now from religion and race. 
What causes this fear?
Her answer: Fear comes from insecurity. - it can be physical or emotional - if its physical rules of law must come in place to diminish the fear if its emotional, its builds from family and the environment and surroundings must bring across the right message and upbringing.

Interesting perspective on leadership styles that I found online
Adapting Your Approach to Leadership 
In business, a leadership style called "transformational leadership" is often the most effective approach to use. Transformational leaders have integrity, they inspire people with a shared vision of the future, they set clear goals, they motivate people towards these goals, they manage delivery, and they communicate well with their teams. However, leadership is not "one size fits all" thing; often, you must adapt your style to fit a situation or a specific group. 

1. Autocratic Leadership 
Autocratic leadership is an extreme form of transactional leadership, where leaders have a lot of power over their people. Staff and team members have little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team's or the organization's best interest. The benefit of autocratic leadership is that it's incredibly efficient. Decisions are made quickly, and work gets done efficiently. The downside is that most people resent being treated this way. Therefore, autocratic leadership can often lead to high levels of absenteeism and high staff turnover. However, the style can be effective for some routine and unskilled jobs: in these situations, the advantages of control may outweigh the disadvantages. Autocratic leadership is often best used in crises, when decisions must be made quickly and without dissent. For instance, the military often uses an autocratic leadership style; top commanders are responsible for quickly making complex decisions, which allows troops to focus their attention and energy on performing their allotted tasks and missions. 

2. Bureaucratic Leadership 
Bureaucratic leaders work "by the book." They follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their people follow procedures precisely. The downside of this leadership style is that it's ineffective in teams and organizations that rely on flexibility, creativity, or innovation. Much of the time, bureaucratic leaders achieve their position because of their ability to conform to and uphold rules, not because of their qualifications or expertise. This can cause resentment when team members don't value their expertise or advice. This is an appropriate leadership style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights) or where large sums of money are involved. Bureaucratic leadership is also useful in organizations where employees do routine tasks (as in manufacturing).
3. Charismatic Leadership 
A charismatic leadership style can resemble transformational leadership because these leaders inspire enthusiasm in their teams and are energetic in motivating others to move forward. This ability to create excitement and commitment is an enormous benefit. The difference between charismatic leaders and transformational leaders lies in their intention. Transformational leaders want to transform their teams and organizations. Charismatic leaders are often focused on themselves, and may not want to change anything. The downside to charismatic leaders is that they can believe more in themselves than in their teams. This can create the risk that a project or even an entire organization might collapse if the leader leaves. A charismatic leader might believe that she can do no wrong, even when others are warning her about the path she's on; and this feeling of invincibility can ruin a team or an organization. Also, in the followers' eyes, success is directly connected to the presence of the charismatic leader. As such, charismatic leadership carries great responsibility, and it needs a long-term commitment from the leader. 
4. Democratic/Participative Leadership
Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and team members are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. There are many benefits of democratic leadership. Team members tend to have high job satisfaction and are productive because they're more involved in decisions. This style also helps develop people's skills. Team members feel in control of their destiny, so they're motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward. Because participation takes time, this approach can slow decision-making, but the result is often good. The approach can be most suitable when working as a team is essential, and when quality is more important than efficiency or productivity. The downside of democratic leadership is that it can often hinder situations where speed or efficiency is essential. For instance, during a crisis, a team can waste valuable time gathering people's input. Another downside is that some team members might not have the knowledge or expertise to provide high quality input

5. Laissez-Faire Leadership 
This French phrase means "leave it be," and it describes leaders who allow their people to work on their own. This type of leadership can also occur naturally, when managers don't have sufficient control over their work and their people. Laissez-faire leaders may give their teams complete freedom to do their work and set their own deadlines. They provide team support with resources and advice, if needed, but otherwise don't get involved. This leadership style can be effective if the leader monitors performance and gives feedback to team members regularly. It is most likely to be effective when individual team members are experienced, skilled, self-starters. The main benefit of laissez-faire leadership is that giving team members so much autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction and increased productivity. The downside is that it can be damaging if team members don't manage their time well or if they don't have the knowledge, skills, or motivation to do their work effectively. 

6. People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership 
With people-oriented leadership, leaders are totally focused on organizing, supporting, and developing the people on their teams. This is a participatory style and tends to encourage good teamwork and creative collaboration. This is the opposite of task-oriented leadership. People-oriented leaders treat everyone on the team equally. They're friendly and approachable, they pay attention to the welfare of everyone in the group, and they make themselves available whenever team members need help or advice. The benefit of this leadership style is that people-oriented leaders create teams that everyone wants to be part of. Team members are often more productive and willing to take risks, because they know that the leader will provide support if they need it. The downside is that some leaders can take this approach too far; they may put the development of their team above tasks or project directives. 

7. Servant Leadership 
This term, created by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, describes a leader often not formally recognized as such. When someone at any level within an organization leads simply by meeting the needs of the team, he or she can be described as a "servant leader." Servant leaders often lead by example. They have high integrity and lead with generosity. In many ways, servant leadership is a form of democratic leadership because the whole team tends to be involved in decision making. However, servant leaders often "lead from behind," preferring to stay out of the limelight and letting their team accept recognition for their hard work. Supporters of the servant leadership model suggest that it's a good way to move ahead in a world where values are increasingly important, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values, ideals, and ethics. This is an approach that can help to create a positive corporate culture and can lead to high morale among team members. However, other people believe that in competitive leadership situations, people who practice servant leadership can find themselves left behind by leaders using other leadership styles. This leadership style also takes time to apply correctly: it's ill-suited in situations where you have to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines. Although you can use servant leadership in many situations, it's often most practical in politics, or in positions where leaders are elected to serve a team, committee, organization, or community. 

8. Task-Oriented Leadership 
Task-oriented leaders focus only on getting the job done and can be autocratic. They actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, and plan, organize, and monitor work. These leaders also perform other key tasks, such as creating and maintaining standards for performance. The benefit of task-oriented leadership is that it ensures that deadlines are met, and it's especially useful for team members who don't manage their time well. However, because task-oriented leaders don't tend to think much about their team's well-being, this approach can suffer many of the flaws of autocratic leadership, including causing motivation and retention problems.

9. Transactional Leadership 
 This leadership style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. The "transaction" usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance. The leader has a right to "punish" team members if their work doesn't meet an appropriate standard. Although this might sound controlling and paternalistic, transactional leadership offers some benefits. For one, this leadership style clarifies everyone's roles and responsibilities. Another benefit is that, because transactional leadership judges team members on performance, people who are ambitious or who are motivated by external rewards – including compensation – often thrive. The downside of this leadership style is that team members can do little to improve their job satisfaction. It can feel stifling, and it can lead to high staff turnover. Transactional leadership is really a type of management, not a true leadership style, because the focus is on short-term tasks. It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work. However, it can be effective in other situations. 

10. Transformational Leadership 
Transformation leadership is often the best leadership style to use in business situations. Transformational leaders are inspiring because they expect the best from everyone on their team as well as themselves. This leads to high productivity and engagement from everyone in their team. The downside of transformational leadership is that while the leader's enthusiasm is passed onto the team, he or she can need to be supported by "detail people." That's why, in many organizations, both transactional and transformational leadership styles are useful. Transactional leaders (or managers) ensure that routine work is done reliably, while transformational leaders look after initiatives that add new value.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prison run 2013 - tugged my heart

Today I struggled to wake up to make it for prison run. I have been wanting to do this run since 3 years back but each time after signing up had to forgo it due to either traveling or appointment reasons.

Why specifically this run? Many who knows me have heard me talk to them numerous time about 2 points.

1.Encouraging them to become foster parents for the children whose parents are in jail
2. Provide employment to the ex-convicts 

Fostering children to some may be a fearful matter because they are afraid of the attachment they might feel for the children and after they leave might be painful for them. Or for some they are worried they do not have the ability to take care and guide these children in providing an environment with love. 

We are all not perfect.our parents have scolded us in anger and we at times as parents or even children have retaliate back. But it's the awareness and acknowledgement that will bring healing and also understanding for the children you foster. Because you have gone through those stages of childhood too. And what these children needs is primarily a hug and reminder to know they are not alone in this world.

If fostering is too big a step for you, help them in their education.

2. For employment, I have heard many stories about the difficulty to do so. Because they have to report back for urine test etc and also for some to cause some problems at the companies. But! If you hire 10 and 9 go wrong - you have saved 1 and that will help his/her generations down the road! And most importantly, it's human nature to look at them with judgement - im sure they understand - so don't feel bad when things go wrong - you have already done wonders by giving them this opportunity to integrate back Into the society. But as I tell many of my Friends who are potential employers, when you hire them be fair. Treat them like normal employees. Give them the fair salary as the rest. Give them the job as the rest. Be that support they need in integration.

Along the route

Touching sights

A group that leads blind runners!
I'm so glad they came to support this cause too. Because I believe they understand the struggles themselves. Yet they push through. Determined and never giving up. Thats the attitude.

"Life may seem hard. But after the rain there's always the rainbow. Spend some time to appreciate the rainbow rather than look at the wet ground and lament about it"

Companies along the route that came out in force to support both runners and cause

Up slope, push push PUSH





As I run past the signs of women prison score and many others, I prayed for forgiveness in their hearts too. Prayed for love. Prayed for faith. Pray.

Crossing the 10km, I made a promise that I'll walk alongside them.


To further let the public understand what the convicts or ex-convicts were going through I am glad that they put in some effort and thinking cap for the activities.

So you must be thinking what can you do to help this group of community?

For companies,

For us as an individual,

Each of us can help them integrate better into the society!

 Ex-convicts who have managed to climb out from the 'shadows' and is actively contributing back to this support.

Give them a chance. Don't talk about others. I'm talking to YOU.

Give them a chance

To not walk down this road themselves

But together with everyone as one unity


So they will not end up here again.


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