Impact: What are the most important acts of leadership for you?
Mark: I pride myself on standing up for what I believe is right and being authentic whilst doing so. I am always very clear about having shared values as a team, and that we must stand by those values whatever happens.
When differences in values and related views arise – and there have been times during my career when this has happened with peers or other leaders – it is important to stay strong to your position. Being a leader calls for action to be taken and you need to lead by example through these challenging occasions. It is also critical to have robust and open conversations, ensuring you listen to and understand the needs and reasons that lie behind a dispute. This allows us to create a solution that meets all of our espoused needs, and for the team to stand firm and build a positive brand image upon the high quality, care and standards of the solutions we deliver.
At the same time, it’s about personal integrity: your own brand image and values are what people will see and remember about you long after your time in any organisation.
Impact: What’s special about Munich Re in how you develop talent in your region as well as from a global perspective?
Mark: At Munich Re, we are extremely inclusive and forward thinking. Innovation is key to the way that we approach talent development. Every solution is customised to meet the aspirations of the individual person – based on where they currently are in their professional and personal lives – whilst also being mapped toward the needs of the wider team.
Given that we are operating in a relatively risk-averse environment, some of the offerings at Munich Re have been extremely innovative and comprehensive. Beyond the basic offering to map daily needs, a selection of our top talents are given access to some of the best business schools in the world as part of our corporate offering. Others are also provided with highly customised individual offerings in the space of executive education, as well as exposure and job rotations. There is never a ‘one size fits all’. In one of our latest reiterations of a high-potential programme, which we designed around the themes of leadership, change and innovation, we had the pleasure of hearing two regional CEOs speak about how they manage innovation and disruption, and lead changes in their industry to keep pace and stay ahead of their competitors. We look at theory, but we also explore how talents can apply this to our workplace with real, live sharing!
Impact: How would you describe your personal leadership style?
Mark: As a leader, I am inclusive of every team member. I strive to be clear about objectives and end goals and I set high standards. The team does not operate based on hierarchies – everyone in my team is an expert in their own field and is fully responsible for their inputs and actions. I am ultimately accountable for deliverables, but I would always allow my team members to take direct credit for the work they do. Team members who have worked with me before would describe me as authentic, transparent and (hopefully) inclusive!
Impact: What do you think is essential in building leadership across an organisation in the 21st century?
Mark: I believe that all good leaders need a strong and unwavering sense of integrity – do and say what you own. Similarly, authenticity is key to building trust. Be open and clear about what you and the organisation believe in; be transparent and make sure your people know that there are no hidden agendas.
On the other hand, it is also vital that a leader is willing to be wrong. Retaining a sense of humility and being able to admit when you are wrong will keep you grounded. Being open to learning from others allows you to model a continuous learning approach, encouraging your people to do the same.
Finally, a good leader must be adaptable. In this volatile and unpredictable world, having the ability to modify, flex and adjust yourself and your work to external factors – whilst not losing sight of the end goal – is imperative to organisational and leadership success.
Mark Leong is part of Munich Re’s Regional HR Team. He is the Talent Lead for Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and is based in the Singapore office. Mark brings more than 22 years of diverse HR experience in areas such as organisational development, talent management, and learning and development. He joined Munich RE from UBS, where he held the role of APAC Head of the Leadership Academy. His other previous work experience includes exposure covering the APAC Region in companies such as Marsh and L'Oreal.