Leadership and Business Trait
A study on Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hashim
AMGROUP MALAYSIA CHAIRMAN
Scholars had defined leadership as “interpersonal influence, exercised in
situations and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of
a specified goal or goals” (Tannenbaum, Weschler & Massarik, 1961, p.24).
Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an
objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and
coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying their leadership attributes, such
as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills.
In Malaysia, during the early years of 1980s, almost all prominent leaders in
corporate success are more like the entrepreneur type. These managers are namely
Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong and Tan Sri Inrathdas Jethanand who
only had a basic education. However in this 21st century, globalization present a new
challenge to the corporate leadership whereby we can see the leaders in today‟s
corporate world who are highly educated such as Tan Sri T Ananda Krishnan of Maxis
Berhad, who is a MBA graduate and once an accountant, Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman
Hashim of AmCorp Group Berhad.
This paper tries to explore the contributions of the Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim
as a corporate leader, his leadership qualities and his approaches to the organizations
‘THE MAN HIMSELF’
YBHG TAN SRI DATO' AZMAN HASHIM
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim is well known as a corporate figure. Born July
1939 in Kuala Lumpur, he is one of the richest people in Malaysia and his net worth is
estimated by Forbes to be US$600 million, making him among the richest person in
His professional experience began in Perth, Australia where he was employed
by Messrs O.L. Haines & Co (Chartered Accountants) from 1955-1960. In 1960, he
returned to serve with Bank Negara Malaysia until May 1964 when he left to start his
own accountancy practice of Azman & Co which later grew into a partnership, Azman
Wong Salleh & Co (Chartered Accountants). He then joined the Board of Malayan
Banking Berhad in 1966 to 1980. He was appointed Executive Chairman of Kwong Yik
Bank Berhad in 1980 till 1982 when he became Chairman of the AmBank Group until
Currently, Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim is Executive Chairman of Amcorp
Group Berhad and Chairman of several subsidiaries of the AmBank Group and also
AMDB Berhad. Known for his perseverance and intelligence, Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman
Hashim is the man who vastly contributed towards the economic development of
Malaysia and stands amongst the high esteemed and successful people of Malaysia.
3.0 LEADERSHIP QUALITIES
Bass (1989) theory of leadership states that there are three basic ways to
explain how people become leaders. The first two explain the leadership development
for a small number of people. These theories are:
1) Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles.
2) A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which
brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person.
3) People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills.
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim leadership development can be traced back to
his early childhood and career. His success in life can perhaps be attributed to the
discipline and wisdom imparted to him by his parents, a father who was a strict
disciplinarian and a mother, a school teacher who later became headmistress of the
Kampung Baru Girls‟ School. In 1954, he sat for the Senior Cambridge Examination
and obtained a first grade. He had wanted to pursue medicine but was offered
accountancy instead on a Colombo Plan Scholarship which took him to Australia from
1955 to 1960. His intelligence and perseverance were proven when he became a
Chartered Accountant and Chartered Secretary before the age of 21.
Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim began his early career as a Chartered
Accountant in Messrs. OL Haines & Co., Australia, in 1955 before returning home in
1960 to serve in the Central Bank of Malaysia. He left the Central Bank in 1964 to set
up his own accounting firm. In the year 1966, Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim joined the
Board of Malayan Banking Berhad and from 1971-1980 he served there as an
Executive Director. In the year 1980, he was appointed as the Executive Chairman of
Kwong Yik Bank Berhad. He served there till 1982 and then joined the AmBank Group
and presently, he is the Executive Chairman of the Amcorp Group Berhad and also the
chairman of its various subsidiaries.
In corporate circles, Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim has been known to be a
conservative and shrewd businessman. He is known as very straight but sharp. He
also has a strong mind and is both an entrepreneur and a corporate man.‟ Described
as „a good man to work with‟ by his associates, he is said to be free of „shady stuff‟.
Tan Sri Dato' Azman believes in doing business in its true sense; not just juggling
numbers on paper.‟ He always believes any form of capabilities can make a different.
As Executive Chairman or Amcorp Group Berhad, he still holds that view of building
and expanding through lateral growth, which is quite distinct from corporate
maneuvering. Nevertheless, he agrees that good corporate moves are an essential
part of business expansion.
Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim acknowledged that the two most important
ingredients for the success of a good corporation are good leadership, and sound and
enlightened management. He really believes that no matter how effective a corporate
strategic plan is, without these two elements, it will be extremely difficult to realize the
plan. And even if it‟s realised, it will wither away in time. In a competitive business
environment, a CEO‟s ability to sustain the business is critical to the survival of a
corporation. Associates close to Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim say he is able to do both
– to create and sustain. All the training he had at Azman, Wong, Salleh & Co had
provided him with the nose for business and the staying power to carry it through.
Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim is basically „seconded‟ to provide the „sharper
eye‟ for business. His contribution as CEO of „troubled‟ Malayan Banking Group in
1970, by introducing computerizes banking system was regarded as brilliant and
brave. However, he declines to be regarded as a „corporate doctor‟. And he maintains
that he is not cut out for politics. A UMNO member for almost 35 years, the furthest he
went was as a treasurer of UMNO Selangor in 1970.
4.0 LEADERSHIP STYLE AND APPROACHES
A lot of the nation‟s leaders have been discussing the importance of leadership
style and approaches in this changing times and the knowledge economy on how to
respond to the changing environment and workforce as these changes have significant
impact on the roles of leaders and the new skills that need to be used by the leaders
(Van Leeuwen, 2003).
Leadership development is one of the elements that are crucial to identify the
learning needs and create development plan for the employees and managers. A
leader must be able to manage changes and support employees as they move to the
new roles whilst holding more responsibilities. In exercising the leadership, a leader
must be able to respect other‟s ideas, provide acknowledgement and encouragement
in innovation. Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim sees that the new world and the new era of
business pattern require a new way of working
According to Van Leeuwen, (2003). This applies not only to the workers but the
same to the managers or leaders to bear in mind that it is the time to develop new
competencies to sustain in leading the followers in a changing and challenging
environment. It is significant to delve into leadership behavior and effectiveness as the
expected outcome from an effective leadership does not only impact businesses or
organizations and stakeholders‟ satisfaction, it will also eventually lead to a proper
nation and community development (Strang, 2005).
We can see the exemplary leadership that Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim has
demonstrated by transforming and leading Malayan Banking Berhad in 1970s to
become one of the successful bank in South East Asia and now AmBank Group
Berhad to the advancement and achievement.
Today, Malaysian corporate leaders are facing the challenges in both training
and development. The market is in the scarcity of good managers and professionals.
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim has demonstrated with globalization, there must a
paradigm shift where the business leader has to be creative, innovative and promoted
idea sharing. Any leader in an organization will have to practice leadership style and
approaches, best suit the current development, changes and challenges in the 21st
5.0 EVOLVING APPROACHES OF LEADERSHIP-
TAN SRI DATO’ AZMAN HASHIM
Many factors influence the success of an organization's leader. Skills,
opportunity, temperament and intelligence all play a part (Kouzes & Posner, 1987).
Here are some of the characteristics that distinguished the successes from the failures
a) Successful leaders must model management behavior to their immediate
subordinates, and from there throughout the organization. Double standards
are unhealthy and so the way a leader wants his or her managers and
supervisors to behave has to be the way the leader behaves.
b) Successful leaders clearly communicate specific performance expectations to
their immediate subordinates.
c) The best leaders don't tolerate incompetence anywhere in their organizations.
They hold people accountable for the expected performance.
d) Top leaders see that procedures are in place so that direction of the work force
is systematic, orderly, managed and not left to chance. By using them, the
leader can positively influence how all people in the organization behave and
e) Successful leaders are not lazy -- they always work hard. A proactive leader
can improve the probability of organizational success, whereas a laissez-faire
approach is likely to cause the organization's demise.
f) Successful leaders know when to make decisions and they avoid excessive
consensus and compromise. Poor leaders tend to avoid decisions if the
consequences might upset someone: they defer the responsibility for tough
decisions to others.
g) Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education,
training, and experience. Good leaders are continually working and studying to
improve their leadership skills and style.
In the studies of Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim‟s leadership style and
approaches, we can first started from the very beginning of the Great Man Approach
The Great Man Approach was the earliest theory of leadership. It was a study
based on the traits inherited and special features that a leader possesses. “It is a
leadership approach that sought to identify the inherited traits leaders possessed that
distinguished them from people who were not leaders.” (Draft, 2005). In the case of
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim, the theory of leadership was then expanded to study the
personality, motives, values and his skills as a leader. The common traits, qualities,
characteristics and skills required that have been identified are in the aspect of his
sociability, initiative, persistence, knowing how to get things done, self confidence,
alertness to situations, cooperativeness popularity, adaptability and verbal facility.
There are two aspects in this approach. The first aspect was looking at the Tan
Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim‟s responsibilities and abilities in carrying the tasks, coping
with constraints and conflict as in 1980an economic downturn and managing the
heavily debted Taiping Textiles Berhad and Arab-Malaysia Development Bank. He has
to think the unthinkable approaches at that time by renting the Arab-Malaysian
Development Bank Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur for RM1.50 sq compare to the
normal rate of RM5.00 plus 3 month free rent. Quality control, cost effective measures
and tendency to get thing done quickly but thoroughly are among his famous traits.
Charismatic leadership attributes to how a leader uses his or her influence to
inspire and motivate their followers to sacrifice their personal interest towards the
vision (Yukl, 2006; Draft, 2005). Picture 1 below clearly shown the relation between
effective leader and his follower, which is depending on situation influential. As a
charismatic leader, Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim has a great emotional impact on the
followers. As the leader he has the ability to communicate and express his vision /idea
clearly so that the his followers are willing to take the risk just to abide to what the
leader has inspired them to follow.
In 1997 economic slowdown, he almost lost everything through a plan set by
the government to absorb Arab Malaysian Bank Berhad under the management of
Affin Holding Group. He not only managed to convinced the government not to went
ahead with the Central Bank merger program, but also taking the advantage of
increase his stake by initiating the formation of merger between . MBf Finance and
Arab-Malaysian Finance Berhad, into what is known today as „The Red Bank‟, Ambank
Group Berhad. In 2005, AmBank Group has become the fifth largest commercial bank-
finance company in Malaysia with a total asset of 45 billion and 164 branches
FACTORS OF LEADERSHIP
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim can be considered as a participative leadership.
He is not only involved in banking, but also expanding his interest in real estate and
investment. He believes, a leader must be able to maintain a good reputation of an
organization not only on the profit margin made, how much of the sales target being
met but how ethical an organization can carry out its operation and maintain
transparent business records.
These efforts can been best seen through his direct involvement in major
corporate organization, government initiate entity and NGOs such as Malaysian
South-South Corporation Berhad, MCM Technologies Berhad, Perbadanan
Pembangunan Multimedia Sdn Berhad, Persatuan Bank- Bank Saudagar Malaysia,
Perbadanan Pengeluaran Negara, Pasific Basin Economic Council Malaysia, Yayasan
Persatuan Perubatan Malaysia, Malaysian-British dan Malaysia-China Business
Council, Asean-Japan Business Meeting, Malaysian Investment Banking Association,
National Productivity Corporation, Malaysia-British Business Council, Malaysia-China
Business Council, International Advisory Panel, Bank Negara Malaysia, International
Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), International Advisory Panel,World
Islamic Economic Forum and Leader of the ASEAN-Japanese Business Meeting
(Malaysia Committee, Keizai Doyukai).
In achieving the great leadership , it is common to a successful leaders such as
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim to be able to challenge the process by finding a process
that he believe needs to be improved the most. On the same time, inspire a shared
vision and share his vision in words that can be understood by all
Tan Sri Dato‟ Azman Hashim is a great man. He not only enables others to act
by giving them the tools and methods to solve the problem but also model the way.
When the process gets tough, he gets his hands dirty.
There could be many definitions of leadership as well as many ways to
measure leadership effectiveness. However, the essence of leadership is actually a
process of influence between a leader and an organization moving towards a common
goal. Therefore, along the way or process to the path, “mutual understanding between
the leader and the organization about the specific behaviors and professional practices
that are associated with exemplary leadership is an essential component of effective
leadership. Tan Sri Dato' Azman Hashim has contributed greatly to the corporate
activity in Malaysia through his strong commitment in work, vast experience and sheer
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