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The Leader Report

The Leader Report


LLS 101

The Leader Report

Tan Sri Anthony Francis Fernandes (Malaysian)


Personality
In 2001, Anthony Fernandes (better known as Tony Fernandes) took over the littleknown AirAsia which was deep in debt, mortgaged his home and dipped into his life savings,
then started to reform the airline as a short-haul, low-cost airline the first of its kind in Asia.
The firm began with two humble planes in 2001, and by 2012 it had grown to a fleet of 101
airlines (BBC News, 2010; Thomas White International, 2013). This business risk that
Fernandes took was fuelled by his boyhood dream of having cheap air fares so that he could
fly home from London to visit his family in Malaysia during his schools mid-year holidays.
Fernandes conscientiousness shines through in this instance; he worked tirelessly in order to
achieve a childhood dream of his and made AirAsia the success it is today through his sheer
determination.
Fernandes has appeared in his fair share of newspaper articles be it about AirAsia or
his others ventures and he is comfortable about being in the public eye. He also comes off
as an outgoing and energetic individual who is good at socialising and interacting with
people; classic traits of an extrovert. One only needs to watch several interviews featuring
Fernandes to see how open and friendly he is towards the interviewers, answering all the
questions posed to him in a jovial manner even if he may have answered them many times
before (e.g. how and why he started AirAsia).
Leadership Style
Fernandes adopts a democratic approach in leading his organisation and this is clearly
shown by the fact that there is no hierarchy or bureaucracy involved in his office. All his
employees know him as Tony and are free to enter his office should they need to discuss
something or if they require an urgent solution to a matter (Sutha, 2013). The reason
Fernandes employs this tactic is because he believes that the business world these days is
very competitive, and having a rigid bureaucracy may possibly impede the growth of a
business. In addition to the practice of non-hierarchy in the organisation, feedback and
suggestions that serve to further improve the organisation are well received and the

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management even rewards the staff for their outstanding ideas (Kamisan & King, 2013),
which further demonstrates Fernandes willingness to interact with his employees as peers.
Other Factors for Success
The work culture in Fernandes organisation is rather different from others as he
believes in openness and thus he created a working environment that reflects this principle of
his. He wants his employees to let their creative side show and to be passionate about what
they do, and he believes that the way to do it is to inspire them to pursue their passions so that
they may achieve their dreams just like he did (Kamisan & King, 2013). Fernandes also
places a lot of importance on maintaining a good relationship with his staff he says that to
him, "employees come number one, customers come number two. If you have a happy
workforce they'll look after your customers anyway" (as cited in BBC News, 2010). His
focus on the emotional welfare of his employees and his way of treating them as family
makes them feel proud to be part of the team; it is one of the major factors for his
organisations success, because the staff is then motivated to stay with the organisation to
grow with it and achieve greater heights.
Donald J. Trump (Non-Malaysian)
Personality
Donald Trump is an extrovert who is comfortable with being in the limelight and this
can be deduced from his high-profile lifestyle. Trump is not one to let a perceived slight slip,
and has threatened to take or has taken legal action against individuals who have supposedly
misrepresented facts about him or his businesses. One of the better known lawsuits involved
Trump suing Timothy L. OBrien for $5 billion in damages because the latter reported that
the former had a much lower net worth than the former believed he was worth (Cohan, 2013).
The fact that Trump was willing to go through with such a highly-publicised lawsuit in order
to maintain the publics perception of his wealth indicates that he is not one to shy away from
public attention; some may even say that he actively seeks attention through these lawsuits.
Trump can also be thought of as a conscientious person who is thorough in his work
and endeavours to see his projects through. For example, he made numerous calls and wrote

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many letters to the man who was in charge of the land that he wanted to build the Trump
Tower on. It took him nearly three years before he even received a response, and he still had
to sort out issues such as obtaining air rights and having enough space on the site in
accordance to zoning regulations. These challenges had to be overcome before he could start
the construction work on the tower; however, Trump had his sights set on the end goal and
was not so easily deterred. He cleverly negotiated the terms of the deals and managed to
procure the site in the end (Trump & McIver, 2008).
Leadership Style
Trumps participation in the reality show The Apprentice did not garner the support of
his advisors, who thought that it was a huge gamble which would inevitably end badly.
Despite the negative advice, Trump followed his gut instinct and went ahead with the show
which was fortunate, because the show was a success when it premiered. Looking at this
scenario and how Trump made his decision in the end, there is no doubt that he leans towards
authoritarian leadership. He may value the input by his trusted advisors, but in the end he
would use his discretion to make the final decision. In Trumps own words, I often tell
people that I listen to everyone, but the decision will ultimately be mine (Trump & McIver,
2008, p.11). However, he does practice democracy to a certain extent as he hears people out,
even if he doesnt agree with them or take their advice in the end. When faced with a difficult
decision, he would confer with his advisors and ask for their opinion until he gets a gut
instinct about the matter (Trump & McIver, 2008) and only then will he make his decision.
Other Factors for Success
One of the main factors for Trumps success as an entrepreneur is his passion for what
he does. He was on unfamiliar territory when he first made the decision to build his own golf
course there was so much for him to learn. He could have stuck with the tried and tested
ventures; however, he chose to branch out into a new area simply because he loved the game
and wanted to create spectacular courses to play on (Trump & McIver, 2007, p.15). Trump
faced many obstacles in his bid to build his first golf course in Palm Beach, which included

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moving more than three million cubic yards of dirt, bringing in thousands of trees, relocating
60 gopher tortoises and spending almost $3 million to construct the water feature for one hole
(Trump & McIver, 2008). Even after realising that his original estimate of $40 million might
possibly be too modest and the cost of the project was going to be very much over his initial
budget, Trump soldiered on, driven by his passion for the game and dream to build a golf
course of his own.
Reflection
Reading up on the stories and experiences of Tony Fernandes and Donald Trump has
made me realise the importance of a good leader in order for an organisation to be successful.
In my opinion, one crucial trait that a leader must possess is conscientiousness, as the leader
needs to constantly have the bigger picture in mind and keep his followers on track while
working on a project. Leaders must also have a burning passion for what they do and believe
in their ventures, as this will give them the strength and motivation to carry on even when the
future seems bleak. I feel that if people are passionate enough about a cause, there will be no
obstacles large enough that will be able to hinder them; they would be willing to move
heaven and earth (in Trumps case, he did literally move earth when he moved the three
million cubic yards of dirt for his golf course) to achieve their goals. If you are passionate
about your endeavours, it will be reflected back to you in your end resultovercoming
tremendous obstacles is all in a days work if you love what youre doing. Remember that
(Trump & McIver, 2008, p.61).
Fernandes is more of a people-oriented leader who encourages participation from his
followers in the form of feedback and suggestions, whereas Trump is more task-oriented,
dealing with situations in a no-nonsense manner. I feel that Trumps leadership style has its
own merits as sometimes in an emergency situation, problems need to be sorted out quickly
and there is no time for long discussions. A task-oriented leader who can keep their calm and
make snap decisions would be good for the team in this instance as the team members may
not know how to respond in such cases, and might need someone to tell them exactly what to

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do. Unfortunately, this does not encourage employees to think for themselves and make their
own decisions. In contrast, a people-oriented leader such as Fernandes who is considerate and
respects the ideas and feelings of his subordinates would be able to inspire his employees and
bring out the passion and courage for them to chase their dreams. However, both Fernandes
and Trump are not wholly democratic or autocratic; they lean a little more towards one
particular style, but both are able to tweak their approach should the need arise. I believe that
this is a mark of a good leader the ability to be flexible and change their usual style
depending on the situation and what needs to be done to solve the problem. This is not about
whether the democratic or autocratic approach is better, but instead is about the leader finding
the right balance between just giving out orders to the followers and encouraging their
participation in the decision-making process.
One thing I find very commendable about Fernandes is his openness and how it is
reflected in the work culture of his organisation. The workspace in his office in Kuala
Lumpur is an open plan workspace there are no walls, doors or barriers of any kind.
Nobody has a room to themselves (Fernandes himself included) and his employees can walk
up to him at any time (Harvey, 2012). I think that this is a great philosophy of management
because it helps to boost integration within the company, therefore fostering good relations
and teamwork among the staff. The best part is that Fernandes leads by example by making
himself accessible to everyone, from errand boys to the senior management. While Trump
may not practice non-hierarchy like Fernandes, he is still well-liked by his employees who
describe him as a strong and fair leader which says a lot about his management style, despite
him coming off as a very strict and no-nonsense leader to the public (Trump & McIver,
2008).
In short, I believe that exceptional leaders are those who are passionate about what
they do. Both Fernandes and Trump are good examples of passion-driven entrepreneurs who
lead their organisations to greater heights because of their tenacity in the face of adversity.

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Also, I feel that it is up to leaders to decide how to balance their concern for people and their
interest in results in order to achieve a style of management which is most effective for a
particular organisation. Most importantly (in my opinion), good leaders should know how to
treat their followers well because they are the key assets the people in an organisation are
an important factor in driving the organisation forward, together with a capable leader at the
helm.

References
Cohan, W. D. (2013). Whats the deal with Donald Trump?. Atlantic Monthly
(10727825), 311(3), 78-86.
Harvey, C. F. (2012). Tony Fernandes dream the impossible Retrieved from
http://www.chrisfharvey.com/2012/11/tony-fernandes-dream-the-impossible/
Hope, K. (2010, November 1). How AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes' dream came true. BBC
News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11647205.
Kamisan, P., & King, B. (2013). Transactional and transformational leadership: A
comparative study of the difference between Tony Fernandes (Airasia) and Idris Jala
(Malaysia Airlines) leadership styles from 2005-2009. International Journal of
Business & Management, 8(24), 107-116. doi: 10.5539/ijbm.v8n24p107
Sutha, P. (2013, February 26). Tony Fernandes interview on Nation Channel [Video file].
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeMgNKzzZT4
Thomas White International. (2013). Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia & founder of Tune
Group. Retrieved from http://www.thomaswhite.com/global-perspectives/tonyfernandes/.
Trump, D., & McIver, M. (2007). Trump 101: The way to success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley
& Sons.
Trump, D., & McIver, M. (2008). Trump never give up: How I turned my biggest challenges
into success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.