INsight/ Listening Out Loud

Manila, 14 December 2016 — Fahmi Hidayat leads a team of R&D specialists who manage water services for clients in five river basins in Java and Sumatera islands in Indonesia. 

Recently I sat down with Fahmi in his home town of Malang, East Java, close to the head office of his company Perum Jasa Tirta 1, a leading state-owned corporation that manages several river basins in the country. 

Knowing that he travels widely inside and outside Indonesia for his work, and has taken the Water Leadership Programme of the International WaterCentre in Brisbane, I asked him about his leadership style. 

"Early in my career I discovered the need for boundary-spanning leadership. We need to create direction, alignment and commitment among clients, partners and stakeholders, across many kinds of boundaries. Otherwise we could not achieve results."

What leadership skills has he applied in his projects?

"What has helped me personally was to build on my personal values, using transformational leadership behaviors in working with the stakeholders, and my social networking and team leadership skills. Using these abilities and skills, I learned how to create a good relationship, cooperation and communication with the project stakeholders and team members, and build a competent team with a shared vision for the project."

Going further, I asked him how he supports Gen Y leaders in his team. And I was surprised by his answer, in which he shared several unconventional leadership practices.

First, he explained that he spends most of his time listening to his team members, rather than talking to them.

"When I listen, I learn from what they think and do, their approaches, and how they overcome challenges. I gain a lot from that. We live in a fast-changing world, and innovation comes from involving our young professionals and emerging leaders as much as we can."

Second, he shared how he lets his team members speak and make presentations in meetings, workshops and conferences, as often as possible, rather than taking those opportunities himself.

"Our traditional pattern in Asia is for the senior persons in the room to speak first. Often that leaves no time for emerging leaders to speak and engage in a substantive discussion. I like to send my team colleagues to many meetings where they can practice speaking up on behalf of our company. It's my way to build their capacity. We know that one of the best ways for staff to learn is by speaking and teaching. It's an effective way to develop their leadership."

Third, he recounted how he has worked on inspiring and motivating his staff and colleagues by setting a positive example.

"When I had a chance to take a course in the Netherlands, I shared photos with my staff to inspire and motivate them find their own opportunities to study in Europe. Now, I am excited that one of my staff won an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study at four different universities in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia for her masters degree. I am so proud of her achievement."

Fahmi Hidayat leads by examples that are worth following, with his unconventional ways of building his staff's capacity. 

Innovation comes from involving our young professionals and emerging leaders as much as we can.
— Fahmi Hidayat

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