Take risk and enjoy the journey!
– by Nguyen Le Thao My, s3373013
Needless to say, ‘Innovation’ is the key word for the era we are living in. People are so worn out with traditional standards and conservative concepts that what they seek from the business owners and services providers are creativity. In order to survive within this harsh marketplace, every leader should question themselves: how to be creative and motivate their employers to ride the company with no old tracks.
I still remember the first time I met her was in a beautiful Sunday morning, she came with her brightest smile and impressive stories which completely change my perception about leadership. That talented woman is Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, founder and soul-captain of the restaurant series: ‘Wrap and Roll’. I was really surprised to know that she used to be Miss Sport Vietnam in 1993. Previously in my mind, a woman with a beauty crown on her head couldn’t do such things like running a business and managing over 300 employees. But just in very early minutes of the interview, I feel so shamed on that thought. Ms. Kim Oanh is undoubtedly an independent and intelligent woman. Without her, the culinary brand ‘Wrap and Roll’ with 12 stores in Vietnam, Singapore and Sydney could not build such a distinctive image to stand out from the crowd of this competing cuisine industry. 30 minute of the conversation about her precious leadership tips and real working experiences are more than what I expect to investigate my favorite topic: Leadership in Creativity Work.
- HONEST and SENSITIVE
“First of all is the honesty between you and your partners”, Ms. Oanh said. In every relationship, the most important thing is the honesty. She believes the best way to respect and become well-cooperated with the employees is trying to be as concise as possible when talking about company’s missions and vision. “I don’t hide anything, my partners are deserved to know everything about the company they are working in – even its threats and challenges”, she confirmed. For example, if the brand’s mission are completely introduced and understood by every worker, they will feel more engaged to the company and eventually contribute their best effort to what they call – ‘their second home’. And when there are any issues which threaten their ‘second home’, company’s problems will become their own problems and they will do anything to save it.
“Being a woman is an advantage for me to run Wrap & Roll because a woman is always sensitive.’’, she continued. “I always keep both my eyes and my heart open for every little details and signs.” Being sensitive helps her to carefully observe and realize the true abilities and weakness of each employee so that she can assign them with the most appropriate working vacancies, even it’s not the same with what they wrote in their CV or their previous jobs. “As long as it helps my worker to make the best of their ability, I’m ready to change.” This flexible working manner is what makes her a transformational leader, who can bring out the best in individuals and encourage them to maximize their creativity. (Redmond, Mumford, & Teach, 1993)
- DYNAMIC vs CONSISTENT
The creativity work could not be done based on shallow understanding about the marketplace. “Never stop researching and updating information about the public you target to.” she emphasized. “If you think that you know your audience so well, then it’s time for you to go out and refresh your data about them.” As long as the world’s trends and the consumer’s habit is changing every second of the day, a good leader will never just sit and wait but try their best to motivate the employee to be as much as dynamic as they can so that they will go out to observe, investigate and come back with the knowledge about what the consumers truly expect from the company. This working style will not only helping the leader to form an appropriate vision but also encouraging his/her workers, who now have deep understanding about the target public, to come up with their own creative ideas and solutions.
Besides, it would be wrong to think that a good leader doesn’t need a certain level of consistence. A leader her/himself should be the first one who has complete understanding and confidence toward the company’s mission and vision. By which, he/she will be able to communicate the message successfully to his/her partners and employees. “If your workers can see the certainty in your eyes when you talking about the company goals, they will fell more inspired and empowered to make it extraordinary.” Ms Oanh asserted.
- TAKE RISK and ENJOY THE RIDE
However, the creative ideas are not always easy to be practiced in real life and it is the leader’s responsibility to choose which one is deserved to give a try and take risk. Unlike other culinary brands, in 2009, Wrap and Roll was the pioneering restaurant series which was operated in foreign countries through the franchise process before the opening of its first store in Ha Noi. Such a risky decision, indeed, but Ms. Oanh conducted it with no hesitation. “The success of this risky move will prove with the market the preeminent quality of Wrap & Roll since the foreign customers are not familiar with Vietnamese traditional food and more selective than domestic client” she explained. “In business, sometimes you should get out of save zone and try walking on venturous path to enrich your creativity.” According to Jaussi & Dionne 2003, the leader’s risky action could empower the co-workers to act beyond the box and prevent from conservative thinking. Indeed, Ms. Oanh has become an unconventional leader and a role model for her partner to follow and stimulate emulation among them.
After all, a comfortable working environment is the last thing that encourages people to work in innovative way. “It’s not final destination that matters, it’s the joyful moments we share with each other that bring success to Wrap & Roll, so enjoy the ride!”
It’s obviously true that not everyone is born with creativity. Creativity is a skill that needs to be practiced, day by day. In order to inspire and motivate people to work innovatively and survive within the marketplace which always seek for renovation, a good leader should combine the values of both transformational and unconventional leader, who may be honest, sensitive, flexible and consistent at the same time but always share one mutual motto: ready to change and take risk. I truly admire Ms Oanh’s practical advice but I believe that in my future career, besides practicing the tip learnt from her experience, I will learn and develop my own leading styles. And maybe someday, I will talk to her again in conference room, like partner to partner.
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Creative Thinking 2012, Workshop Call for Participation, image, viewed 6 September 2013, <http://designthinkingworkshop2011.wordpress.com/>
Jaussi, K & Dionne, S 2003, ‘Leading for creativity: the role of unconventional leader behaviour’,The leadership quarterly, no. 14, pp.475-498
Redmond, R, Mumford, M & Teach J (1993), ‘Putting creativity to work: Leader influences on subordinate creativity, Organizational behavior and Human Decision Process, vol.55, pp.120-151