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7 Questions on Leadership with Marciano Li-A-Young

Name: Marciano Li-A-Young

Title: Founder / CEO

Organisation: OTNV

Certified Executive & Business Coach | Managing Partner at OTNV.

OTNV (Organizational Transformers NV) is Suriname's leading management consulting company with extensive experience with organizational culture change based on developing and increasing accountability in organizations.

Experienced entrepreneur, business developer, trainer and coach. Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner.

As an entrepreneur I've set up various businesses, now consolidated under Dii Lucrii Holding.

The group consists of subsidiaries in Retail & Trade, Freight Forwarding, Offshore Oil & Gas, Logistical Services and IT in Suriname and Guyana.

As a seasoned trainer, consultant and coach I am certified by the Ken Blanchard company, the John Maxwell Team and Partners in Leadership. My portfolio of tools to support executives in their growth include SLII, DiSC, Accountability Builder, Leadership Builder and various online and face-to-face management simulation games.

Throughout my career I have conducted training-programs and delivered keynotes over 50 times in more than 20 countries worldwide.

What I share with my audience is not just the stories we find in books and manuals, but also the wargame on how to fail and succeed - stories from personal experience as an investor, business leader, trainer, coach.

My personal mission statement:

"To live a life dedicated to becoming better by helping others to become better, while having and sharing fun."

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Marciano's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

"One of the most challenging aspects of leadership for me has been finding and maintaining a delicate balance—keeping both myself and my team motivated, while also ensuring that we all have a healthy life-work balance. I purposely say 'life-work balance' instead of the common 'work-life balance' because I firmly believe that life should always take precedence. Our well-being, passions, and personal growth are paramount, and work should complement these aspects of our lives, not overshadow them. As a leader, it's essential to foster an environment where the team feels supported in this belief and can thrive both professionally and personally. While saying this, I must confess this is not always easy, and that is where the challenge lies.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

From a young age, I felt a pull towards leadership, always eager to help and guide those around me. This started at school where I chaired student representation bodies. My first corporate leadership role was in 2004 as a Sales Manager at an import-distribution firm. Here, I helmed a team of sales reps, together chasing targets and backing each other up. My leadership journey then took me through diverse roles in various companies, some of which I started myself, and also in non-profits at both local and global level. For me, leadership was never about the title; it was about building bonds, achieving collective goals, and nurturing a team spirit.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I start my day with a 40-80 minute workout, depending on the schedule set by my workout app. This routine began in January 2023 as part of my resolution to prioritize my well-being and health. After a refreshing shower, I check my emails and handle any immediate tasks. Unless I have meetings or client engagements, I then head to the office. There, my day involves work and team interactions. I've adopted intermittent fasting since January, so my first meal is around 1 p.m.

Once my office hours wrap up, I take some time to relax at home. The evenings might involve meetings, seminars, classes, activities with social organizations I'm part of, or finishing pending work. Sleep is vital for me, so I aim for 6-7 hours, usually turning in by midnight and waking up at 7.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Starting 2023, I committed to focusing more on my well-being, both physically through workouts and mentally by ensuring adequate rest. This personal journey reminded me of a crucial leadership lesson: as leaders, we often prioritize our team and tasks, sometimes overlooking our own needs. However, investing time in personal health and wellness not only benefits oneself but indirectly improves our leadership. When I feel my best, I'm more present, patient, and productive, fostering a more positive environment for my team. Additionally, leading by example in the realm of self-care encourages my team to prioritize their well-being, leading to increased overall productivity and morale.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

As a voracious reader who delves into 15-20 books a year, pinpointing just one that has shaped my leadership is a challenge. However, John Maxwell's "The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth" truly resonates with me. This book underscores the significance of continuous personal and professional growth, which aligns with my leadership philosophy. Maxwell's insights have helped me cultivate an environment that encourages both individual and collective growth within my team.

Another cornerstone in my reading list is "Influence" by Robert Cialdini. I revisit this book almost every year, as it offers invaluable insights into the art and science of persuasion. Cialdini's principles not only aid in understanding human behavior but also emphasize the importance of influencing others in a positive, ethical manner. This book has equipped me with the tools to inspire, motivate, and lead my team more effectively, ensuring that I guide them with both empathy and purpose.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

One advice I would want to give is to always prioritize the well-being and growth of both you and your team. Leadership isn't just about guiding others; it's about continuous self-improvement and fostering an environment where everyone thrives. As I've learned, investing in your health, well-being, and continuous learning not only benefits you but also enhances your effectiveness as a leader. Encourage your team to do the same. Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination, and it's the collective growth and shared successes along the way that truly matter.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One of the most memorable moments from my leadership journey dates back to my time as a Sales Manager at an import and distribution company. It was about something other than hitting a significant sales target or securing a massive deal. During a team meeting, one of my sales reps stood up and urged everyone to work towards our sales goals—not just for the company or personal achievements but to ensure I, as their manager, received the recognition and approval from our director. This was a testament to the bond we had built. This moment underscored the idea that leadership goes beyond just guiding a team to meet objectives. True leadership is about building relationships, fostering trust, and creating an environment where team members genuinely care for each other's successes and well-being. It was a reminder that the best leaders don't just lead teams; they inspire loyalty and camaraderie.

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