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7 Questions on Leadership with Simon Yam

Name: Simon Yam

Title: Director of Strategy and Operations

Organisation: Internet Brands

Starting my career as a junior analyst, I've navigated a spectrum of corporate environments, from major Fortune 500 companies to agile startups. Advancing from an entry-level analyst to a directorial role, my primary focus has been on leveraging strategic insights to guide C-suite executives.

I've been instrumental in driving initiatives crucial for maintaining company relevance and adapting to market changes. This includes leading responses to unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that our strategies continually evolve, and keeping the companies I've worked with at the forefront of their industries.

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a leader, I've humbly learned that balancing the long-term vision with immediate demands is one of the most demanding aspects of my role. Finding that delicate balance between fostering innovation and staying true to our organization's core values has been an ongoing challenge.

Moreover, making tough decisions, even when they may not be popular, is a necessary step for the organization's long-term well-being. In my journey as a leader, I've come to appreciate the need for this delicate equilibrium, striving to promote growth and innovation while upholding the stability and integrity of the company.

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

I began my career as a junior analyst, equipped with a modest intellect and an unwavering work ethic. I was constantly in pursuit of learning, which became a cornerstone of my professional journey.

A significant portion of my career was dedicated to corporate strategy, affording me the privilege of working alongside the executive team to make critical decisions in finance, product development, business operations, marketing, and other key strategic areas.

Simultaneously, I collaborated closely with stakeholders from various departments, actively contributing to essential initiatives. My commitment to continuous learning, combined with a track record of achieving significant business results, paved the way for my ascent to the role of a director.

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

My workdays were structured with an early morning routine that included exercise, meditation, and email management. Mornings were dedicated to strategic meetings and decision-making, both internally and with external partners. Afternoons encompassed strategic work, creative thinking, analytical tasks, and research and development.

Effective delegation allowed me to focus on high-level decisions, and evenings were spent with family, occasionally catching up on emails. A bedtime routine ensured adequate rest, maintaining a work-life balance.

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

In my recent leadership journey, I've relearned the importance of effective task delegation and team unity. Regardless of individual strengths, sustained success relies on cohesive teamwork. Strategic task delegation aligning team strengths with organizational goals enhances productivity.

Providing clear guidance, regular feedback, and support fosters efficiency and individual growth, leading to superior and lasting business outcomes. Cultivating a positive work environment through open communication, empathetic recognition, and trust-building inspires team members and drives productivity, innovation, and overall excellence. These principles emphasize the irreplaceable value of teamwork for enduring success.

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?

One book that significantly influenced my leadership style is "Leading Up" by Michael Useem. It changed my approach to leadership by emphasizing the importance of taking initiative and building relationships, regardless of one's position within an organization. This perspective shift has enabled me to be a more effective leader, understanding that leadership is not limited to a title but rather a mindset and skill set that can drive positive change from any level.

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

For any aspiring young leader, here's a crucial piece of advice: Maintain unwavering focus on your goals and put in the relentless effort needed to attain them. Success often demands a resolute commitment, tireless dedication, and a willingness to invest the hard work required to turn your aspirations into achievements.

Stay steadfast in pursuing your vision, exhibit resilience when encountering obstacles, and consistently aim for excellence. On your leadership path, your dedication to your objectives and your work ethic will serve as your most valuable companions.

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

Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of leading in both corporate giants and startup ventures, each demanding a distinct set of skills. In the corporate world, leadership meant navigating established frameworks with agility and a keen sense of adaptation. Conversely, in startups, it involved building foundations from scratch, embracing uncertainty, and a perpetual hunger for learning.

These experiences have taught me that effective leadership requires a delicate balance between tradition and innovation, structure and flexibility, and a relentless commitment to growth, transcending the specific environment and demanding adaptability, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

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