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7 Questions on Leadership with Tan Wang


Name: Tan Wang


Title: Senior Manager Data Strategy


Organisation: ANZ


I enjoy solving problems through thoughtful collaboration and clear communication. The essence of my approach to solving problems both in and out of work is to clearly articulate and understand the problems presented, then to find pragmatic solutions that add value to solving the problem at hand, in iterations. I like to put things in order, and I like a certain amount of organised chaos to challenge my comfort zone. I think most issues can be overcome with clear and carefully considered communication, and nothing is really a deal breaker, there is always something bigger, context is everything!


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


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


Cheers,

Jonno White



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


What is the right thing to do. I think all leaders will start from a position of wanting to do good with the resources and people they have access to, however there isn’t a rule book that clear tells us what is right, what is wrong. In fact, as I progressed in my path as a leader, I have ultimately come to the conclusion that there is no such thing, it’s all contextually what is more appropriate vs what is less appropriate given your specific circumstances. Good leadership is about providing choice for those around you, and everything we end up doing is just that, a choice, there are no ultimatums.


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


I fell into this position by accident, it was a happy accident. When I think back to the beginning of my career, I was very happy being the expert, the SME that everyone came to and relied on because I was good at my technical role. What I found was that the more I demonstrated my ability to perform, to be reliable, the more people turned to me for advice, and followed my guidance. While I had no ‘one’ to lead, I was indirectly leading a small number of individuals through the work I did, and this eventually turned into me being in a position where I was indirectly influencing and leading large teams, even entire business units. It was my desire to do the absolute best at what I did that led me to being in a leadership position, it was never about chasing a leadership role for me.


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


Organised chaos is the best way to describe my day. Being in a strategy role, it’s difficult to predict what surprises can jump out at you over the course of your week or day. I hold a certain few key priorities at the forefront of my mind, and shape my week to try to both react to the changing environment around me, and also make iterative progress towards my goals against my key priorities. This might go against the advice of many but I try not to build ‘list’, I’ve tried it and find that when I do, most of my day become about managing my list, as opposed my work. In order to get the most out of my day, I try to focus on the ‘value’ I need to deliver against my key priorities, and do what is needed across my days to get there. Work comes naturally to me when I have a clearly articulated goal in my mind.


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


An important lesson that I’ve been reminded of recently is to simply just ‘show up’, whether it’s mentally or physically. Sometimes, people become leaders by choice, and other times they become leaders by accident (like I did), but in either case, you have to remember that there are others that rely on your presence and guidance to make progress, you owe it to those people to be there and be available when they need you, even if you’d rather have some ‘quiet’ time to focus on your work. Leaders don’t have the luxury of ‘taking time off’, we must be leaders whenever our people need us to be.


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?


The five dysfunctions of a team. I think every leader should read this book. For me, this really gave me perspectives on what a team means and what it needs to me. You’re never working in isolation, in any environment, especially when you are a leader. Knowing how to approach the concept of teams whether you are managing one or just a part of one is a very important factor to consider as a leader. Reading this book taught me to look at my own team differently, it taught me the importance of trust in a team, and that fostering it well will lead to great accomplishments.


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


Don’t be afraid to fail, you have more to offer than you think, but only if you speak up. Be extremely wary of a perfect career or track record, there is no such thing, we are the culminations of our successes and failures, and more often to not, true success does not happen without a long line of failures before them.


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


What I’ve realised is that the greatest achievement of being leader is not the accolades you build over your career, but instead, it’s how many lives did you manage to change in your time as a leader. Achieving outcomes is part of the job, but when what I really take value from is when someone I’ve led or coached provide feedback on how I’ve managed to help them grow, learn and develop into better people, that really means something. One of my employees recently provided such feedback to my leader, it was heartwarming to hear, and I can see the changes and growth in her abilities over the past 12 months, that’s what’ll always stay with me.

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