On the meaning of leadership
When asked to define ethical leadership, Dr Sultan Mohamed broke it up into its components. “You don’t have to be in a corporation to be a leader. We are leaders in many aspects of our lives. So you are a perpetual leader,” he said. “And ethics is part and parcel of you as a human being.” He clearly believes that ethical leadership cannot be separated from one’s conduct in daily life and confined to only the workplace. “Ethical leadership is internal governance and guidance, for external applications,” explained Dr Mohamed.
On putting ethical leadership in action
Indeed, Dr Mohamed has been guided by very strong ethical considerations regardless of the area of business he has been involved in. Since leaving the Department of Business Administration in the former University of Singapore in Business Administration, he has amassed a wealth of experience in various fields. These include advertising with Bensons/O&M, merchant banking with Baring Brothers, and healthcare with the Pantai Hospitals Group, and others. He has worked with big corporations such as the Berjaya Group, PBSM Merchant Bankers (now CIMB), and provided consulting services for the World Bank.
And whatever the business, the basics of ethical leadership has remained constant for Dr Mohamed. He says that “a person who is a leader should be aware of what is right and wrong, and have the latitude to do things for the benefit of the company and society.” His drive to benefit society led him to set up Melorita Consultants in 1977. Running his own company allowed him to practice ethical leadership to the full extent of his beliefs, guided by his own conscience and not the corporate ambitions of others.
On integrating ethical leadership into business
Melorita Consultants quickly became a global leader in healthcare recruitment for the Middle East. Dr Mohamed attributes this success to the ethical guiding principles of the company for, as he says, “my colleagues share my ideas and passion.”
Melorita deals in Human Resources, which according to Dr Mohamed, is the ultimate of all resources. “In business, you are talking about bringing resources together, and human resource is central to any organization. Human resource is a life, a soul, it it special and cannot be treated as any other resources.” Yet, he points out that “the recruitment industry, and especially one dealing with the recruitment of women, is filled with a lot of unscrupulous and unethical practices that make it hard for candidates to distinguish between genuine professional organizations and bogus operators.” So Melorita has become distinctive through several groundbreaking ethical practices.
On advocating ethical leadership in the early days
In the 1970s, when it was still a fledgling company and marks of Western colonialism were still apparent in many cultures, Melorita fought for Asian healthcare professionals to be paid “Western Status” salaries in the Middle East. It could hardly have been a popular stance nor a very profitable one, for Melorita could have most clients interested only in the bottomline. But instead, it prevailed and has since improved the status and lifestyles of thousands of people who found jobs through the company. It convinced employers that well-qualified professionals form Asia deserved to be paid accordingly.
Cuts Both Ways:
On client accountability amid ethical leadership
Even as Melorita acts in the best interests of professionals looking for work, it also ensures that its clients, the employers, are not shortchanged.The professionals placed by Melorita must live up to the high standards and qualifications demanded. To that end, Melorita initiated the Asia Pacific Healthcare Academy in 2006 to provide continuing education through programs conducted by medical professional from ASEAN, Middle East, USA, Canada, UK and Australia.
Thus Melorita believes in being fair to both ends of the spectrum it serves – employees and employers. It does that by taking the time to understand the needs and requirements of its clients, so as to provide them staff the with suitable experience, qualifications and right fit within the culture and country. That is why Dr Mohamed maintains that “Melorita will continue to use its time-tested human relationship with every candidate and client while using technology only as a tool for operational efficiency.” The human touch is important so Dr Mohamed does not believe in relying on e-recruitment.
Growing on Quality:
On the effects of ethical leadership
So in a world where growing market share is the mainstay of businesses, and large order books the measure of it, Dr Mohamed is content to take it slow and steady instead. “I used to do consultancy work. I would always put my personal stamp on my work, which must be consistently good and well executed; otherwise standards and my reputation and integrity would be affected. I’m the same today. If I am too busy to maintain my standards in any particular area I am working in, I will stop. I am a stickler for standards. Because of that, I limit my own growth. I don’t go after too many things.”
But even so, Melorita has grown despite the competitive business arena today. Although it concentrated exclusively on the healthcare industry in its first 25 years, it has now added other sectors such as Oil & Gas, Telecommunications, Construction, Engineering, Finance, IT and Travel to its portfolio. Some universal truths simply cannot be denied, the foremost being “you can’t keep a good man – or company – down”. Especially if its tagline says “While you care for others, Melorita cares for You.” Such ethical leadership practices, when sincerely applied, are bound to yield positive results.