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Tun Dr. Mahathir Outlines How to be a Good Leader on MTB.TV

Tun Dr. Mahathir was dubbed the ‘father of modernisation’ during his time in office

When Tun Dr. Mahathir took the reins of government in Malaysia in 1981, he was the first Prime Minister not to have been educated in Britain. Whether this played any part in his very unique leadership style is debatable, but one thing is indisputable: during his tenor as PM Tun Dr. Mahathir changed the global perception of Malaysia.

Throughout his 22-year tenure in office, Tun Dr. Mahathir was credited with a number of key leadership decisions. He survived leadership contests, splits in UMNO, and challenges from the Islamic Party (PAS). Yet through his term as PM, the Barisan National (a coalition dominated by Mahathir's UMNO) sustained an overwhelming majority in the federal parliament as a result of successive electoral victories.

Tun Dr. Mahathir was dubbed the ‘father of modernisation’ during his time in office, a moniker recognising his commitment to transforming Malaysia from a perceived third-world country into something altogether different. “I travelled a lot and I [didn’t] see why Malaysia should look any different from the developed countries that I [had] visited,” Tun Dr. Mahathir told MeetTheBoss.tv in an exclusive interview.

Indeed, when Tun Dr. Mahathir took office, there was more than just an ailing infrastructure to focus on. “[First I had] to create jobs for people, then [to] look for other things that [would] be consistent with the ideal of a developed country.

“[To be a developed country] you need to have the necessary infrastructure first. We need[ed] to have electricity supply, water supply, roads, bridges, railways, ports, etc. So the focus was on infrastructure.”

Bringing Malaysian infrastructure up-to-date helped bring Tun Dr. Mahathir to the forefront of voters’ minds; what cemented it was his commissioning of the Petronas Towers, the largest buildings in the world between 1998 to 2004.

“I used to say that when you are short to be noticed you stand on a soap box. So for me the Petronas Towers are my soap box, because then I can be tall and be seen. So you have to do something that is out of the ordinary so that people will notice you. When I started as Prime Minister, Malaysia was quite unknown. People [kept] on asking, “Where is that? Where is that?” So in order to be noticed we [had] to do certain things that will strike people as something radical and unexpected.”

The Petronas Towers certainly struck a chord across the globe; not only has the project been an overwhelming success from a business perspective, but it has captured the imagination of Hollywood, and been included in movies like the 1999 blockbuster Entrapment.

But it needn’t have been so successful, and indeed Tun Dr. Mahathir freely accepts that his leadership success was about research and taking calculated risks.

“It takes a long time before you can really get things running smoothly. So unless you have deep pockets you shouldn’t try to go into things that you really do not have enough knowledge about. But this is a government entity and it’s the government’s policy to introduce industries, heaving industries. We know we took a risk. There have been failures among the projects but there have also been successes.”

Tun Dr. Mahathir has always had a good relationship with the media, another aspect he attributes to good leadership. Under his tenure he initiated Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia, a government designated zone, designed to leapfrog Malaysia into the information and knowledge age. As part of the initiative the government aims to attract top companies to Malaysia, in exchange for certain concessions. It was through MSC that Tun Dr. Mahathir spoke to MeetTheBoss.TV.

Excited about the future release of MeetTheBoss TV Asia, the Malaysian government approval committee awarded GDS International with the MSC status. GDS International was granted the prestigious Pioneer Status that has been granted for the maximum period of five years, with the opportunity to extend the status again in the future.

“GDS International is an exciting new company with innovative products and unique online offerings made them a perfect candidate for MSC Malaysia status. We are thrilled GDS have chosen Kuala Lumpur as their Asian headquarters and we welcome our new partnership” – Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, CEO of Multimedia Development Corporation, the government implementation agency to drive the MSC Malaysia vision said.

Since retiring from office in 2003, Tun Dr. Mahathir still imparts leadership advice and is now a serving advisor to Malaysian national oil company Petronas and the Malaysian national car company Proton, and heads the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

More Stories By John Funnell

John Funnell has worked in online media for over ten years, after achieving his First Class BSC Hons Degree (BBC Sponsored), John won Bos 18-21 Princess Trust Entrepeneur of the year at 21, setting up Clean Living Records Ltd (including www.BeatReview.com) with great success having many acts that charted in Europe and Canada. After selling the business John looked for a new challenge and joined GDS International, having a successful career in sales and Delegate acquisition, he worked up to Event Director EMEA, forging contacts with some of the biggest technology names in the world, this lead to John having a lead role in the creation of MeettheBoss.com and MeettheBoss.tv – the worlds largest business IPTV channel. John then took over as Marketing and Communications Director and ran a multifaceted global Marketing team for GDS International in New York, Sydney, Kuala Lumper and the UK.. John joined Global in 2011 with the challenge of supporting its growth by developing a solid Marketing foundation through various Digital, PR and brand initiatives.