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Leadership Lessons: In conversation with Shirley Crystal Chua

The founder and CEO of Golden Equator Shirley Crystal Chua shares the lessons she’s learned in business, while driving a Ferrari Roma.

This is the second article in the Leadership Lessons series.


Leading a business during Covid-19

“Almost every business out there is affected by the pandemic and ours is no different. Our events- and space-related businesses were badly hit. But I took the time to reflect on a deeper level. Golden Equator isn’t a young business but we are also not decades old. We’re at that special growth stage now. In the past seven years or so, we accomplished things that have brought us to where we are now but in order to grow to the next stage, a lot of things need to change.”

“One of the key things is understanding how to change and improve our structure and better utilise our resources. Who are the new generation of leaders who we need in our business so that we can grow to the next stage? What do we need for the next decade? These are some of the thoughts that keep me up at night.”

Servant leadership

“To me, leadership is about serving others. And leaders are not just born. You can be born with expectations, like a prince or a monarch. But that doesn’t mean you’re a natural leader. To me, leadership can be cultivated and a person needs to accumulate qualities and experience to become a good leader. There are many kinds of leadership qualities: charisma, confidence, vision, the mettle to get things done.”

“I always encourage my people to be a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern or the chairman. You’ll always have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership.”

“Being a good leader means that people are willing to listen to and follow you. You cannot be a leader if no one believes in your philosophy or vision. A leader needs to be able to effectively lead people toward a common goal.”

“People always say that I’m a visionary. But if I were to describe myself, I would say I’m a leader with empathy in a hard-ass corporate world. I think empathy is important. Being able to empathise means being able to understand and to stay connected. When you understand a person or a situation better, you can lead better.”

(Related: How a simple trishaw ride taught investment banker Keith Magnus about life and leadership)

Shirley Crystal Chua shooting the breeze with The Peak's editor-in-chief.

Shirley Crystal Chua shooting the breeze with The Peak’s editor-in-chief.

Keep the passion burning

“I think passion is a lofty word. We may think we are passionate about something but when we finally get down to it, we realise we are not. Everyone is passionate about different things at different points in their lives.”

“In order to keep that fire going, you must be doing something that you think you will enjoy doing and then you get good at it. Once you get good at it, you will be passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, but not good at it, you will lose that fire.”

(Related: How having hobbies and passion figure into success)

The Ferrari Roma heading out.

The Ferrari Roma heading out.

A dream brand

“I grew up admiring Ferrari. I’ve always imagined the brand to be the brand and the car. It’s a legacy. When I drive the Roma though, I can see an elegant blend of legacy and modernity. As an entrepreneur, it’s strange but it gives me a lot of comfort and confidence at the same time.”