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What Makes a Good Leader: Case Study of Robert Kuok Hock Nien

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Case Study: Robert Kuok Hock Nien as a Role Model of a Good Leader


Robert Kuok Hock Nien is a Malaysian business magnate and an active investor. Born on 6 October 1953 in Johor Bahru. His father is a Chinese from Fujin. He is the youngest of three brothers. Robert Kuok is a graduate student from Raffles Institution and English College Johor Bahru. According to Robert Kuok, he began herself into work as an office boy and then starts a business with a relative’s support. Upon graduation, Robert Kuok became a collaborator and work as a clerk in a company of rice-trading department of a Japanese industrial conglomerate. Then, he was promoted to lead a rice-trading department.

As we know that Robert Kuok’s family have their own business, so he learned the sthe kills of business world from occupying force to the family business in Johor Bahru. Robert Kuok is a wonderful businessman with diversified interests. He was also recognized as the ‘Sugar King of Asia’ for having 80% of sugar production in Malaysia. Robert Kuok has his own amazing’s story of rising up from poverty and becoming Southeast Asia’s richest person. It also makes inspiration a lot of people to become successful. In achievements, Robert Kuok controlled 80% of the Malaysian sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of world production.

Robert’s philosophy in business also can be summed up into four-word: work hard, work smart. From every young age, Robert has not only learned the value of hard work and diligence, but he also discovered that takes brains to become successful in business life including general life. Robert’s Kuok personality definitely is a humble person. He was among the very first foreign entrepreneurs who did business with Communist China. He prefers to live a simple live and rarely indulges himself in a pleasant life, nor does he love to be in the company of the press. In fact, Robert Kuok is known to be as media-shy.

We choose Robert Kuok as a role model for leadership because he has fulfilled with all aspects of being a successful leader. Robert’s Kuok has an effectiveness of being a leader by using the leadership concept, the concept is seven characteristics of effective leaders, eight competencies of effective leaders, and The Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid. This concept is characteristic of an effective leader’s topic. By using this concept, we can see that Robert Kuok has complied with these characteristics in order to be a good leader. As we can see, now he is a very successful person. In spite of having wealth, Robert Kuok remains to be humble about his accomplishments. He was a very ambitious man. . He tend to be realistic when dealing with work. The key to his success is his bravery in all areas of business plus his honest and loyal workforce. So, we can conclude that Robert Kuok has an effective leader to be inspired by us to be a great leader in the future.

Competencies of Effective Leader


Personality is one of the competencies of effective leadership. What is the meaning of personality? Personality is something we could say a characteristic way of behaving, feeling, and how thinking about the environment. A good personality is very important for every leader because it can embrace moods, attitudes, and opinions and it can be clearly expressed when interacting with people. Besides, the leader of a company must have a good personality because they act as an idol to the employees.

Robert Kuok has a very good personality. Even though he is very rich and being called “the Rich man in Asia” but he is still humble to everybody. He also responsible for everything he do, in 1963 kuok almost bankrupt, because of his responsibility he was able to make it up again and he able to sell his sugar in a good price. Secondly, Robert Kuok is very kind hearted leader who always give bonus for his employees. He know how to appreciate his employees and make them feeling worth to be work with him.

Thirdly, Robert Kuok is good in looking for opportunities who would pick on other’s brain to learn new knowledge and expand it. He also share the knowledge to others, so that everyone can be a good leader and business man too. In a nut shell, Robert Kuok once sponsored for the Asian games but he refused to make it viral. He is not looking for attention from others. He willing to make it in secret.


Next, self-concept is one of the competency of effective leadership. Self-concept? Did you know self-concept is important for being a good leader? First, self-concept is refer to how someone react, thinks about, evaluate or perceive themselves. To make it detail, self-concept is when individual’s belief about themselves. Self-concept is important for a leader to make themselves confidence in their abilities, self-acceptance, not worrying what others think. Besides, this self-concept will be the measurement for a leader to know themselves.

Robert Kuok works faster than his competitor. He believe his competitors faster than he, with that mind set Robert Kuok tried to think further than his competitor to make sure he not left behind. For instant, in 1973 China face a shortage of sugar and money, Chinese high minister secretly asked a favour from Robert Kuok to overcome the problem.

Furthermore, Robert also remind himself and other businessman that everything in business have their own risk, he also said that it is okay if we lost the opportunities if there a better one in future. If you are not strong enough to overcome it the poor will always with you. Robert Kuok keep remind to be brave and believe in ourselves to be a good businessman and a leader to a company.

Knowledge in business

Furthermore, knowledge in business. This is the vital asset for a leader in a company. We can defined that business in knowledge is sum of experiences, skills, capability and expert insight of a leader. Knowledge is very important because its shapes and effects all the activities in our business. As we know Knowledge is very important for us to make sure we never leave at the back. Besides, to be a good leader we need knowledge to run a business, if not we just run the business without getting any profits, benefits and just wait for the bankruptcy.

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Rober Kkuok is very knowledgeable in business, he know how to run a business properly. No wonder he being the high respected businessman in Asia. Robert Kuok belief that success is 90% knowledge and hard work. For an instant, he always get a book to study about business such as demand, supply, production, consumption, export and import. He always good in searching for knowledge to make sure his business always follow the trend and never get cheat with competitor.

Next, Robert Kuok is very intelligent and fluent in English this is one of the advantage for knowing the international language. He could speak English fluently and it able him to go further in business. With the good communication in English Robert kuok believe that he will never left behind from his competitors.

Case Study: The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid

Robert Kuok is well known for his great leadership by his employee and also citizens. Well, the company that he builds for many years will not succeed until now if there is no strong, great and effective leadership that he practiced within his company’s management. As you all know, he already achieved a title as a ‘Sugar King of Asia’ because almost 80% of sugar production in southeast Asia is the products from his company.

In conjunctions with the matter above, we will associate it with one of the most popular managerial grid which is The Blake Mouton Managerial Grid by Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton. This managerial grid is based on two behavioral dimensions which are about the concerns in people and the concerns in results. For the concerns in people, this is literally about how the leader deal with the needs, interest ,and areas of personal development of their team members so the task that was given can be accomplished greatly. However, the concerns in results is more about how the leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency ,and high productivity when deciding the best method to complete any task given.

There are five leadership styles that will describe and only one of them will be chosen as the one that close to the leadership style that sis hown by Robert Kuok within his company. Firstly, Impoverished Management (low results, low people). The leader will exert a minimum effort to get the job done. It only has a little bit of interest in motivating team environment and the result of it will cause dissatisfaction, disharmony ,and inevitably organization. Secondly, Authority Management (high results, low people). This type of management takes their employees’ needs as a second while productivity is a priority. Usually, there will be strict rules, policies, and procedures and usually take punishment as a view to correct their employees’ wrongs. Thirdly. Organization Man Management (medium results, medium people). A so-called ‘status quo’ manager is usually the one that tried their best to balance the results and also people. However, it doesn’t sound as effective as it might be. This is because through continual compromise, the company’s performance will drop so do the needs of the team members cannot be fulfilled. It will cause only mediocre performance. Fourthly, Country Club Management (high people, low results). This leadership style prioritizes their employee’s comfortableness. As long as the employee is happy and secure, they will work hard. However, this work environment tends to make the employee become too relaxed that causes bad effects to the company’s performance. Lastly, Team Management (high results, high people). This management requires their employee to take part in determining the production process. The team manager is also committed to the organization’s goals. This situation will create a trusting and respectful work environment that will be resulting in a good outcome.

Among those leadership styles, the one that suits Robert Kuok the most is Team Management. This is because he was known to be a democratic leader by his employees which mean he want his employee to have the sound to give opinions even though he is the one that will make the last decision. He once said that the biggest responsibility as a leader is to take care of employees. The reason for this is that his philosophy is that said 90% to build a successful business empire is from the hard work and 10% is intellectual. The effort he put in making a contribution to his company makes him become an exemplary leader and motivator toward his employees. The employees also got appropriate percentages for their contribution to the team.

In his company, he uses a narrow span of control. This is good for a business from a big company. This type of organizational control has shown that he requires his employee to deliver the best results because they are being led by a team manager to control a small number of subordinates. It will also be able to motivate the employees to work hard as the opportunities to get promotion and career progression will be secure for those who have the potential to strive more for the company. Both of these show that he prioritized organization goals and also employees’ needs. In addition, this kind of leader that has passionate about his work and does his best for his people is a good example of a leader that should be idolized by communities.

Next, transformational leadership that it focuses on clear communication, goal setting, and employee motivation. Transformational leadership offers something more than self-gain to the follower to work for. The leader also will provide an inspiring mission and vision to the followers to move to another level and transformational leadership is driven by a commitment to organizational objectives. It is because this type of leader spends much time on the big picture, this style is best for teams that can handle many delegated tasks without constant supervision. This shows that every leader must have this kind of style where problems that arise can be solved easily. This can be proven when Robert Kuok solve his business problem where there was a risk in his business where excessive order for 200k tons of sugar. He managed by giving a clear vision to his team for them to work out and solve the problem.


We can conclude that Robert Kuok is a good role model for us. Despite of having a lot of property, he is still a humble person and this attitude is favored by the people around him. By having the characteristics of a good leader and competencies of an effective leader, ‘Sugar King of Asian’ has been a good leader with the success that he has achieved. Despite the many obstacles and was also almost bankrupt in 1963, but he still did not give up on achieving his goals.

He solves those problems with the all knowledge in business that he has. Besides, he reminds us that we should always be up to date with the latest information so that we did not miss out in order to stay on top. He also said that we must be brave to take a risk in business because every business has its own risk. It depends on us to take or leave. He believes that it is okay to get failure in many times but we have to be brave to face the risk.

Robert Kuok shows us how important hard work and intelligence are in business work knowing there are so many competitors out there who are smarter than us. So, we must always be hardworking and work faster with a creative mind to expand our business and make it at the top. Besides, we should always keep the relationship between employees because the employees are the most important people in achieving success. We have to give some motivation to our employees. Sometimes, we as a leader also have to hear any opinions from others because we are not always right. A good leader will lead to a better organization and will make it easy to achieve a goal.

Always open-minded is also the lock of success that Robert Kuok practices in his life. We should not afraid to grab the opportunity and try something new. If it leads us to fail, we will get a new experience which is we learn that and we are not repeating that mistake again.

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What Makes a Good Leader: Case Study of Robert Kuok Hock Nien. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
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