SL business leaders: Focus on emotional maturity

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



Rough 2017

When the new Government came into power two years back, the private sector was upbeat on the future. But sadly, we see the country losing its competitiveness on exports, tourism and FDIs due to poor policy decisions, corruption at the local end and a sluggish economic environment, not forgetting the environmental calamities the country has been challenged with in the last year. 

Let’s accept it, the country is at a crossroads given that the Government is trying to manage the coalition administration at play and balance the growth agenda via the PPP strategy, which is sadly referred to by some as ‘country up for sale’. This is factually untrue. 


Q1 GDP at 3.8%Untitled-1

In this background the country’s economy grew 3.8% in Q1 registering a GDP value of Rs. 2.161 trillion as against the 2016 number of Rs. 2.082 trillion, resulting in a marginal growth of 3.8%. A point to note is that an island economy like Sri Lanka must register 6% plus GDP growth if a typical housewife is to see the difference in one’s family’s quality of life. 

The mixed contribution was Agriculture at 7%, Industries 30.8% and Services netting in 52.3% whilst subsidies without tax brought in 9.9%. Given the challenges in the Agriculture sector it is a negative growth rate of 3.2% whilst the Industrial sector expanding by 6.3% is positive given that the GSP+ will start further revving growth in the latter part of 2017. 

However, the Construction sector contribution must be removed from the GDP number as it is not tradable in the future and can be termed sunk growth. Some are even speculating a bubble forming in the luxury end which is said to exceed 3,000 condominiums by end 2020; this means new markets will have to be reached. 

The Service sector moving up by only 3.5% is not very encouraging as half the GDP is accounted for by this sector. Given the expansion of the tourism value chain it’s important for this sector to grow by double digits if we are really see a difference to the Sri Lankan economy due to tourism. 

The World Bank is projecting the country’s economy to grow by 4.7% in 2017 and marginally exceed 5.0% growth in the medium term which is not healthy as I mentioned if we don’t grow the economy by 6% plus, the impact will not be felt by the masses. 


Emotional maturity – PPP driven 

In the backdrop of the economic challenges we are up against, the focus is on how corporate Sri Lanka can ride the wave so that we can make Sri Lanka can be a better place in the years to come via the PPP strategy of economic growth. On this front the latest research being released from top global business schools is the ability to be emotionally stronger and not be reliant on just the materialist numbers that get flashed across life.

It is said that those who have emotional strength can withstand the turbulence and achieve success, not as an event but as a journey in the case of Sri Lanka post 2017. The mentally-tough understand that emotions are the drivers of motivation, and hold the awareness of how tough it can be to harness emotion. Emotions can move us in the right direction, providing the emotional strength to handle uncertainty and manage teams to drive growth in challenging times. 


Key traits 

Let me pick up the key traits emotionally strong business leaders possess in the backdrop of a struggling economy and sagging export business which is just 10.3 billion dollars and Sri Lanka setting ambitious goals like 20 billion by 2020. 

The reality is that due to the poor policy and low R&D investment Sri Lanka has only launched seven new products in the last 15 years contributing to a mere $ 0.1 billion in revenue. We have been beaten by nations like Bangladesh, Vietnam and lately Myanmar and very soon even Maldives will start giving Sri Lanka a tough challenge.

Given the above challenges we see that the private sector of Sri Lanka will have to give leadership to keep the economy alive given that almost 78% of the economy is accounted by the private sector. Let me pick up the key traits of emotionally mature people.

1. Approval from others

Emotionally mature people are clear about their own personal value and do not look for others’ approval of what they do. They don’t have an attitude of “you are the best” or “your performance was fantastic”. 

The best case in point in Sri Lanka is that we seldom see the top corporate CEOs of Sri Lanka in the cocktail circuit showcased in newspapers or glossy magazines. They know their priorities, be it going to the gym or spending time with family, and do not have the thirst for social approval.

2. Strong self-awareness

Research shows that emotionally wealthy people have immense inner strength and they are aware of it. They have experienced that the more successful they become, more people become jealous and are filled with envy. Hence, their own inner source of power is identified by them and they control this trait so that their reactions are not aversive to outsiders. 

A sector that has demonstrated this attribute strongly is the IT/BPO sector. They have silently developed the industry to be almost 600 million dollars and it is estimated that the magical one billion target will be achieved in the near future. 

3. They don’t get angry 

People who are above average on their emotional maturity do not waste their time criticising others or blaming others for poor performance. Emotionally wealthy people accept mistakes and look forward. They don’t get bitter, they get better. 

To me the best example is the tourism sector that keeps getting battered even after the end of the 30-year war, the most recent being the 28% tax structure in Budget 2017. But the industry keeps innovating and restructuring to the macro economy. It will sure be a five billion dollar industry for Sri Lanka in the near future. Very mature leadership by the key players.

4. Love what you do

Emotionally wealthy individuals focus on initiatives in life because they love doing it. They are not inclined to slow down, change or stop being who they are just because some people are questioning their thinking. They remain unwaveringly true to their larger purpose. 

To me the best example is the export industry of Sri Lanka. Even without GSP plus the industry reshaped and survived between 2011 and 2017. Today, when the facility has come into play again, the industry will once again refocus to get the benefits. A point to note is that on the 10.3 billion dollar export performance the incremental from EU due to GSP plus will only be around 500-750 million dollars. So we will need a step change to achieve the 20 billion dollar number by 2020.

5. Appreciate yourself first

Those who love themselves first understand who they are. They are not afraid to go on to new challenges and keep venturing out as they are sure of themselves. These extraordinary people believe that all they do in life will be demonstrated through their desired results. They are prepared to hurt today to enjoy the glory tomorrow. 

The agile private sector which kept on believing in Sri Lanka between 2007 and 2009 when the war with the LTTE was at its height is testimony for holding on to see a freer tomorrow. Sri Lanka achieved it but sadly due to poor policy we are losing the game. The Government cannot even give a solution to the raging garbage issue whilst dengue is rampant at 63,000 affected and over 60% of this from the Western Province.

6. They work hard

Emotionally strong people work very hard and bring out real sweat to ride the tough storms in life. They tend to put responsibility before leisure and choose kindness over rightness. 

My pick of the people who have this trait is the tea industry veterans of Sri Lanka. Even with the RPC owners mismanaging the financials and making selfish investments, the seniors are fighting to improve the replanting percentage of tea in the estates and work on maintaining fertiliser application cycles so that the quality of the output can result in a healthier RPC management structure. Whilst the policymakers continue to slip on key decisions like extending the leases to 66-year cycles, focusing on ROI and productivity balance whilst diversifying for financial viability, one group of senior planters continues to work for the bigger picture.

7. Face the reality 

People with a strong emotional state of mind want to know the real truth. They have the courage to face bad news. There are no guessing games with these exceptional people. For instance we know the economy is challenged. Almost 96% of the revenue earned by the Government is used to meet the debt settlement where the loan values are touching $ 60 billion. We have no option but to pursue a PPP approach to getting Sri Lanka out of the debt cycle. Some are saying “Sri Lanka on sale” but so were Spain, Chile and many other countries which have overcome this issue. Emotionally strong people take the mature stance and face this reality. They don’t go on the blame game.

8. Be a corporate athlete

Emotionally wealthy people know the importance of having a health body to have a healthy mind. They understand the value of unplugging from the world of action and excitement at office and going for the gym routine in a ritualistic manner. The new ethos is the business world is corporate athleticism – an interesting discipline that each of us must research and live it daily.

(The author can be contacted on The thoughts are strictly his personal views and does not reflect the organisations he serves.)

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