Fine styles of the modern and traditional

  • Business
  • Sunday, 22 Jun 2003


IN a period of one week, two close friends passed away. Raja Tun Mohar Raja Badiozaman died on June 7, followed by Datuk Dr Mokhzani Abdul Rahim on June 15. 

Mohar was president of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), a position he held for 32 years. Mokhzani was an academic at the Faculty of Economics and Administration of Universiti Malaya in the 60s and 70s, and was a Fellow of MIM from 1975 until his death. 

Mohar and Mokhzani personified two different faces of Malaysian management. 

Mohar: Represented an older generation of enlightened Malaysian patriots.

In Mohar we saw the best of traditional management, the genteel manager whose priority was national development, whose versatility of commitments was incomparable, whose devotion to duty was second to none and whose ethos reflected the very essence of good citizenship.  

Many of us knew his public profile as economic advisor to three Prime Ministers and as chairman of numerous public enterprises. But there is also a part of him that was passionately devoted to special causes in organisations as diverse as the National Productivity Corporation, the Japan-Malaysia Economic Consultative Association, the Tun Razak Foundation and the Malaysian Institute of Management.  

And he led all these organisations with a remarkable ability to forge consensus and bridge dissent. Above all, Mohar was a gentleman par excellence, never ever given to harsh words in the most trying situations, cool and level-headed at all times and very approachable and friendly to all he came in contact with. 

Mohar’s death is more than just the passing of a man. He represented an older generation of enlightened Malaysian patriots and traditionalists, among whom can be counted the late Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Mohamad Suffian and Tun Ismail Mohamad Ali. These were men of substance, upright in character, utterly disciplined, hardworking and committed to the cause of the nation. 

There is much that good traditional management can teach us. It teaches us to think and behave in the most holistic way by striving for intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being. 

Younger managers seem to have lost the balance as they strive for wealth accumulation as the sole purpose of their work. The traditionalist would remind us that the pursuit of wealth without justice, ethics and a concern for the less able is not the best way forward. 

There is also much to preserve and promote in good traditional management.  

The study of management as a discipline is largely imported and we tend to look outwards to gurus like Peter Drucker, Akio Morita and Michael Porter for inspiration.  

We have our own icons of management whose distinctive quality is not to practise intellectual but holistic management.  

We have the heritage; what we need are researchers to document and disseminate the wisdom of our own heroes who have made a lasting contribution to management thought and practice.  

And in Mohar, whose management experience crosses Government, the private sector, international negotiations and NGOs, and whose management style is most attractive, we truly have a man for all seasons.  

His legacy to management is the creation, formation, growth and development of MIM as the national management organisation committed to national development through promoting, maintaining and enhancing the highest standards of management practice in the context of intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being. His is a story waiting to be researched to yield most valuable management lessons. 

Mokhzani, on the other hand, epitomises another brand of Malaysian management. He belonged to the new breed of modern and savvy Malaysian managers; highly educated, articulate and adroit at exploiting economic opportunities.  

A small but growing number of these managers have strong academic roots as exemplified in Tan Sri Arshad Ayub and the late Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut. 

Mokhzani was dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administration and deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya before his second career in corporate leadership. But he was not solely committed to wealth creation as the driving force behind Innovest and Powertek. 

Mokhzani: Learned how to apply management in different settings.

As with Mohar, Mokhzani used his influence to contribute to national service as president of the Malaysian Economic Association and the Malaysian Employers Federation for many years.  

Also, like Mohar, who died as chairman of Perodua, Mokhzani died with his boots on as chairman of the Human Resource Development Council. 

The distinctive quality of modern Malaysian management is the ability to move and operate in different sectors and industries with ease, and with equal effectiveness, as economic opportunities are identified, assessed and exploited. 

This reinforces the principle of the universality of management, although its practice is invariably affected by specific cultures. 

In Mokhzani we have a management case study waiting to be researched so that newer generations of Malaysian managers can truly learn from someone who has learned how to apply management in different settings. This, after all, is what multi-skilling is all about and we have the wisdom and experience of our own mentors to enrich us. 

Mohar and Mokhzani have lived rich lives. Their lives revolved around service, fellowship, ethical behaviour, hard work, enterprise and the quest for excellence. 

It is the stuff of good stories waiting to be recorded and retold to the younger generation of Malaysians who seek to be good managers with heart and soul.  

In this, Malaysian traditional and modern management share a common platform. 

With the passing of Mohar and Mokhzani, we are made poorer by the silence of their wise counsel and the absence of their indomitable spirit of service to the cause of good management. 

They have shown us the way to behave and to manage with dignity, sensitivity and commitment to the greater good. We salute them for the fine men they were and the admirable qualities of management leadership they displayed. 

  • Prof Dr Tarcisius Chin is a Fellow of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM). He was chairman and later CEO of MIM during the time Tun Mohar was President of MIM.  

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