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Shadow a CEO Programme Oct 2015: Getting an early lead in the career race

Published on Thursday, 29 Oct 2015
Leong Cheung, executive director of charities and community, The Hong Kong Jockey Club. (Photo: Berton Cheng)

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience three days in the life of a top executive in Hong Kong awaits successful applicants of the Classified Post Career Forum’s Shadow a CEO Programme. 

Professional consultants at the forum will interview selected applicants who have submitted their applications online.

Those who impress will be invited to final interviews from Nov 12 to 23. Each participating company will select up to three candidates to shadow a top-level executive. Find out more about the participating executives on these pages.

The goals may be different, but the range of skills required by a director in an NGO are much the same as an executive in the commercial sector.

That’s according to Leong Cheung, the executive director of charities and community at The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) – and he would know, having taken up his current position last year after a successful career in the corporate world.

“From a skills-set perspective, I don’t see major differences,” he says. “You need to have a sharp mind, you need discipline, and you need to manage various stakeholders.

“I think the major difference is that in business, the key motivation, at least early in one’s career, is money and profit. Perhaps at a later stage it’s about job satisfaction – but it’s also always about profit, as well.”

Cheung says that in a philanthropic environment like HKJC, the prime motivation is to generate a positive impact in the community through direct service or, like the club, through donations.

The young people following him as part of the Shadow a CEO Programme will get to see the view from the top of an organisation that donated HK$3.87 billion last year to aid local community-development projects.

One activity in which Cheung would like to involve his shadows is a seminar or conference about one of HKJC’s strategic “themes” – youth, the elderly and sports – so that they can understand the organisation’s position and goals. 

“We definitely want to bring them to an NGO service meeting, or to see a NGO in action, to see what impact our funds generate,” Cheung says. 

“We’d also like them to join in one of our internal discussions when we discuss a particular application, or when we discuss an existing project, such as our project for autistic children.”
The project, launched earlier this year, saw HKJC donate HK$167 million to establish “JC A-Connect: Jockey Club Autism Support Network” to provide assistance to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families. 

Cheung is realistic about what his shadows can learn in their time with him and does not intend to focus on technical skills over the three days. Instead, he will offer shadows exposure to the philanthropic world, so they understand the kind of thinking and the sort of work that needs to be put in to generate some positive impact in the community.

“From our perspective, we’d like them to understand that philanthropy is very professional work that requires more than a kind heart. It takes discipline, careful planning and diplomacy to generate really good results in the community.”

Cheung suggests his shadows keep an open mind during their time at HKJC. “And some pre-reading would be helpful – if you just type in ‘philanthropy’ in Google you’ll have more than enough to read.”

As a way of opening up his shadows’ thinking on the way society can regard those less fortunate, he recommends a short story called The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Omelas is a fictional utopian city whose prosperity and success depends on the continuing misery of a child, who is kept locked away in terrible squalor.

When it comes to the mix of qualities that leaders require, Cheung says having a degree of humility is important.

“The most important thing is being ready to not just learn from others, but to face and learn about yourself. I think a good leader always realises they are not perfect and that they are much better off working with a team whose members are better than them in many different ways.”

Cheung hopes that those who get to see his working life will realise a position such as his is a possibility for them further down their career path, but certain building blocks need to be put in place first.

“For university graduates I would say the basic qualities they need are the right attitude to work, and good analytical and communication skills.”

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