One of the most important lessons Zeno Malaysia's MD Amanda Leong took away from her mentor, Asia MD of growth and innovation David Lian was that work is a marathon, not a sprint.
Before being able to serve a team effectively, taking care of oneself should come first and foremost. Areas of consideration that are commonly overlooked when it comes to work such as how much water she drinks, the kind of food she eats, or even when she sleeps, are just as important as how patience and effective decision-making can affect the success of projects and operations, Leong told A+M.
This insight has shaped the way she lives outside the four walls of Zeno Group’s office. Be it spending quality time with her son, taking her Ducati Panigale out for a spin, or even reading her favourite historical fiction books, Leong attempts to keep her personal life “as free and easy as possible”.
Throughout the years, with consistent efforts to ensure her own level of wellness, Leong has accumulated over 12 years of experience in the creative industry according to her LinkedIn, seven of which have been spent as Zeno Group’s general manager.
She landed her first job with Grey after graduating with a Masters in Communications from UniSA. Back then, Leong was under the G2DI department as an account executive, responsible for managing Tiger Beer as a client. She also spent a couple of years at Amphibia Digital as strategic planner and head of social before joining Zeno in 2014. Find out what drew Leong to the industry!
A+M: What was your first role in advertising?
Leong: When I was an account executive at Grey, we were managing Guinness Anchor, and I was included in the team that oversaw the account for Tiger Beer. This was where I learnt integrated communications as well as how to support my director and client on the strategic direction of each tactical campaign, and ensure the creative work was both on-brand and strategically focused.
One of the many skills that I have mastered as an executive during my time at Grey is how to write the best creative briefs for the creative department (and for this, I must thank the designers, creatives and even the traffic team for their feedback, guidance and tips and tricks in creating the best briefs).
A+M: What was your first impression of advertising?
Leong: “There is actually so much going on behind one single comms!”. In advertising, we weave all brand communications through a single cohesive story that helps anchor a particular brand to stand out in the marketplace, essentially helping them connect with consumers and build the business in the long run.
A+M: What's the harshest criticism you've received and how did you cope with it?
Leong: I have been fortunate enough throughout my career that I have not had any harsh criticisms from my leaders, peers and clients. Constructive criticisms - yes but they were never harsh or downright mean. I took them as an honest effort to help me improve to be better. I am also grateful that they were direct and never sugarcoated.
A+M: Describe your own management style now as a leader.
Leong: I don’t think I have a specific management style to begin with. I believe that everyone has their own unique talent, and it is how we (as leaders) can mentor and bring the best out of every individual. Giving our people autonomy at Zeno is key because it allows the team to have ownership of the work and make their own decision.
Every single one of us has a different approach to things, but that approach isn’t necessarily invalid – at the end of the day, we work together towards a set goal.
A+M: What's one thing you wished employees understood about being a leader?
Leong: I think it would be for people to understand that as leaders, we are still learning. And as much as they learn from us, we too, learn from them.
We may not have the answers for everything but as a team, together we make magic happen and thrive for the fearless pursuit of the unexpected.
A+M: What do you do during your free time?
Leong: I try to spend as much time as I can with my 10-year-old boy – we spend a lot of time going places, running errands together and enjoying having conversations about anything and everything. Somehow, his favourite question to me (almost every week) is: “Mummy, which new brand are you working on now?” He is growing up so quickly and it’s true when they say that the days are long, but the years are short.
Apart from that, I try to keep my life outside of work as free and easy as possible. There will be days when I’ll take my Ducati Panigale out for a ride – my favourite route would be Ulu Yam and Janda Baik on Sunday mornings. I try to read whenever I can especially at night before I end my day – I love reading the Harvard Business Review, historical fiction books and the Bhagavad Gita.
A+M: Where do you find your inspiration?
Leong: Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), I get my inspiration as I go through my day – whether it is through talking and/or listening to people, observing a situation during or outside of work, or even when my mind is wandering somewhere else, such as in the shower, during sleep or in my dreams!
I think inspiration can happen when you keep an open and calm mind. You know the saying by Socrates, “To know, is to know that you know nothing”, I find this so true because when you start observing, learning, and embracing the world and environment around you, that is when you will realize how much you can find out of the most ordinary things (and of course, the remarkable things).
A+M: If not in advertising, where would you be?
Leong: Honestly, I can’t think of doing anything else… I love what I do! But I have always dreamt of owning a cozy café with a motorbike workshop by the beach in Bali. Maybe someday.
A+M: What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in the industry?
Leong: Two things - Join an agency, that’s where you learn the most! Perseverance is key and never stop learning.
A+M: What issue would you like to see the industry change in 2022?
Leong: With social consciousness at an all-time high, the importance of being a purposeful brand has only grown as consumers, employees, partners, and shareholders want more from the companies with which they interact. I hope that brands realize that there is so much more they can stand for and make a difference for the society they exist within.
Brands have a bigger purpose than to merely just exist as an entity with transactional exchange.
At the end of the day, to win the share of wallet from consumers, brands would need to first be on the same team. Consumers today want brands to represent and be an extension of their values. So, I would love to see more brands boldly coming out and narrating their stand on how to make our world better with their business and services. We need to see more brands coming out stronger with their own narrative and owning it!
There is truly a positive relationship between understanding and knowing your purpose and how that translates to business success, yielding stronger reputation, brand affinity and bottom-line results.
Wong Yee Ching contributed to this story.
Zeno Group names Calvin Choong creative group head
Muslim matchmaking platform Hawaya swipes right on Zeno Group for PR duties
Zeno Group China Wins Greystar's LIV'N 833 Business in Shanghai
Zeno Group nabs Allison+Partners APAC MD Paul Mottram
Zeno Group's Margaret Key joins MSL as APAC CEO