Karen Leong: A Philanthropic Leader Guiding the Dreams of the Achievers


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Most entrepreneurs focus on profits. Some exceptional ones are able to look beyond and focus on the larger purpose of their endeavors. One such leader is Karen Leong (Co-founder of Influence Solutions); seeking meaning in her accomplishments is the north star of her entrepreneurial journey. Perhaps that is why she is also an author, motivational speaker, and philanthropist.

After a high-intensity career with an international accounting firm, Karen set out to seek purpose and a meaningful journey. This courageous decision set her on a path which transformed her into an authority on influence. She spent a year in Amsterdam helping victims of trafficking. This experience had a profound impact on her. “For the first time, I fully appreciated what we are truly capable of when we are pushed to the edge ,” said Karen. This experience also fueled her interest in human potential. She co-founded the learning and development company—Influence Solutions, to research and develop influential teams. This has become her life’s work for almost 15 years, and it’s led to her seminal book ‘Win People Over’, which is used as a resource book used by many global corporations. Packed with practical insights especially relevant for Asian audiences, this book opened the floodgates to the world of keynote speaking for Karen. Today, she is recognized as one of the top ten influential speakers in Singapore and has been awarded the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) accreditation, reserved for the top echelon of global speakers.

F.I.R.S.T- The Proprietary Framework

In these disruptive times, every organisation is realising the critical importance of supporting their leaders and teams to thrive in change. Many of them are tapping into the expertise of Karen and her team at Influence Solutions to help them stay ahead of the curve.

Headquartered in Singapore with a global footprint, Influence Solutions’ mission is to empower people and organisations to be F.I.R.S.TTM– Future-Ready, Innovative, Relevant, Strategic, and Trusted. F.I.R.S.TTM is the exclusive framework of the company, developed by identifying 70 behaviors that help people to become more inspiring leaders and effective managers. This is the basis for the F.I.R.S.T. TM leadership solution and 360 profiling tool. It not only makes leadership development very practical but also measurable.

The F.I.R.S.T. TM framework has enabled Influence Solutions to empower more than 250,000 leaders and executives from 500 of the world’s biggest and best companies in developing a robust leadership pipeline and a growth-oriented organizational culture. The end result? Enhanced performance, productivity, and profitability.

It is this relentless focus on helping clients achieve desired KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that has led to Influence Solutions being recognised as a leader in sustainable transformation. As Karen points out, “I guess the finance professional in me is very much alive! I love helping companies be more profitable, by helping people be more productive. In the end, it’s about empowering people to have more fulfilling personal and professional lives.”

Effective Crisis Management

With the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak earlier this year, many companies were forced to adopt remote working practices. Karen shares “At that time, almost all of our in-person conference and workshop engagements were either canceled or postponed. Luckily whether it was foresight or luck or a combination of both, we had started our transition into the virtual learning world way back in 2017.”

Three years ago, the company launched Rise through the Ranks Summit—a global online leadership summit, where thousands of participants from over 70 countries learned how to accelerate their careers. With this head start in virtual learning, Influence Solutions was able to lead their clients to fully embrace the power of online solutions. It is interesting how the pandemic had inadvertently accelerated this process.

That is why, when many Influence Solutions clients requested solutions to energize and motivate their virtual teams, Karen tapped her co-founding director, Mukul Deva, who is an accomplished international best-selling thriller author to create a virtual team bonding series that increased trust and connection. Thus was born License To Thrill— the ultimate virtual team gaming extravaganza. Designed to enhance trust and team psychological safety using a blend of fun games and online activities, Licence To Thrill has already been experienced by thousands of people in Asia, Europe, and North America. “It has been so successful that our team is scrambling to keep pace with the demand,” stated Karen.

The company has also used its platform to help the community. They have facilitated many pro-bono virtual learning solutions to benefit local not-for-profits. Karen adds “If you are from, or know of any community outreach organisations, please reach out to us. We love to help make a difference.”

More opportunities lead to the need for more balance

With virtual working, the world is now one’s oyster. Karen gets to speak, facilitate, and coach leaders and teams based world-wide, without the downtime of travel. “I used to travel to speak at global conferences. Now, I step into a virtual stage at home to address international audiences, and I can go to my kids immediately after I step off the stage.”

However this has also blurred the line between our personal and professional lives, and one can end up working really long hours. “There are days when I have executive coaching sessions in the morning, delivered a keynote in the afternoon, and then facilitated a virtual workshop for North American teams late at night – literally a 24-hour workday,” says Karen.

The key is setting boundaries. Karen shares this saying that she keeps close to heart ‘A healthy person has a thousand wishes, a sick person only one.’ “We need to ensure that we schedule a time for self-care, every day. When we put our health first – physical, mental, and emotional, we will often be amazed at how much more productive we become, and more fulfilled too.”

When we learn how to hold these boundaries, Karen believes remote working can be beneficial—especially for women professionals who struggle with family commitments.

Women Professionals of the Industry

Karen is of the view that both women and men can lead powerfully; both have qualities that are valuable in different contexts. For example, a lot of women are very strong with the innate qualities of empathy and human connection, which are key leadership traits, especially relevant today where one is leading in more uncertain and highly specialized environments. Perhaps that is why women leaders like NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have done really well in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. They were upfront about the unknowns, and their plans to mitigate the uncertainty, thereby managing to restore public calm and confidence.

She believes that this style of enlightened leadership, which harnesses the cumulative wisdom, creativity, and expertise of the team, forges greater trust, motivation, and the connection is the foundation of high-performing teams.

ALSO READ: Iconic Business Women to Follow in 2023



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