Six secrets of transformational leadership

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6GG
February 2017

Idris JalaPlease note the start time is 6.00pm.

Visiting Fellow of Practice Dato’ Sri Idris Jala will deliver a lecture titled "Six Secrets of Transformational Leadership".

In his public talk, DS Idris Jala will be sharing his six secrets of transformational leadership in which he has developed over his years as a turnaround specialist, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and CEO of PEMANDU. In summary, the secrets are:

  • Play the game of the impossible - when setting goals, set them very high, to the brink of impossibility because by pursuing impossibility, people will move out of their comfort zone and achieve their true potential and capability threshold.
  • Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as anchors - identify the outputs and activities necessary to ‘move the needle’ and anchor them on KPIs. This allows ruthless focus on things that are most important to achieving the True North.
  • Discipline of action - reform should be broken down into highly detailed activities with funding and responsible persons. The real work occurs in defining action at three feet, not just planning at 30,000 feet.
  • Exercise situational leadership - a good leader must read organizational signs and adapt their style to the situation.  Normally, at the start of a reform process, a leader may need to be more directive, especially when uncertainty and anxiety is generating resistance. As fear settles and consensus emerges, a leader’s style should become more empowering.
  • Build a winning coalition - build and maintain collaborative networks, recognizing conflicting views and political polarities.
  • Accept “divine” intervention - regardless of how much effort is invested, humans have limited control of what ends up happening. We operate in highly complex systems and a leader must acknowledge this uncertainty.

The lecture is free and open to all. To attend, please register here.

The event will be streamed live and recorded on the Blavatnik School of Government YouTube channel.



Dato’ Sri Idris Jala is the CEO of PEMANDU, a unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, Malaysia – the organisation tasked with spearheading Malaysia’s transition towards high income status by 2020. For 6 years, he also served as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Malaysia. He is a renowned transformation guru in turning around companies’ performance through his big fast results methodology and transformational strategies. He has continuously delivered sustainable socio economic reforms which, in 2014, saw Bloomberg place Idris Jala among the top 10 most influential policy makers in the world. Under his leadership, PEMANDU was also named by NESTA, UK and Bloomberg Philanthropies as one of the top 20 most innovative Government agencies in the world. In 2016, PEMANDU’s National Transformation Programme was awarded the best public sector reform programme at the Global Good Governance (3G) awards by Cambridge IF Analytica. Today, Idris Jala travels around the world assisting governments deliver their very own transformation journeys.

Prior to his Government stint, Idris Jala was Managing Director/CEO at Malaysia Airlines (MAS) for three years. He was brought on board to turn around the airline which was in crisis brought about by a prolonged bout of losses from operational inefficiencies. Before MAS, he spent 23 years at Shell, rising up the ranks to hold senior positions including Vice President, Shell Retail International and Vice President Business Development Consultancy, based in UK. This included successful business turnarounds in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.