The woman behind Banyan Tree

An interview with Claire Chiang

Claire Chiang has mastered the art of multi-tasking to a tee with a host of titles to her name, from Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts to chairperson of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund and the National Book Development Council of Singapore.

Equally impressive is Chiang's focus on sustainability; Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts embed sustainability in their protocols from water efficiency to vendors in its supply chain and working alongside EarthCheck - one of the world’s largest certifiers of sustainable travel.

We catch up with Chiang ahead of The Inspired Leader' Asia book launch, to find out how business leaders can encourage sustainability and be braver.

What does bold marketing leadership mean to you?

We do not market products, we market ideas. Marketing is reaching out to market segments to deliver a promise about what we stand for and what we aspire to be. Leadership is about being exemplary in walking the talk, and working the talk by reporting and sharing information to enhance engagement.

Bold marketing leadership is about being authentic and real, sincere and engaging.

Banyan Tree is built on a foundation of sustainability. What can business leaders do to encourage sustainability in the workplace?

Leaders have to believe the sustainability narratives they talk about, then resource their leaders to set up a management infrastructure to execute their sustainability goals, and persevere in delivering their programs consistently.

By setting the leadership note, the empowering climate will motivate all to find the fit and solutions to safeguard workplace sustainability.

You took two years away from work after the birth of your child, how should businesses encourage mothers to return to work after maternity leave?

First adopt the mindset that work and family are not opposing aspirations therefore women can contribute to the company at every life stage. This recognition helps management design work policies that facilitate women's life aspirations, and encourage them to enjoy families while still at work, and persevere in their career development while attending to their growing children.

While women wish to "lean in", they need more flexibility and a sense of control in the way they work, travel and navigate corporate waters. 

What bosses can do is to adopt an open mindednes  to help women find the fit how they like to work and deliver their level best. The same should be extended to men who wish to have it all as well.

What skill set does a brave leader have?

I summarise in one word - "ideal". A brave leader is Informed, Decisive, Empowering, Accountable, and a Learning person. 

In this VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, he/she has to garner complex information to dare make a judgement to fix a decision, and empower managers to execute accordingly, holding accountability a high priority at all levels, without letting go any opportunity to learn new information to re-fix a decision.

This leadership grit and diligence never let up; it is a  continuous process of vigilance and execution, accountability and learning requiring strong leadership heads and hearts.

Which leader do you most admire?

I really do not have one leader I most admire.

I believe in heroic and generous acts by various people in different situations. I even think we are all heroes and heroines in our personal journeys, attempting small wins at all times to achieve our own level of equanimity and personal dignity. 

Hence, I feel we can learn from anyone at all times.

Hear Claire Chiang speak at The Inspired Leader' Asia book launch with Andy Bird. 

By Orianna Rosa RoyleDigital Assistant at The Marketing Society