REAL STORIES: A REAL LEADER IN ACTION

Adapted from keynote address by
Mr. Jagadish C.V., CEO of SSMC  
at Real Leaders Essentials: Engage, Inspire and Transform  
on 21 July 2017

Leading Through Crisis with Compassion and Competence

In 1981, Mr. Jagadish came to Singapore with $200 in his pocket. His spectacles broke the moment he landed in Singapore, and he had a shock of his life with the replacement pair he got at Lucky Plaza costing him $38 — a good fraction of the money he brought!

However, always willing to take risks, Jagadish has come a long way on his leadership journey that spans across several global crises, including the 1991 Gulf War, 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, 2001 Dot Com Bubble and 2007 — 2008Financial Crisis. In 1991, he was a regional manager at Philips and later started his own business in 1994 with the confidence that the new venture was good to go for IPO. But when the Asian Financial Crisis struck in 1997, Jagadish had to restructure the whole business, making it profitable and keeping as many jobs as he could. During this time, he had to forgo all the investments and he demonstrated compassion for the ones he led. While the retrenchments he had to make brought tears to his eyes, he ensured those who were affected were well-compensated and even found the next jobs for them to carry on with their livelihood.

Later on, he pursued his area of interest in semiconductors, as a director at FEI Company, a JV owned by Philips. During the Dot Com Bubble Crisis, he moved on to another semiconductor area and joined SSMC (a JV among Philips, Economic Development Board and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) as VP of business operations. He successfully implemented a business creation process for the company in both these JV’s and turned around their business situation in three to five years.

Shaping Culture and Bringing About Transformation

Now the CEO of SSMC, Jagadish shares that since day one of SSMCs, the over 1,600 employees at SSMC have collectively worked for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year without managers at night shifts; he emphasises that the company is run by the operators and technicians. This is possible because their leadership has successfully shaped the culture of the organisation, ensuring that employees internalise and live out the core values of commitment and integrity. They do the work they are meant to do even when nobody is watching them.

As a leader, Jagadish continually exemplifies a character shaped by self-discipline and perseverance, which has helped him manage crisis throughout his journey as a leader. He also upholds and advocates the 3 ‘E’s of Empathy, Effective Communication, and leading by Example. He has trained his leadership team and brought them through the strategic planning process, articulating to them the company’s vision, mission, and values, so that they can stay true to their commitment as an organisation that “together we raise value.”