Cover Sofia Zobel Elizalde was on the panel who helped to select the Gen.T List 2020

We speak to some of the industry heavyweights who advised us in the nomination and vetting process for the Gen.T List 2020. Here, they share how they helped to select this year's candidates and their hopes for the next generation of leaders

Every year, Gen.T puts together a panel of industry leaders to help us identify the 400 strongest candidates for the Gen.T List.

This panel of experts, which we call the Tribe, nominate names from their country and help us decide on the final line-up through a series of in-depth vetting meetings across the year.

Hailing from across Asia, the 2020 Tribe comprises 66 industry experts and veterans from a wide range of sectors, from architecture and entertainment to healthcare and technology. 

Here, we speak to six of them to discover their thought process during the nomination and selection of this year’s Gen.T honourees, and the changes they hope the next generation of leaders will bring.

See also: 10 Women Entrepreneurs You Need To Know In Hong Kong

Dave Lim

Founding partner, Ideas Worth Doing

Location: Singapore and Australia

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and helping to vet this year’s Gen.T List?

I looked out for individuals who are leading themselves and others with passion and purpose, showing us new possibilities. Bonus points also went to those who are serving others above themselves, and trailblazing something unique and special.

What makes a good leader?

Heed the ancient Afghan proverb: “If you think you're leading and no one is following you, then you're only taking a walk.”

What do you hope to see in this next generation of leaders?

The courage to lead the human race forward. Like Greta Thunberg, I’d love to see Gen.T honourees boldly challenging our conventions and rethinking and reinventing our broken systems and ways. 

As the English science writer Sir Arthur C Clarke once said, “New ideas pass through three periods. Number one: it can't be done. Number two: It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing. Number three: I knew it was a good idea all along!” Likewise in Asia, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” So carpe diem!

Patricia Lim

Co-founder and platform lead, Circles of Angels

Location: Malaysia

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and helping to vet this year’s Gen.T List?

I focused mainly on identifying candidates who were impact-driven; they had to be either championing ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In other words, creating impact that benefits the community or the environment. I also took into consideration the extent of their impact and if their business model is scalable across the region. 

What makes a good leader?

A good leader leads by example and is empathetic and resilient. A good leader is also willing to share his or her knowledge to help others reach their goals, and are unafraid of people being better or smarter than them.  

What change do you hope this next generation of leaders brings?

I hope they continue to question what’s right and wrong. I hope they support causes or brands that resonate with them, genuinely promote social issues such as climate change, mental health and DIBs (Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging), and focus on creating real impact in their industry. I hope they will build businesses and products that help solve the world’s problems by focusing on the impact pillars of activism, education, innovation, authenticity and technology.

Darren Wang

Founder and CEO, OwlTing Group

Location: Taiwan

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and vetting this year’s Gen.T List?

I looked for how candidates are contributing to society, which for me is the most important criterion; whether it is contributing to society now or having the potential to. I think a young talent with high potential is one who is willing to give back to society, help it improve and keep this positive cycle going.

What makes a good leader?

A good leader has to have good foresight. The most important thing a leader can do for their team is to provide them with a vision and direction, and to unite them with a company culture that can bring them forward. A leader should also have the courage to innovate, which is why one of OwlTing’s core values is to disrupt through innovation. 

Finally, a good leader has to be willing to help others. Perhaps when you help an individual or company, your beneficiary may one day, in turn, contribute to your company. For instance, I started investing in blockchain startups years ago. These days, blockchain has become one of OwlTing’s core businesses. Giving people a boost or chance to collaborate is the only way to create a better ecosystem in the future.

What does the future of technology in Asia look like to you?

The technology industry is moving at an extremely fast pace, with an average of ten years per cycle or phase. More and more, traditionally offline industries, such as healthcare, will start to go online, and as internet connection speeds get faster, there will be unlimited opportunities. 

Chibo Tang

Partner, Gobi Partners China

Location: Hong Kong

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and helping to vet this year’s Gen.T List?

The main component I looked for in this year's candidates is impact potential. Gen.T is about identifying changemakers—people who can really make a difference in society, no matter what they're doing. So I nominated and selected individuals who have demonstrated that they can bring change and also those with the potential for future impact. 

What makes a good leader? 

A good leader needs to first have a clear vision of the future they want. Secondly, he or she must have the ability to convince the people around them to also believe in their vision. Thirdly, he or she must be able to adapt to any changes in their circumstances or environment, while staying true to their vision.

What change do you hope this next generation of leaders brings?

I hope to see the next generation tapping into and expanding on the power of technology. No more shortcuts or small steps forward. The next generation has the least to lose and the most to gain, so they should take big risks to bring about real, impactful change to the world.

Jiang Yufei

Project Manager, B Corps China

Location: China

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and vetting this year’s Gen.T List?

Being in the field of sustainable fashion, I looked for companies that not only avoided negative impact on the environment, but also created positive impact through their business model and product or service design. Are they conveying sustainable values through innovative and novel designs and, as a result, influencing the next generation of consumers to choose them over others? I particularly appreciate companies that take these three Ps into consideration: planet, people and profit. 

Was there a pivotal moment that made you pursue a career in sustainable fashion? 

Yes. I was previously engaged in corporate strategy and company acquisitions in a multinational group. After working there for a few years, I felt that I didn’t want to continue doing such work. 

Then on the morning of 11 February 2018, I recall reading an article about Yiqiao China, a social innovation institution. It talked about a group of people who were in traditional corporate jobs who wanted to go into public welfare to solve environmental, education and cultural issues. It hit close to home and that was when I decided I wanted to change careers. I later became a partner at Yiqiao before joining B Corps China.

What makes a good leader?

I think the most fundamental feature is to have a real mission beyond earning profit. Only then can we attract business partners and followers who share the same vision as us to work together. 

From a company standpoint, I think Patagonia, the American clothing company, is a great leader. Its mission is to save the earth and all of its practices revolve around this mission. No matter what stage of development the company is at, whether it’s expanding its business or experiencing a difficult period, it stands by its mission. By doing so from the get-go, it has been able to develop forward-thinking business and operational practices that have become the benchmark of the sustainable fashion industry. Patagonia also doesn't blindly meet the needs of consumers; it instead educates them about issues such as fast fashion. Its impact starts from within the company and is now influencing its suppliers, consumers and even competitors, thereby bringing about the transformation of its industry.

David Hilman

COO, Agung Sedayu Retail Indonesia

Location: Indonesia

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and helping to vet this year’s Gen.T List?

I was thinking about whether they had clear [professional] visions and ideals; whether they are changing the game and taking risks; whether they are embracing the unconventional and thinking out of the box; and whether they are relentless in their pursuit [of their goals].

Tell us about your personal journey and a key lesson you've learned. 

I've had a colourful career. I've always been ahead of the curve, which means the ideas were great but they were also very difficult to implement. Often, by the time the market came around to understanding them, I had run out of resources and energy! But I guess the key is to keep on trying, innovating and never give up. One will eventually run into something that will click. That's what happened to me with my current venture.

What do you hope the next generation of leaders brings to your industry?

More creativity, innovative ideas, community-based activities, transparency, sustainability, social responsibility and doing more with less.


Sofia Zobel Elizalde

Founder and managing director, Steps Dance Studio

Location: Philippines

What went through your mind when you were nominating candidates and helping to vet this year’s Gen.T List?

The candidates’ social awareness and how they were helping the community. 

What made you pursue a career in dance?

I started dancing at the age of four. My parents were great supporters of the arts, specifically dance, so I knew very early on that I loved it too. At 13 years old, I enrolled in the Elmhurst Ballet School in London, and it was there that I knew I wanted to become a professional dancer, specialising in classical ballet and modern dance.

What makes a good leader? 

A good leader is a peaceful one; someone who inspires, motivates and has a great deal of charisma; someone who sincerely wants to serve for the right reasons.

What does the future of the arts look like to you?

The arts are so important in today’s world. They allow us to escape from our current problems and can transport us or take us on different journeys. The arts will never die, but my wish is for us to be more creative in order to appeal to a wider audience.

See honourees from the Gen.T List

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