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12 Keys to Leadership


Sumal Perera




Sumal Perera, Chairmain, Access (P1)

It takes many things, intrinsic and circumstantial, to be successful in today’s world. To many, the definition of success is material wealth; a person that is free from the pressures of meeting their basic needs. Someone that can afford to live in a luxury apartment, drive a Jaguar and have their family members treated at leading hospitals would widely be considered successful, but we rarely think about the kind of mind required to achieve such success, one that is instrumental in the development needed to push at the boundaries of what constitutes our reality. Sumal Perera, the founder of Access, a conglomerate that leads sectors from construction to automotive, healthcare real estate, aviation and IT, believes that there are intrinsic attributes to his success. He broke down these attributes into 12 principles that are integral for being a successful person both in your professional and personal lives at a recent Infoshare event held at the Elevate Banquet Hall.



business goals

Constant comparison of your progress against your vision is key (P2)

Vision and Mission

Have a cemented vision and mission that applies to your personal growth, family, and professional life. This should always remain a beacon that you constantly compare your progress in all realms to. Fine tuning is inevitable, as circumstances, technology, and society changes but the Vision and Mission should have an essence that is timeless, and always relevant.



business friendship

Trust is a 2-way street (P3)

Trust and Loyalty

Trust and loyalty are not negotiable. Life is all about relationships, and trust and loyalty are fundamental to all of them. Trust and loyalty, each, is a two-way street, you can’t expect trust if it is not given, and the reassurance that every member of your team and organisation trust you and are trusted by you is essential to your collective success. Without the trust and loyalty of your team any success or accolade you accomplish will be irrelevant.



business challenges

Passions must be objective oriented (P4)

Passion and Hunger

Passion is common to everyone, and it comes in a variety of forms, but there must be a single-minded focus, a hunger, to guide it. Passion can be infused with greed, or jealousy, but it must be kept purely focused achieving one’s objectives. Business competition should never be taken personally, passion and hunger should help you improve, and not fall into hatred, which will cause you to suffer. Unlike greed, which is a want, hunger is a need to achieve your objectives.




Life can take different turns, it’s important that your reactions don’t rule your attitude and reason. (P5)

Consistency and Predictability

This is one of the attributes to success that Sumal Perera is most proud of and would most like to see develop in people. Life is full of problems that arise from unpredictable places and at inconvenient times, problems with yourself, your girl/boyfriend or spouse, but that cannot transform you into different people on different days of the month. It is essential to get a grip on your moods, and be the same person over the years, to where your reliability to yourself and others is unquestionable.



workplace empathy

Understanding the reasons behind a poor performance is important. (P6)

Motivation and Empathy

Empathy is powerful, and key to motivating the people around you. Not everything a team member, friend, or family member does will be right, but these actions must be understood. When people fall behind in their work this can stem from deeper issues in their personal lives, and they deserve careful empathy. You can motivate people positively or negatively, but when it’s rooted in empathy the people you are trying to motivate will know that even if they are reprimanded it is not out of a personal vendetta, but for the betterment of them and the organisation.



teamwork office

Success lies in the aligning of goals not just within teams but within the whole organisation. (P7)


You must believe in teamwork and the greater good of the organisation. In order for the entire team to win, people cannot be narrow in their focus – thinking of only the success of themselves personally, or of their team or division. Everyone must be in tune with the goals of the entire organisation. Teamwork at Access would mean working as the entire Access group, not just one business unit.



race to success

Innovation must provide a competitive advantage. (P8)


Innovation does not always mean some revolutionary eye-catching new technology, because you can create what seems like an ingenious product but if it is not commercially viable or unacceptable in markets, this is research and not innovation. In a company setting, innovation is something that will give you a comparative advantage.



business analytics

An attention to and understanding of details is critical to successful management. (P9)


One can have all the above-mentioned values in abundance, but without good management this is of no use. Growth is a double-edged sword, and the risk analysis and management required to sustain growth and make it meaningful is not easy to implement. Although it would be ideal to see everyone fly in their careers, pragmatism is essential in order to generate sustainable profits and ensure reliability to all stakeholders. Management is the sum total of all business decisions, and good management requires honest self-assessment and attention to detail. Sumal Perera realising that he was not a detail-oriented person made sure to seek out managers that were. ‘If you are not a good manager, then get one.’




When things go wrong it is easy to find fault in the actions of others, but it is important to first accept responsibility. (P10)


You must realize that you will be held accountable at every stage of your professional and personal life. You cannot manage a team without being accountable; only if you are accountable can you hold another person accountable. As part of your job profile, it is something you cannot run away from regardless of what sector of the company you are a part of or what level of responsibility you feel you have. One needs to stick to their targets and strive to deliver, even at a loss.



risk analysis

Balancing the risk of failure with the risk of opportunity loss is essential (P11)

Risk Analysis

In every business proposition or transaction, be it personal or professional, there is a risk. If you are an optimistic person, you may be blind to this risk, only seeing the upside. Being pragmatic about risk management also means seeking multiple opinions, to reveal risks that may not have been apparent to you. Sumal Perera sees his role in Access as ‘Chief Risk Officer’ as he will only encourage the ventures that Access can afford to pay the cost of, if they fail. According to him, everything that you do need not be profitable, in fact that is a sign of inefficiency, and not taking enough risks.



make a change

Focus on seizing opportunity without giving into weaker emotions when faced with change. (P12)

Being Proactive and an Agent of Change

Times change; yesterday’s products and business models may no longer be relevant. There is an equal opportunity for anyone to move with these changes, and those that are most capable of moving with these changes will move ahead. However, this is not a reason for even those feeling left behind to work sub-optimally, instead it is an invitation to bypass the natural human tendency for jealousy and learn from those doing better.




Maintaining good relationships is essential to sustaining success. (P13)

Relationships and Partnerships

This principle is especially relevant and unique to Access, as all of the Access group’s achievements have been due to relationships, internal or external. The world is full of interpersonal conflicts, both at home and in the business world, but progress cannot be achieved without the maintenance of good relationships with all your partners and stakeholders. Relationships are the cornerstone of any great organisation

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