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The CIO Interview: Steve Lee, CIO/SVP (Technology) of Changi Airport Group

Nurdianah Md Nur | Nov. 15, 2013
Lee explains how he uses IT to continually improve the airport’s customer service and provides advice on how to be a successful leader.

Another lesson learnt is about taking calculated risks. With my team, I learnt that it is most satisfying for my staff when I put them into slightly challenging roles that stretch their abilities, but not to the point that would be too much for them to handle. As a boss, what I need to do is to be ready to offer them a helping hand and also stand by to handle problems should it prove too big a challenge for any of them. Most of them perform beautifully.

Another example of taking calculated risks is the decision on when to push for a technology or idea that is new and innovative, such as the SWIFT initiative earlier mentioned. We were initially not sure on what the take up rate would be, and so chose to manage the project in bite size phases at the outset. We are glad to share we are getting about 1.5 million pieces of feedback a month through SWIFT, providing us with a tremendous amount of information and feedback that will gives us a good insight into what we are doing right, as well as not doing right, for our customers. In this instance, the return on this risk taken has been immeasurable for us.  

Could you describe your leadership style?
I perform best in transformational roles, where I can use IT as a catalyst to change the way the company works, thinks and serves its customers. Leadership is a rather complex topic to explain.  Perhaps, if I tell you the five things I do everyday at work, you will get a sense of my style. 

  1.  I talk to 3 groups of people everyday on matters other than work.  They could be a mix of staff, colleagues from other divisions or bosses. 
  2. I reflect. 
  3. I think about the future.
  4. I find time to work with one project team down to sufficient details. 
  5. I read and constantly find out what is happening around me.

With many achievements under your belt, what advice would you provide to CIOs in order for them to become successful technology leaders?
I have always thought of myself as a bit like the movie character Forrest Gump - I have been lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time and had lots of fun doing what I did. I was also very lucky to have great mentors and friends who have helped me along the way to learn and grow.  My advice to younger CIOs would be:

  • Be a business partner, not just a technology lead. 
  • Recognise when technology could and could not be exploited to solve business issues effectively. 
  • Develop people and take genuine interest to care for them, build their competencies and develop their careers.  Take care of people and they will take care of the business. 
  •  Learn to learn constantly.  
  • Take calculated risks and have fun. 


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