A Call to Lead
A Call to Lead
Jennifer Morgan
Michelle Yeoh
40 minutes Posted Jul 22, 2019 at 12:14 pm.
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This new episode of A Call to Lead has me in Singapore, sitting down in front of a live audience with one of the world’s most respected and popular global movie stars. Michelle Yeoh grew up in Malaysia and England, gained her early fame in Hong Kong action films, and went on to star in mega-hits such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Star Trek: Discovery, and Crazy Rich Asians. Michelle played family matriarch Eleanor Young in that blockbuster romantic comedy. As a master of her craft, Michelle shared great advice that applies to leadership in business and life. Here are 5 Points that my team and I found particularly valuable. 

  1. Like every good leader, Michelle fuels her work with empathy. “Empathy plays a big role for all of us. If you can't empathize, how can you lead?That is how I approach the different characters they I played, like a geisha. I don't know anything about that world. It’s one of the most beautiful cultures, from Japan, and out of respect to that culture, I have to get it right.”
  2. Michelle speaks my language: lead with humility and vulnerability: “As a leader, a lot of the times you are personified in a certain way—be eloquent and give good advice and lead. God, that must be so tiring. Isn't it much more interesting if you can communicate and empathize and be able to have that moment of vulnerability? If I feel that you care for me—that you're vulnerable and you understand a loss of a child or a close family member—then I believe you will begin to understand me.”
  3. Never fear failure, Michelle says: “The more you fear that you're going to fail, you've already failed. Because you're just going to conform to something that you are comfortable with and probably just do it the same old way and regurgitate the same things. And there will never be an improvement.”
  4. Ask for help, she adds. “I'm never afraid to ask for help. I believe that I don't know enough. One of the reasons why I didn't use to come to these talks, apart from stage fright, was, ‘Oh my God, they're going to discover that I know nothing." And then I thought: It's okay to know nothing.’ If I knew everything, it's only downhill from there because then I would be so arrogant.”
  1. Practice self-control: “I was a squash player, and I had one of the best teachers. Once, when I lost a match and threw my racket across the room, he said quietly, "What was the point of that?" I never threw another fit again. To be a really good player, learn self-control. Respect when you fail. That's when you can get better.

You can learn more by visiting: www.sap.com/acalltolead. And you can subscribe and listen to episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher. We welcome your feedback on the pod! Tweet me @JenniferBMorgan and use the hashtag #acalltolead or e-mail us at [email protected]

Where to Listen: Subscribe and listen to episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.


Jennifer Morgan is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE and President of SAP’s Cloud Business Group.