Title

Olam International: Sowing the Seeds of Humility throughout the Organisation

Publication Type

Case

Year Completed

5-2016

Abstract

This case looks at issues related to leader humility, leader development and organisational culture The case is set in November 2012, when Olam International (‘Olam’), a Singapore-based agricultural supply chain company, was in the midst of a reputational crisis. An analyst firm had shorted Olam’s stock and raised red flags about the company’s solvency and accounting practices.

A poster boy for Singapore’s leading businesses, Olam was a highly respected company in Singapore and within the commodity industry. Sunny Verghese, Co-founder, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olam, had seen the company grow from a small exporter of cashews in Nigeria in 1989 to a multi-billion dollar business managing the global supply chains of more than 20 products across 65 countries. Verghese himself was known for his passion and zeal to see the company expand and perform. But equally, his 18,000 employees admired him for his humility and integrity, and for developing a cohesive culture throughout the organisation that combined ambition and ownership with mutual respect and teamwork. Olam had always prided itself in inculcating a culture of listening, learning and changing for the better.

For Verghese, the priority was to win back the confidence and trust of his stakeholders. He came to realise that he had to use the company’s culture of humility - and lead by example - to come out of what had evolved to be the worst crisis in the company’s 23-year existence. It was time to think clearly, understand where Olam had gone wrong, and recalibrate the strategies for the future.

Keyword(s)

Olam, Agri-business, Singapore, Organisational Behaviour, Leader Development, Humble Leadership, Humility, Human Resources, Organisational Crisis Management

Discipline

Agribusiness | Asian Studies | Human Resources Management | Organizational Behavior and Theory

Research Areas

Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources

Data Source

Field Research

Industry

Agribusiness

Geographic Coverage

Singapore

Temporal Coverage

2012

Education Level

Executive Education; Postgraduate; Undergraduate

Publisher

Singapore Management University

Case ID

SMU-16-0008

Comments

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