What strikes you when you first meet Marco Shek is his energy, enthusiasm and that tangible drive to succeed. He’s also achieved a lot at such a young age. Marco has worked in both local and international not-for-profit organizations, organized a youth leadership training programme in Hong Kong with over 200 secondary school students and successfully arranged a leadership programme between Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A Passion for Social Innovation
One of Marco’s passions is enabling young individuals to solve the social issues they’re facing using their own resources. Marco felt that there could be another way to address these issues that would create a wider impact and one that wouldn’t have to rely on funding from the government or foundations. This idea caused him to look at social innovation as a solution.
Marco spent the next three years at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University managing the government-funded social innovation and entrepreneurship programme for students. After a few years, he felt that there’s still more that can be done in this space. Once again, Marco’s passion is driving him towards the next step in his journey.
Moving to the UK
He moved to the UK and started working for a not-for-profit that provides the world’s primary network focusing on social innovation. At Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), Marco found a platform that provides broader scale and creates a wider impact across all sectors.
Marco’s current role at SIX is to lead the network and communication coordination for a European-wide project that’s composed of 12 different partners from 10 different nationalities.
Diversity and Inclusion in Social Innovation
When he was working in Hong Kong, Marco was used to working with people with the same background and perspective. This was totally different from his leadership role at SIX where he had to cross all sorts of boundaries in order to connect and grow social innovation communities from different countries.
He joined the American Express Leadership Academy in 2017, where he says the experience allowed him to have a first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be working with different cultures and backgrounds.
“The AMEX Leadership Academy provided a safe space and distance to reflect, rethink and re-energize. In addition, the diversity of the participants gave me the opportunity to interact, listen and understand others’ perspective.”
Difference in Working Styles between Asia and Europe
It might be because of the fast-paced life in Hong Kong that makes most HongKonger’s working style to be practical, fast and results-oriented. Marco, of course, has adapted this working style and this becomes evident the longer you talk to him – he’s practical, prefers less chitchat and is driven to action immediately.
From the different discussions and interactions during the American Express Leadership Academy, he said that he learned to view others’ behaviours and working styles through a different lens. Marco shares that the culture session, in particular, allowed him to become even more self-aware and to take a step back from his results-oriented ways.
Marco works with someone in his team who likes to discuss ideas before taking any action. It’s clear to him that it would cause friction and possibly even more delay if he insisted on focusing on results and actions immediately. He ‘flexed’ his working style by slowing down, listening to the needs of the other person and speaking their language. At the same time, Marco knew that he needed to be self-aware and have a conscious mind in order to facilitate these discussions into actions.
In this instance, Marco showed agility and self-awareness in his leadership, which led to a stronger and more resilient team.
What does it take to be an inclusive leader?
Based on his experience, Marco believes that it is essential for managers to focus on their personal development in order to understand themselves better. For him, being able to understand your biases, working style, value system and culture helps you to better understand others.
As Marco keeps on pursuing his passion and leadership, he hopes to bring back what he has learned from Europe to benefit the social innovation space in Asia in the future.