HR Champions: Anthony Tan emphasises humility for effective leadership


  • Title: CEO, Grab
  • Office Headquarters: Singapore
  • Company Operations: SEA
  • Industry: Software Development
  • Employees: 5,001-10,000

“Who am I as a CEO? How do I serve our Grabbers? How do I serve our customers? How do I serve our governments? How do I serve society?” These are the lead questions behind Anthony Tan’s principle of servant leadership, which he shared with Salt&Light.

The company has always been geared towards helping people. It was born out of recognising women’s safety problems. It caters to micro-entrepreneurs, and even offered a dedicated service for health workers in Singapore and the delivery of Covid kits in Indonesia during the pandemic. However, Tan’s position means he must make painful but necessary decisions, and Channel News Asia reported in June that Grab had initiated its biggest round of layoffs, losing 11% of its workforce.

This was a strategy for rapid reorganisation to keep up with the pace of technology and other changes in the business landscape. “Change has never been this fast. Technology such as generative AI is evolving at breakneck speed. The cost of capital has gone up, directly impacting the competitive landscape,” said Tan in an email to employees.

However, the move didn’t stop at simply letting go of people: Grab provided a severance payment and will sustain the affected employees’ medical insurance coverage until the end of the year. Support is also being offered for career transition, repatriation, and development as needed, exemplifying the company’s lasting concern for its workers – current and former.

Passionate about serving others in his community, Tan strives to keep a humble outlook as a top executive. Recognising that his personal judgement can be flawed, he intentionally surrounds himself with people he calls “accountability partners” to make sure he leads with integrity and wholeheartedness, offering service to society and humility to accept feedback.

Bold and compassionate; proven resilient and intensely mindful of their own humanness, these HR Champions are being revealed one-by-one. The full report, featuring all 15 Champions, is now available for subscriber download.

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Chief of Staff Asia