Toni Siregar’s leadership style is simple – to encourage his team members to do the best they can by setting a good example himself.
“The biggest challenge in my role is being a source of motivation for my team members,” Toni says, with a smile.
“There’s no way my team will be encouraged to work better if I am not a good leader.”
Toni is Assistant Manager at Asian Agri’s Buatan I palm oil mill in Riau, where he is responsible for overseeing, guiding and counselling the factory assistants who are part of his team.
A Medan native, Toni’s strong desire to join Asian Agri is the only reason he left his hometown and parents in North Sumatra. He was working at another palm oil company after graduating from the Chemistry Department at Medan State University, until he saw an Asian Agri vacancy at a job fair in 2011.
“I was excited and determined to join one of the largest palm oil companies in Indonesia,” Toni recalls.
Upon joining the company, Toni had to complete a six-month training program at the Asian Agri Learning Institute (AALI).
Following that, he was immediately assigned as an Operational Assistant in Asian Agri’s most productive palm oil mill in Ukui district in Pelalawan, Riau.
As an Operational Assistant, Toni was responsible for keeping track of the number and source of Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) entering the mill and ensuring that they were sorted correctly. He also oversaw factory waste from production activities and its impact on the environment, as well as its conversion into useful by-products.
“It was quite a lot of work, as this is a highly productive palm oil mill,” Toni says, adding that these early five years he spent at Asian Agri were an invaluable experience.
In 2016, Toni was transferred and became a Maintenance Assistant, working more with machines in workshops. Then in 2018, Toni was entrusted as Assistant Manager at the Buatan I palm oil mill.
“The new job meant I now had to oversee the entire palm oil processing process – from palm fruit to crude palm oil,” Toni says.
Besides ensuring that all operations in the palm oil mill are carried out safely, Toni also has to make sure that the factory assistants working under him are able to do so optimally.
To him, a leader has to work harder than the people he leads – not the other way around.
“Here, we work from Monday to Saturday. We have a coordination meeting every day which starts at 6.30am. So it is important that I set an example from the beginning of the day’s activities in the morning until the day ends,” Toni says.
For starters, Toni ensures he is never late for work to the factory.
“I must also always be physically fit and be able to maintain emotional stability as well as a high work ethic. I must not show my team members that I am tired and bored, even though that feeling may come to anyone regardless of which field they work in,” Toni says.
“Another important thing about being a team leader is being able to understand all the members’ views or help with any difficulties they’re facing. I think paying attention to these details really helps to make everyone feel valued and solidify their commitments to realizing a shared vision and mission, and achieving collective targets,” he adds.
Toni also believes that treating team members as equals should also be applied outside the workplace.
“We all live in housing provided by Asian Agri, and it’s where we are community and there shouldn’t be any ‘superiors’ or ‘subordinates’ outside the factory,” he says.
However, Toni says that he does not hold back when it comes to beating his fellow team members in the badminton games they play in the sports facility provided by the company.
“Badminton is one of our favourite activities and I’m the best at it among them!” Tony says with a laugh.
Toni maintains that at the core of it, good leaders are well-disciplined and committed, and have strong communication skills.
“AALI equipped me with these skills. In just six months, Asian Agri was able to build up my resilience and discipline.
“If it weren’t for AALI, I don’t think I would have been able to survive the past eight years living and working in an oil palm plantation, which at the end of the day is never an easy task.
“Thankfully, the AALI training really helped, and I also have my wife and three children living with me on the plantation, and they are my biggest motivators in life,” Toni says.
“At Asian Agri, I’ve learned that problems are the best teachers. The more problems we face and overcome, the more we add to our knowledge and the more we dare to face our next challenge.”
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