SOTY 2018: HKJC's chief executive, and Olympian Michael Phelps on the marks of a true leader and how to make goals a reality

By Donna Mah

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is promoting creativity as a way of further encouraging ideas and experimentation

By Donna Mah |

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The Hong Kong Jockey Club Scholarships, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, seeks to develop the community leadership potential of our very best tertiary education students.

Each year, the Student of the Year Awards recognise the diverse talents of secondary school students in Hong Kong.

There are categories to acknowledge excellence in traditional academic subjects, as well as in sports, visual and performing arts, for outstanding contributions to schools and community, and for those who have shown courage and determination in overcoming exceptional challenges.

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The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) is known for supporting young people through a wide variety of programmes and activities. But, as the sole sponsor of the Awards, the club is also keen to promote this year’s theme of “creativity” as a way of further encouraging ideas and experimentation.

The club’s chief executive, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, notes that with nine distinct categories,  the Awards encompasses many opportunities for innovation and creative thinking, which are key qualities for success in any field.

Engelbrecht-Bresges and swimmer Michael Phelps talk about the importance of sports.
Photo: HKJC

“All of this sends an important message to young people about the many ways in which they can succeed, and the many different opportunities open to them,” he said.

In encouraging students to  always do their best, he quoted Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, who spoke at the recent Philanthropy for Better Cities Forum, which was organised  by the club. At the event, Phelps said: “Everything is possible, as long as  you put your mind, work, and time, into it.”

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As part of the Soty assessment process, nominees are interviewed by the judges individually and during a special one-day leadership camp. “Leadership is a vital skill,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“The mark of a good leader is the ability to develop and share your vision, and to set goals that inspire people to achieve. You need to motivate your team to work collaboratively towards common goals, to give them the confidence to make decisions, and to take accountability for the results.”

In offering general advice for this year’s finalists, he also noted that  he has always found the most successful students are those who show the greatest curiosity.

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“They constantly seek to improve themselves and learn more. They have strong values and beliefs, and they demonstrate the ability to think critically and strategically,” he said.

He added that real-life experience often makes a better impression than textbook answers, and that students should stay true to themselves to let their achievements shine through.

In his current position, Engelbrecht-Bresges has the chance to mentor and support others and is always ready to offer advice to students looking to carve out their own career path.

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Importantly, one feature of the Awards is that they can help students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and motivate them to take on new challenges.

Engelbrecht-Bresges also noted that it is never too early for students to start thinking about their career expectations, and to investigate the kind of qualifications and experience different employers are looking for. To this end, it makes sense to take opportunities for job shadowing, workplace visits, internships, and community volunteer work.

“This will give you a much clearer idea of who you are and where your true passion lies,” he said. “You may even find that your original career plan changes.” Regarding the theme chosen for this year’s Awards Engelbrecht-Bresges said that, in today’s world, creativity – the ability and desire to constantly seek out new opportunities and new solutions –  is absolutely essential.

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“You have to be innovative, to permanently reinvent yourself, and to be always looking for solutions that are relevant, especially in a fast-changing environment.”

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by the South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by  The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda