5 Questions with Trinh Tham

“5 Questions With ______” is an interview series from executive search firm Amrop Rosin. These are quick-hitter interview discussions between Amrop Rosin’s Partners and North American executives on the topic of Purposeful Leadership -  a strategic framework used at Amrop to identify, assess, and position leaders in roles where they can drive impact for business, society and the planet.

In this edition of 5 “Questions With______”, Kelly Freeman, Partner at Amrop Rosin, speaks to Trinh Tham, a global executive thought leader, on why purpose should be at the heart of leadership.

Trinh Square Headshot

Kelly Freeman: What do you believe are the most important characteristics in a Purposeful Leader (leaders that create impact for profits, people and the planet)?

Trinh Tham: There are several that come to mind. For me, the difference between leadership and Purposeful Leadership is being mindful, observant and intentional with the way to interact with the people and communities around you. Building trust is another important aspect of purposeful leadership because one of the cornerstones of a great leader is the ability to cultivate strong relationships. I've always admired leaders who are brave and courageous. As I progressed throughout my career, I’ve learned to balance being courageous with also being tactful. Sometimes delivering on a specific purpose requires you to have a point of view that might be different than the norm, and to take risks and push boundaries that take you and those around you out of your comfort zone. Trying to get folks to see that there is a new or a different way to do things requires courage to speak up and invite people in to share in your vision. I have found encouraging open communication and viewpoints from different angles means that everyone has more data points, and this helps with building understanding, collaboration and consensus.


KF: Thank you for sharing that Trinh. That’s beautiful and you really connected the characteristics to paint a holistic picture of a Purposeful Leader. At Amrop Rosin, we believe that Purposeful Leadership is a movement, and as we know, movements, start with individuals. When you’re hiring for purpose-driven individuals to join your team, what does that process look like for you? What kinds of conversations are you looking to have with potential hires?


TT: Assuming we’ve passed the technical and the relevant experience-based requirements, I always start with understanding values and look for specific traits that suggest an individual is purpose-driven such as openness to learning, collaboration, courage, empathy, vision and accountability.

We always ask about wins but I also ask about times when a candidate has tried something and failed. We’ve all had failures and I believe humility and the openness to admit when you’ve made mistakes and learn from them is an important part of professional growth. Personally, I thrive well in organizations that measure high on accountability and integrity.

Ask your candidate when was the last time they tried something new in their professional or spare time. You will learn quickly what they have gained from these experiences and if they have a learner’s mindset. You will also get a sense of what’s important to them, how they collaborate and if they have pushed outside of their comfort zone.

I also ask candidates if they do volunteer work or serve on a board such as a local youth sports team, community centre or non-profit organization.  You can learn a lot about values and leadership dimensions from listening to why they decided to commit their time.


KF: That’s wonderful. It’s true that when we’re accountable to our failures, we learn from them and it ultimately makes us better. I know that you sit on many Boards. When you think about how you lead with purpose in an executive role versus how you lead with purpose in a Board role, can you share advice for executives who want to bring a purposeful mindset to governance roles?


TT: I find board work to be very rewarding and a great way to expand your network with high caliber executives. I currently serve on three boards: one corporate, one institutional, and one volunteer. Each one of those boards lines up with different aspects of what's important to me. Canadian Women in Sport is a non-profit with the mandate to improve DE&I. I am on the Board of Governors for Herzing College. We are a trade college that provides post-secondary upskilling and programs to help students improve their chances of finding the job they want. I’m also a Board Director for Chatters – which is a hair salon retailer whose purpose is to help our customers feel good about being themselves.

There are key differences between an executive role versus a board role and I enjoy being able to shift across different leadership gears. As a board director, I’m focused on strategic planning at the highest level, financial oversight and corporate governance.  As an executive, I’m more focused on managing and operating the business to deliver on objectives and KPIs. Sitting on a board is a privilege and while my interaction is mainly with the CEO and executive team, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure I voice opinions and make decisions that ensure the best future success for the organization. This requires thinking at a higher altitude and ensuring there is a clear vision for the organization.  This vision needs to be goal-oriented and ambitious in order to drive growth and compete in constantly evolving business environments.  Serving on a board is an opportunity to bring forward ideas on broader issues with experiences from a number of different individuals to ensure a greater chance of diverse perspectives. It’s important to be conscientious of the impact your decisions will have on customers and employees of the organization. My advice to executives who want to bring a purposeful mindset to governance roles is to ask yourself why you want to join a particular board and to ensure the answer feels like it is for the right reasons. Do you care about the people and company? Are you passionate about the brand? Can you add value to the existing board team? Are you ready to serve? Can you put the interests of the company above your own? Can I truly make an impact? Only you will know what feels right to you.


KF: If you were to summarize your leadership experiences into a mantra that you could share with somebody who's looking to start their career what would it be?


Trinh: “There is no gene for the human spirit”.  It’s actually a quote from the movie titled Gattaca. It speaks to determination and believing in yourself to reach your goals.


KF: I’m sure you have a busy schedule and you're keeping up with all the different roles you have in your life. What do you do in your spare time to make sure you’re the best version of yourself for the people you lead and the communities you belong to?


TT: I like to stay active and being outdoors. I enjoy social sports such as skiing, hiking, biking, and I started golfing a few years ago. I practice yoga and mindfulness all year-round and I give myself an hour once or twice a week for some quiet time. I love to travel because learning about different cultures and other parts of the world promotes understanding and appreciation of the planet and the people around us.