Report on Sri Lanka Business Leaders and their Leadership


Below assignment is based on two highly recognized business leaders in Sri Lanka at the moment. Their contributions to the Sri Lankan economy play a major role in its current state.

Mr. Susantha Chaminda Ratnayake who is the youngest ever chairman in Sri Lanka to head the largest conglomerate which is the John Keells Holdings (JKH). He was recruited to JKH as a trainee executive in 1978 which was the initial stepping stone of the now chairman. He has served and presently serving as director and non-independence chairman of various other businesses within and out of the John Keells group as well. He's had more than 28 years of management experience in the JKH Group itself before getting elected as the Chairman in January 2006.

Mr. Victor Hettigoda an entrepreneur started his business from the early years of 1950s', going door to door trying to sell the "balm" which his father has given a secret recipe to make. Now Mr. Hettigoda, also called the 'Balm King of Asia' is a successful business man who has spread his wings to foreign countries as well. His manufacturing facility produces more than 100 different products now, including balm, medicinal oils, preventive and curative Ayurvedic drugs, soaps and herbal wine. Products are sold the world over. His factory employs about 1,500 people directly and 6,000 more are working for him on contracts. Hettigoda Group now includes an Ayurvedic hospital with 50 beds, a sea beach resort hotel with 50 rooms and a fertilizer mixing plant.

What is leadership?

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Leadership can be defined as a complex phenomenon involving the leader, followers and the situation. Leadership is becoming a both science and an art because the skills and competencies in analyzing and responding to situations varies greatly across leaders. Leadership is a combination of logical predictability, inspirations and passion.

Leadership, Follower and Situation

The relation between the above three can be explained as; a leader may need to respond to various followers differently in the same situation. Therefore as we can see, the accomplishment of the task will purely depend on how strong the relationship between the leader, follower and the situation is.

Mr. Ratnayake has been working for JKH from the beginning of his career as mentioned above. Therefore he has a thorough knowledge on how his peers, his subordinates and his followers will react to situations. Therefore Mr. Ratnayake has been well equipped with the knowhow to manage the people and to trigger them at the right points to accomplish tasks at various situations which he comes across.

On the other hand Mr. Hettigoda has started his business by going from door to door on his own. He has previously worked in a book shop as a marketing person and therefore he's had some experience in how to market his product. But as selling 'balm' is a different situation altogether he did not succeed at once. Therefore he has adapted to the particular situation. Also at the beginning he did not have any followers. But at present there are plenty of people around Sri Lanka and the world who has adopted his style of hard work and achieving desired goals.

Leadership Effectiveness

Effective leaders are individuals who are good at building teams and getting results. Most people in leadership positions get paid to get results, and they get results by building teams.

Mr. Ratnayake has described taking over South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) project which has been one of the largest projects for JKH for him. Mr. Ratnayake has just taken over the shipping, freight forwarding and foreign employment section of JKH and therefore taking over the terminal has been a leadership accomplishment. He has negotiated with the Sri Lankan government and has taken it over with a negative background for a terminal. Therefore he has been with SAGT throughout its life and has seen it taken off the ground and performing successfully.

Mr. Hettigoda has tried many ways to sell his balm but at the end he found the most effective way. He has succeeded on his own at this effort. Now he has evolved his business to ayurvedic spas, hospitals and also has conquered Asia with his balm and today, it is sold in about 19 countries. Germany, France, England, Dubai, Switzerland and India are some of them. Therefore we can see that due to the effectiveness of his leadership he has been successful enough to be a business leader through an ancient ayurvedic balm.

Power, Influence, Values and Culture

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Power can be defined as the capacity to produce effects on others or the potential to influence others. Influence can be defined as the change in a target agent's attitudes, values beliefs or behaviour as the result of influence tactics. Values are constructs representing generalized behaviours or states of affairs that are considered by the individual to be important. Culture refers to those learned behaviours characterizing the total way of life of members within any given society.

Mr. Ratnayake has had the power to negotiate with the authorities to hand over SAGT to JKH group. He also has the power to do whatever he sets his mind and achieving it. We can see that he possesses powers such as expert power by his knowledge in the JKH group, referent power to treat his staff and customers well and legitimate power to get the work done. He also has used many influencing tactics such as consultation, pressure and legitimizing tactics to conducting the business for his staff as well as the outsiders who are directly associating with the business. There are some recognized values within the JKH group as well. Such as changing constantly, re-inventing and evolving, constantly raising the bar, fostering a great place to work are some of the values. He talks about the culture of the organization as open where there are no age gaps and not being hierarchical. Also he has emphasized that there are many opportunities for expressing views and ideas.

Mr. Hettigoda has had the power to make the consumer buy his product for the first time and to make them keep buying it. Mr. Hettigoda has powers such as expert power as a sales person initially and then management knowledge, reward power treat his customers and staff. He also possesses influential tactics such as inspirational appeals, consultation and rational approach. He has values such as using no chemicals for his products, to maintain a fine balance between traditional and modern. Since ayurvedic is a traditional method therefore the company's culture is on the new product design and development side to keep in track with the modern world.

Leadership Behaviour

Mr. Ratnayake has behaved by showing respect for his elder members in the management team. He has been greatly thankful for them for laying a path for him to lead on. Also he's had a great concern for his staff as well. Therefore a great leader must have good qualities as mentioned above to successfully lead an organization.

Mr. Hettigoda has also had some good qualities of leadership behaviour. He now has a vast number of staff as well who he very well looks after. One of his objectives in the company is to continue to provide all its employees with the resources necessary to ensure the success of the company.

Leadership and Change

Although Mr. Ratnayake has been on the director board for thirteen years he has not taken his leadership for granted. All along the years he has changed his leadership styles to blend with the current situation of the country as well as to increase profitability of the company. Mr. Ratnayake has also helped the organization to change with the help of his experience.

Mr. Hettigoda has started the business 75 years ago. Therefore both his leadership and the organization have to change over the period. If not he nor his organization or his herbal products will last in the hearts of the consumer for 75 years. But one thing he did not change was the secret of success. That is his formula for the balm which his father has passed on to him. Therefore he knew what needed to be changed and what not to.

Community Leadership

Mr. Ratnayake has given leadership for many community projects within the group. There are categories such as education, health, environment, arts, culture, and community livelihood development. Therefore all of the above are under the JKH banner and reflecting the diversity within the conglomerate. The initiatives in each focus area are aligned to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) of which John Keells Holdings PLC is a participant since 2002. Mr. Ratnayake has also encouraged the staff at JKH to volunteer to perform some community work as well. A foundation has been formed for this great cause within the group. In 2009/10, the foundation accounted for a minimum of 211 volunteer engagements in various projects implemented or overseen by the Foundation during the year. In 2010/11, the Foundation plans to develop a comprehensive plan to recognize and reward its volunteers.

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Mr. Hettigoda has also performed various community leadership exercises. Such as social welfare at religious events, environmental awareness programme, supporting schools in need, humanitarian assistance during natural disasters, humanitarian assistance during natural disasters. Therefore as mentioned above Mr. Hettigoda takes on the lead of almost all the community efforts that has been performed by the company.


Both the leaders are very effective in their own ways. Mr. Ratnayake is the chairman of the largest conglomerate in Sri Lanka which he has successfully managed. Mr. Hettigoda is an entrepreneur who has builds his business from scratch on his own. Both are passionate in what they do and if they are not they will not be as successful as present. Mr. Ratnayake being the youngest chairman he has a long way to go in his career sharing his experience with the followers who are there to take over the business in the future. Mr. Hettigoda has now handed over his business to his followers who are in the process of taking the organization to better heights. Therefore now he is concentrating more on the community leadership section as mentioned above. Effective leaders differ from ineffective ones through personal traits, cognitive abilities, skills and values. Therefore we can see that both the leaders were and currently are effective in their leadership roles, since we see the results before our eyes.