Kathleen Tan, CEO of AirAsiaExpedia, spoke with The Weekly about the secrets behind her success. Here’s a look at some of her advice on staying on top.



“Sometimes, it takes someone else to tell you that you can do it in order for you to believe in yourself. That is what Tony did for me.” Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes encouraged Kathleen Tan to leave the world of music and join AirAsia 12 years ago.

In 2013, Kathleen tan took on the role of CEO of AirAsia Expedia, heading the joint venture between the world’s leading online travel company, Expedia Inc, and Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia. Despite the risk of entering unchartered territory, Kathleen Tan says diving into new experiences is a great contributing factor to her success.


“In today’s world, we worry too much about what others think of us. I don’t – I do what I love and that is all that matters. Be proactive and do not complain. When I see a bad situation, I do something about it” – Kathleen Tan


Having the Right Attitude

“When I am faced with a crisis, instead of panicking, I think ‘OK, I have a situation here, how do I turn it into an opportunity for myself?”

Kathleen is unafraid to be bold and takes a proactive stance, to make things happen. She is not a fan of constantly complaining, but rather getting up and doing something to improve a situation.


Seize Opportunities

Women need to have courage and be inquisitive.

“One piece of advice that I would like to share with women is this: Either you control your mind or you let your mind control you. Sure, we may be plagued with the perception that we are lesser than our male counterparts, but honestly, it is up to you to defy that.”

“Never think that you are at a disadvantage for being a woman”

Kathleen Tan shared a past experience where she had to speak in a conference in the United States and being an Asian woman made her nervous. But she calmed her nerves and put her best effort into her one shot at making a positive impact. Putting aside those fears, she delivered the talk and at the end of it, she received numerous emails saying they were inspired by her talk.

“That keeps me going”.


Face Your Shortcomings

As a leader, Kathleen Tan feels it is important to encourage the people on your team to excel at their own roles.

“You cannot be the one handling everything”.

It is important to have the right people in the right roles and encourage them.


Recognise Talent

Look after your employee’s interests, keep them motivated, give them new experiences so they remain motivated to grow.

“Recognising talent is the only way to retain good talent and keep your employees happy. Instead of hiring someone new, I brought my staff to our office in Singapore – it gives them a new environment and they get to grow too.”


Talk it Out

“If you are not happy with something at work, speak up. Get to the point,” Kathleen shares. “I always tell my team, confrontations are good because you challenge yourself instead of simply agreeing. Being agreeable is not something healthy -it only means you are not up for a challenge or a change.”

Speak up, don’t make assumptions and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.