Six young CEOs talk reaching success without abandoning ethical leadership

The CEOs pitched in on how they define ethics with their diverse company backgrounds, from education to sanitation.

Radhiyya Indra

Radhiyya Indra

The Jakarta Post


Taking the lead: (Clockwise from top left) CEO of Quest Motors Niko Questera, CEO of Rudy Wahyu Perdana, co-founder and chief business development officer of Binar Academy Dita Aisyah, CEO of Senormal Karaeng Adjie, CEO of Sun Eater Kukuh Rizal and co-CEO of Think.Web Anantya Van Bronckhorst talk challenges of leading a company to success with ethics in mind. (Personal collections/Combined by Hengky Wijaya) (Personal collections/Combined by Hengky Wijaya)

October 28, 2022

JAKARTA – Six young leaders from Indonesia’s creative companies sat down for the first session of The Jakarta Post’s new video series TJP Roundtable to talk about the challenges of leading a company toward success while still adhering to norms and ethics.

In conjunction with Sumpah Pemuda (the national Youth Pledge Day), The Jakarta Post invited several young CEOs to sit down for a roundtable discussion on Oct. 12 at Park Hyatt, Jakarta, about sustaining their ethics as a “young” leader while still leading their company to success as a business force. The video will premiere on Oct. 28 on the Post’s YouTube channel.

The speakers include Kukuh Rizal, CEO of local music company Sun Eater; Niko Questera, CEO of electric vehicles company Quest Motors; Anantya Van Bronckhorst, co-CEO of digital agency Think.Web; Rudy Wahyu Perdana, CEO of sanitation and high-standard public toilets company; Dita Aisyah, co-founder and chief business development officer (CBDO) of online learning platform Binar Academy; and Karaeng Adjie, CEO of eco-friendly household cleaning products Senormal. All these leaders are in their thirties and early forties.

Moderated by the Post’s reporter Yvette Tanamal, the six CEOs dived into the topic of ethical leadership according to their own experiences.

Value in money or people?

The CEOs pitched in on how they define ethics with their diverse company backgrounds, from education to sanitation.

“Ethical leadership is how we define what’s right or wrong in our culture and how we conduct ourselves in front of the team,” Dita said during the roundtable.

“We glamorize working hard from morning to morning, but is that something that’s morally or ethically right for the team? Is output the number one and only important thing for the company or are mental health and work-life balance also important for the team?” she asked.

Karaeng also agreed with the link between culture and ethics in the workplace, giving the latter credit for its “usefulness” in the “capitalist system” we live in.

“Any company is a capitalist entity and in capitalism, we capitalize […] But if the company’s culture is not ethically correct, where is all the collected capital going to be directed?” he asked.

A company’s operations could be at risk when it is not ethical towards its employees, Karaeng added. One example is a burnout that comes from workplace stress, which 77.3 percent of Indonesians have experienced even while working at home, according to CNN Indonesia’s online survey in 2021.

The culture that leaders create in the company has to start from the values they hold, the CEOs believed, and this aspect that Anantya emphasizes is based on her experience.

“Ethics depends on the individual who runs the business,” Anantya said.

She told the story of her business’s early years when her partner asked her, “For this business, do we want to value money or people?”

“That question threw me for a loop. […] But then it seeps into my head that it’s true. If we do business, it’s not always about the money, although, yeah, it’s still a business,” she said.

Groundwork of values and culture in the workplace can be hard to maintain, which is why Rudy always tries to uphold a positive environment through words of encouragement and appreciation among his coworkers at

“When they disagree, things can be complicated, can’t they? […] In our company, we mostly create value using positive words. When we’re discussing something, we also look for similarities and throw in some appreciation,” he explained, choosing to be constructive instead of destructive.

Different cultures and generations

Questions of differences also arise in a multicultural nation like Indonesia, with its various traditions and religious backgrounds. At Sun Eater, Kukuh admitted that ethical leadership in the diverse creative industry can be “challenging.”

“[Indonesia] has so many languages and all kinds of subjective things,” he said.

But even after Kukuh made sure that the operational system caters to friends from various regions, a region’s culture and norms will always be distinct from Sun Eater. ”

There are some areas where 80 percent of traditional instruments are not allowed to be played by women,” he said. “So if we bring the instrument to our stage, for example, it becomes a sensitive matter.”

With a more progressive perspective from Jakarta, how should a leader like Kukuh react? In Sun Eater’s case, they followed the region’s norms but also made a documentary about it.

“We try to give another point of view as to why it shouldn’t be played, so we don’t necessarily say, ‘Oh, this is okay and this isn’t.’ We are more interested in finding out the reason behind it,” he explained.

When asked about leadership then and now, the CEOs agreed that different socio-economic statuses cause a generational divide.

“Maybe at a certain level of management, the conventional styles in the ’80s can be more of use,” Niko stated, claiming that a collaborative system might not work in several industries.

“Some businesses are more effective when carried out using the old ‘iron fist’ management on some occasions. Not that it should be cruel, no,” he said.

Despite differences among employees, Dita admitted that unifying the workers and making them ethically aligned perfectly is an “impossible task.”

“Because humans are very different, everyone must be different. And here’s the thing, we want diversity and inclusion, not homogeneity, correct?” she asked, bringing up the recent criticism toward the homogenous start-ups’ landscape in the United States that consists of primarily graduates from upper-middle class universities and sororities.

“So the question is, how do we live through our differences? Although we have different values, [we must have] the same values when we’re at work, especially in terms of collaboration and doing the work,” she concluded.

“But outside of the company, if you have other values regarding raising your family or your religious views and whatnot, you can embrace that.”

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