Sonny Leong CBE is Chief Executive of Civil Service College and Executive Chairman of Academy for Parliamentary & Policy Studies, and Trustee Director of Future First, a social enterprise company, whose vision is that every state secondary school and college should be supported by a thriving, engaged alumni community that helps each one to do more for its students. He is also Trustee of Mulan Foundation Network, a charity supporting the achievements of Chinese women in the United Kingdom.
He sits on the Advisory Panel of The Changing Work Centre, advising policy makers of the changing nature of work, and the skilling of young people for the jobs of tomorrow.
Sonny is Chair of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, a parliament based NGO, founded nearly fifty eight years ago, at the time of the first Commonwealth Education Ministers' Conference in Oxford.
He has over forty years of publishing experience, having worked in various academic and professional publishing houses. He founded Cavendish Publishing and developed it to be the largest independent academic law publisher in the UK before it was acquired by Informa PLC.
He was formerly the Chairman and Hon President of the Independent Publishers Guild, former Chair of International Division and Council member of the Publishers Association in the UK.
He was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014.
1) What are your proudest achievements?
I love starting businesses and creating employment. Mentoring, coaching future leaders and seeing them lead successful enterprises and lives make me feel proud. My proudest achievement was also my humblest was to be awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Her Majesty, The Queen.
2) What inspires you?
Challenging unfairness in society and empowering young people to be their best inspire me and gets me going every day. Social injustices make me angry, and people should come together to banish them. We need to stand up, speak up and defend those people exploited by the rich and powerful.
3) What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
There isn’t any one particular obstacle in my career that I can remember, but what frustrates me is the ‘old boys’ network that still operates in various professions. We have to challenge the notion of ‘who you know’ by ‘what you know’. We still have a long way to go to achieve a classless society.
4) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
Lots of people have influenced me, ranging from my parents to community and business leaders. They have influenced me in different ways from never giving up when the things look bleak to showing humility when you are on the rise. One thing I will always remember is beautiful things are not always good, but good things are also beautiful.
5) What is the best aspect about your current role?
Meeting people from across the world and learning their traditions and culture. I have been very privileged and lucky to visit many countries and places. Some of the people I met through my work and businesses have become very good friends.
6) And the worst?
Not having enough time to spend with my family. I travel abroad every six to eight weeks and I am indebted to my family for their understanding.
7) What are your long term goals?
I am determined that we have Chinese Labour Members of Parliament, and we are working towards that. We have talented candidates coming through the system and we will see them at all levels of elected public office.
8) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
The lack of affordable social housing in this country should shame us all. The housing market is broken with developers sitting on land banks and exploiting their position – markets are artificially inflated to create a boom where housing becomes too expensive for the majority. If I am Prime Minister, everyone who cannot afford their own place will be guaranteed a decent, affordable place to live and call home.
9) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?
Mahatma Gandhi comes to mind – what an inspirational person! Coming from a poor family, against all odds, discrimination and challenges along his way, he was determined to better himself. He eventually led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.