We know the ingredients for successful leadership, we just need to do it!


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Did you read Mr Lim Siong Guan’s article on “How new leaders can sustain Singapore’s success” in the Straits Times on Monday? (See http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/singapore/story/how-new-leaders-can-sustain-singapores-success-20150406). It is an excellent article, one which defines the traits of a strategic leader. I find this a compelling read for several key points:

1. Rich countries thinking poor, and poor countries thinking rich

Mr Lim started out by talking about the grid between economic wealth and life attitude. Economic wealth really is how much money a country has, and life attitude is the expectations of the country’s people and how the act – whether as rich people or as poor people.

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Image from Straits Times

Mr Lim feels that the Singapore government currently is at B in the grid, but its citizens might want it to go to C. The problem with going to C is that the lifestyle requirements for C or D need to be met with concomitant income. If the country cannot afford the lifestyle expenses at C, it will drop down to D. Mr Lim identified countries like Greece, the US, Japan and Europe to be in D. Singapore can be at C, but it needs to have the proper leadership to maintain that position.

The VUCA environment

Another interesting point – and I just learnt this new term – is “VUCA”; volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Indeed, 21st century environment is VUCA, and under such situations, leaders need to be able to deal with such ambiguity and strike out boldly even when conditions are unclear.

I wrote in a previous article that the strategic leader must be able to deal with this uncertainty through his vision, his intent, building a compelling picture of the future. Indeed, these are the very same words that Mr Lim used in this article. I also spoke about the ability to learn from failure, another important aspect Mr Lim identified for leadership in the vuca world.

Related: 5 Must-Have leadership skills for organic growth

Learning from our forefathers

Singapore’s pioneer leaders brought us from Point A to Point B or C on the grid. And they did that through strategic leadership that new leaders must again possess. In a sense, we are coming full-circle. Our leaders started out as visionaries, and when we got better, they became bureaucrats, trying to limit failure. We now need to re-adopt the leadership qualities of our forefathers to help us navigate the vuca. I end by quoting Mr Lim, “Their qualities of boldness, uniqueness, pursuit of excellence, unwavering determination, readiness to learn from mistakes, and reliability should serve as our compass of values and principles as we sail forth into unchartered waters.”

This set of leadership qualities are needed both in business as in politics.

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