How to Lead

Over the past two days, I had the chance to visit many organisations that run the processes that makes Singapore what it is today, not something most Singaporeans would normally have done. This gave me a rare glimpse into the many things I’ve taken for granted as a resident: a stable, growing economy; clean, safe water; efficient yet cheap public transport.

Although these things are used each and every day, one often forgets the great amount of thought and consideration that goes into making these things as efficient as they are. An example would be the many considerations the LTA takes when planning our public transport systems. It considers many possible paths and rules them out one by one, to find the best and most efficient solution to a problem. Building more roads would induce demand, thus is a very short-term solution. It is also unfeasible in land-scarce Singapore. Underground roads are too expensive! A bus-only system would not be sustainable, as it would be quickly overcrowded and eventually contribute to road congestion. The pros and cons of each solution, and each combination of solutions, are weighed, allowing Singapore to have the smooth traffic and efficient public transport system it has today.

I was especially intrigued by the impressive amount of foresight the leaders in their respective fields have. I believe Singapore is built on its people’s foresight, with examples of this scattered throughout history. The EDB is one organisation that has to be visionary to ensure Singapore’s survival. In fact, it has its roots in a very visionary project: the Jurong Industrial Estate. This project, proposed by the then Finance Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee, sought to make Singapore a choice location for industries by providing accessibility to the labour force and good infrastructure. Though initially referred to as ‘Goh’s folly’, the JIE eventually helped Singapore attract MNCs and kickstart Singapore’s growth. The EDB was set up in conjunction with the JIE, to manage such projects. It has aided Singapore by seeking out and jumping on opportunities, taking swift action to ensure these chances are not lost. The EDB’s choice to foray into chemical processing back in the 1970s today allows the industry to attract investment of over $35 billion. Today, it continues to invest in the future, setting up biomedical research facilities such as Biopolis and Fusionopolis to give Singapore a head start in this sunrise industry.

A particularly inspiring aspect was the great responsibility the people show to the country. All of the speakers we had the opportunity to speak to were extremely passionate about their field of work; even more, they were willing to use this passion and expertise for service to the nation. Our dialogue speaker, Ms Tan Ching Yee is such an example – a lady extremely knowledgeable and experienced in her work, who devoted 16 years of her life to the country. The people at GIC have to work responsibly as they manage the nation’s reserves, from which the government draws money for the development of the country. It has been an extremely inspiring experience and these role models show us what we should strive towards.

Indeed, these people are exemplary leaders. Even if we decide not to become a civil servant (though, of course, that would be good), they have qualities that I find extremely important in a leader. As potential leaders of the future, we shouldn’t just learn about the measures and policies and laws put in place to help a country, but also the heart matter that motivates every one of these leaders who drive national development.

– Joshua, Singapore

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