3 Lessons We Have Learnt From a True Leader

Always a lesson to be learnt, never a failure

23rd March 2015 marks one of the darkest day in Singapore’s history after gaining independence close to 50 years ago with the passing of Singapore’s founding father, Mr Lee Kwan Yew.

Singapore was once a swamp land, with no natural resources and had an underdeveloped economy that no one noticed. Fast forward 50 short years, Singapore has transformed into a first world country and internationally acclaimed small red dot we all call home. Our skylines are now filled with world renowned skyscrapers that leave tourists in awe, a clean and green environment, running clean water from the tap, first class education system attracting international scholars and a bilingual nation living in harmony regardless of language, race or religion. 

© Nicodemus Loh Fook Chee . Reproduced for review only.

To top that all off, Singaporeans hold a passport that has been crowned one of the most recognised passports in the world; this only goes to reflect how highly Singapore is regarded on an international stage. All of which started off with a vision and driven by a determined mind of our founding father Mr Lee.

A devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, passionate politician, determined entrepreneur and true leader, Mr Lee was many things. His life that he had willingly dedicated to Singapore was filled with fundamental lessons that every inventor, innovator and entrepreneur should know about and aspire to become.



What Mr Lee saw was the potential of Singapore and Singaporeans had that many could not see after declaring independence from Malaysia. From the construction of skyscrapers, addressing severe housing shortage during independence and attracting foreign investors to expand their manufacturing operations in Singapore. All efforts have paid off with Singapore being where it is now, although it seemed impossible back then.

The same can be said if you are an entrepreneur or inventor. Not everyone will have the same vision or foresight as you, but as long as you give it your all then, there is really nothing left to lose; only to gain.

“Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.” - From the 1988 National Day Rally



To be a revered leader requires great speaking skills, knowing who your allies are and be focused on your goals yet bold enough to make hard decisions that will ultimately benefit those under your care. In Mr Lee’s case, it was millions of Singaporean lives and futures that were under his care. This also meant that he had to make decisions while looking at the bigger picture, rather than just finding a quick fix or a simple way out. The critical decisions that Mr Lee made helped pave the way for the successful Singapore he envisioned.

As an entrepreneur you should envision to be the effective leader he was. Be precise, straight to the point and make effective decisions that will benefit your target audience and the future of your invention. There will always be naysayers and negative comments, but what is important is that we learn from them and move on.

“I have never been over concerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.” - The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew



Remaining tenacious under pressure and seeing a decision through is no easy task, especially when the weight of the entire nation rests on your shoulders with every decision that you make. Mr Lee did just that when he made the emotional announcement of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia on 9 th August 1965. He was determined to bring Singapore out of poverty, clean the street of triads and push the Singapore agenda forward during his official visits overseas, all so as to not let failure claim Singapore even when all the odds were against us.

Today, Singapore is a hustling and bustling metropolitan city that is the destination for foreign investments, the best case study for housing development, boasts a world class port and award winning airport; a far cry from the swamp land and fishing village we were just 50 years ago.

As an entrepreneur and innovator it is sometimes difficult to be tenacious and believe in your decision during the times when you feel you have reached pit-bottom. But respect yourself enough to waste no time in cutting the string that binds you to negativity or ill-productivity. In our current era now, where everything is moving at such a fast pace, time is of the essence.

“I stand by my record. I did some sharp things to get things right – too harsh – but a lot was at stake. But at the end of the day, what have I got? Just a successful Singapore.” - Hot-Button Topics



By Geralyne Kaye Ong / March 23, 2015 17:15PM GMT+8


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