Of Love and Respect for an Honourable Leader

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Photo credit: The Washington Post

 

A nation almost fell into a crisis on 21 August 2016.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) was giving the National Day Rally on the podium when he suddenly fell to his right; his face was visibly paler with beads of sweat on his left forehead before he had taken ill. My first thought was, “Was it a stroke?”

The camera quickly cut to the audience; however, the director probably did not anticipate the reaction of the audience to be very telling that something bad was happening to my Prime Minister. A young, Indian girl in her school uniform sat up, covered her mouth with her hand to express shock and fear.

Then the National Day Rally was suspended; for 80 long minutes. That must have been the longest dinner buffet ever served at a public service event. 

When the PM recovered, his wit and humour were still very much intact and the incident proved useful for him to illustrate the importance of succession planning.

As PM LHL continued on delivering the important speech to set the nation’s forecast and vision for the following year, my tired and jaded heart plumped up with pride.

PM Lee has proven that he is indeed, the right man for this job then, and now. I am grateful for a Prime Minister who puts the nation above self. Yes, there are issues and policies that I do not agree with; but that’s a different story.

Have you seen how other leaders are hurting their own people and land?

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I must have been 19 or 20. I was a member of the Young People Action Party (YPAP). I dragged my bestest friend, J to ZOUK, a club that was popular in the early 2000s because PM Lee  and his cabinet will be engaging with the YPAP at the club.

I had brought along a TIME magazine where PM Lee was on the cover. I was such a groupie; choosing to sit at the outer bar area so that I could get a chance to have PM Lee autograph on the magazine cover. He did with a tinge of hesitation and awkwardness; but not without his handsome bodyguards giving me the dirty look before they surrounded him to create a barrier between PM Lee and me…as if my black pen (from a random hotel) would become a weapon.

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I have loved my PM since then. The kind of love that is part-gratitude, part-respect.

I also recognise that he probably has other talents and interests which he had to give up to be in this position of immense stress and responsibilities. Forgive me as I continue to share my alternative perspective and unhappiness on what could have been.

My courage and expectations come from Mr LKY, Mr Goh Chok Tong and you, PM Lee, because you have made it possible for me to be confident and knowledgable.

Thank you, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long for taking care of Singapore and our needs, protecting and guiding Singapore into a better spot.

Please rest up well, Mr Lee. I hope you get some well-deserved break soon.

The Management of Me

So, I found an old newspaper cutting I have kept on my ex-company where I’ve spent the happiest time of my working life. Not just that, two of my ex-bosses and mentors were featured in the article.

Nagi and Kim Yin were the first male bosses I’ve worked with and it was a refreshing change working with and for them.

While working with them, not only did I learn much about investments, people skills and the energy & resources space, I’ve also been exposed to their leadership and mentoring. Through them, I learnt more about myself, managing my emotions (still need more improvements in that dept) and hopefully, grew a little wiser.

The two mentors were honest and open, which made for a very strong working relationship. It came to a point where I wanted to do more and better for these two bosses and nothing else matter. Okay, I exaggerate but yes, that was quite close to how I felt.

Research has always shown that a large part of employees’ satisfaction came from their working relationship with their direct supervisors. I was lucky, I got double dosages of that satisfaction and joy. I’ve never dreaded a day of work while I was working under Kim Yin and/or Nagi.

Till this day, after leaving the company for more than 4 years, I still get a little teary-eyed thinking of the conversations and little moments shared.

Today, I am working in an entirely different environment and have been fortunate to have a different kind of goodness with my managers.

I am always grateful for the good people in my life, no matter how short the moment lasted.

The Accidental Mentor

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A moored boat @ Pulau Ketam, Selangor (Malaysia)
I always feel stagnated & restless after a while; no matter where I am.

You don’t have to be really smart to be successful. You just have to hire the right people to work for you — that’s how leaders should lead… No need for all that ego.

— My awesome ex-boss

You will meet a lot of people in your lifetime. Some people make such a meaningful impact that you can never quite forget them. You remember the pearls of wisdom they’ve dispensed or the feeling they give you when they motivate you. Short of putting them on a pedestal, you sorta want to be like them when you grow up. That, was my ex-boss.

I was a diploma holder with a mass communication background. I was really happy doing administration and project management under his leadership when during a performance appraisal review, he told me, “I think you’re really bored with what you’re doing now. That was why I wanted you to join our weekly cluster meetings so that you can be part of what we do. But now, I think you need to do more. For yourself.”

I was a little uncomfortable. What does he mean? For myself? I am happy. I get great bonuses. I travel almost every other month for leisure. What more do I want?

My awesome ex-boss (AEB) then said, “You need to improve yourself. Go get a degree. If you’re no money, I will find you the money. Do you need any help?”

Me: “Are you kidding? You want to get rid of me?”

AEB: “NO! I don’t want you to be doing what you’re doing 10 years later. I may be gone by then. If someone else takes over my role, you may not be this happy.”

Me: “Wait, you’re leaving?”

AEB: “I don’t want you to be happy just because you’re working for me. You need to do more for yourself. Go find out more about that overseas degree programme you’ve wanted to do. I will write you u a testimonial.”

Me: “Okkaaay.”

That conversation took place in Nov 2009.

In Feb 2010, I tendered my resignation to pursue a higher education in Melbourne, Australia.
AEB called me into this office. I took my seat and he placed a plastic bag from Apple in front of me.

AEB: “This is for you to write your papers when you’re in Australia. Study hard.”

I looked down and it was a macbook, a macbook cover, a mouse and some software stuff. And i broke down. It was gratitude, shock, surprise and happiness all rolled into one. I did pretty well for someone who didn’t have the money to pay for her own school fees or rental; someone who had to work any jobs she could find. I guess the strength to not want to let my AEB down was stronger than anything. The faith he had in me when I was happy to be cruising along was my motivation to keep going despite the financial challenges.

August 2013: I have been accepted in the Master of Science programme at a local university. Now, all I have to do is to find the money to finance myself through this one year programme.

Why did I share all this? I don’t want to forget what it was like to be hungry. To want to continuously improve myself. Even if I don’t see my own strengths and potential sometimes, this will serve as a reminder to myself.

I was fortunate to have met with a man who taught me what it is like to be a good leader.   Great leaders like the AEB are rare in Asia. Having had one AEB has taught me so much in this lifetime.

Do you have an AEB or existing boss who inspires you?