Lee Kuan Yew's 90th birthday: Lessons on the S'pore Spirit

Lee Kuan Yew's 90th birthday: Lessons on the S'pore Spirit

SINGAPORE - Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father, celebrates his 90th birthday on Monday.

We owe him a debt of gratitude for Singapore's success story - our nation is what it is today because of his energetic passion and prophetic vision. His foresight, courageous leadership and pragmatic policies decisively transformed Singapore.

In his early years as prime minister, he rallied a team that epitomised clean, competent and committed leadership. Together, they laid a strong foundation for an inclusive, multiracial, harmonious and meritocratic society.

Consistently hailed as one of the world's top leaders, Mr Lee has impacted, influenced and inspired generations of local and global leaders.

He will go down in history as a leader extraordinaire, who made history rather than became history. Even his most vocal critics acknowledge this, albeit grudgingly.

His views, intellectual acumen and strategic thinking are captured in his books and have merited significant attention. A few quotes from his recent books capture his thoughts on leadership:

"I am the captain of the team. Whether we score a resounding success does not depend on the captain alone. Each member of the team has a decisive role to play. And no team ever wins without good teamwork."

"I think you are a born leader or you are not a leader. You can teach a person to be a manager, but not a leader. They must have the extra drive, intellectual verve, an extra tenacity and the will to overcome."

"Do not try to impress by using big words; impress by the clarity of your ideas. I speak as a practitioner. If I had not been able to reduce complex ideas into simple words and project them vividly for mass understanding, I would not be here."

"I put myself down as determined, consistent, persistent. I set out to do something. I keep on chasing it until it succeeds."

"I am not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honourable purpose."

Thank you, Mr Lee, for teaching us through words and deeds the Singapore Spirit - one person with courage, compassion, conviction and commitment from a small city-state can make a big difference on the world stage.

I wish you a happy and blessed 90th birthday.

- Johnson Lim Teng Kok (Dr), Reader


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