How does one widen the pool of leaders beyond lawyers and doctors, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam was asked at Sinda Youth Leaders Seminar 2014 yesterday.
"Usually, there's a common stereotype that good leaders are those from top institutions and from a particular working field - lawyers and doctors and maybe top institutions like RI...when can this barrier be broken down?" asked a student from a local polytechnic.
To this, Mr Tharman replied: "I think that we have to find ways in which we celebrate and recognise role models in a wide variety of occupations and activities in Singapore.
"We have leaders all over the place and we do have to diversify the concept of leadership in society. It's not that it isn't there, it's not that, you know, no one is recognising it, but you have to do more of it."
Mr Tharman suggested that schools could invite speakers from "less conventional backgrounds" during their speech days, such as mechanics and senior nurses.
"Anyone who's achieved something with passion and leads in his or her job or... what they're doing in the community is really worth listening to and is usually less boring," he said.
When asked about getting more young people interested in politics, Mr Tharman said: "An interest in politics is not something that you can create in its own right. It usually starts when people are young - with causes."
He added: "But politics is not something you develop an interest in, in itself. It's to make society better and to make the country better and that means you've got to be concerned about something, about that society first and not politics per se," he said.
The students, during their three-day, two-night camp, visited residents at Chong Pang and brainstormed for problem statements and solutions based on their experience. They presented their ideas, which included a companionship programme for the elderly, to the DPM.
Mr Tharman was impressed that the suggestions touched on specific initiatives that could be undertaken on the ground.
"It's not just about financial assistance schemes or referring people to other forms of assistance, but it's also really about building relationships. And that's the most difficult, but the most interesting and rewarding, part of volunteerism," said Mr Tharman.
"It's about building relationships with individuals and families, who can be people who are in very different life situations compared to yourself."