There is no question that Singapore needs good leadership as it looks to continuing the success of the past 50 years. Managing editor Han Fook Kwang's commentary ("The art of practical leadership"; last Friday) is therefore a good start to a wider debate on this topic.
The premise that practical knowledge can be imparted only by imitation and experience is generally true. But this has to take into consideration the landscape in which such practical knowledge applied and whether changing times and the environment now require new approaches.
Mr Han cited several "teachable moments" in his commentary. In narrating the handling of an incident with a bus company, the lesson drawn by him was that "as a regulator, you need to show who is boss". To apply such a recipe today is likely to be unproductive and may even inflame a situation. Imagine a posting on "the high-handedness of our mandarin" being circulated on social media and the number of "likes" that it would generate among the public.
Another lesson drawn by Mr Han was to "never stop learning or miss an opportunity to find out more about the business you are in". This is true, but it does not need to be confined to a hands-on approach by the leaders only. Modern management has evolved the art of knowing the business to a new level of sophistication, through extensive gathering and analysis of customer and competitor feedback from various online and offline channels.
Mr Han also cited the concern over "a dilution of knowledge, from generation to generation", as expressed by Mr Lim Siong Guan in an interview with The Business Times.
While such a phenomenon is unavoidable, I believe we should take comfort in that the current generation is capable of picking up new and relevant knowledge to serve their needs.
Given our education system and the bright young minds that we have nurtured, I am even hopeful that the best is yet to come.
The older generation of leaders has much to offer, and our current generation of leaders should take heed of what it can learn from the former. However, there is a time to let go and allow new ideas and approaches to flourish.
Our new generation of leaders would do well to take cognizance of the new environment dynamics and imponderables, and apply a practical mindset of their own in handling our national affairs.
Yeoh Teng Kwong
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