From ‘Leaders must be able to take criticism and acknowledge mistakes’, 26 Feb 2017, article in Today
The most important philosophy that a leader must have is “not to take yourself or your philosophy too seriously”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when asked to share his leadership mantra at a closed-door dialogue with about 100 technology innovators and disrupters from around the world.
Speaking at the event held on Friday (Feb 24) by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India, Mr Lee also stressed the need for a leader of a nation to be close to the ground and not surround himself with yes-men. In addition, he must be able to accept differing views and criticism, as well as acknowledge his mistakes and change decisions when merited, Mr Lee said.
“You have to see the world, you have to talk to people, ordinary people. You have to have a sense of what it looks like not from the point of view of the policymaker, but from the point of view of those who are at the receiving end of your policies,” he said, based on the transcript released by the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.
Mr Lee added: “I try not to surround myself with ‘yes, sir’ men. That is important because if all you have are people who say ‘three bags full sir’, then soon you start to believe them and that is disastrous.”
One can imagine all the ‘yes-men’ in the audience guffawing politely at PM Lee’s nursery rhyme joke, just like how he entertained a totally different group with a swipe at China with his pork soup joke. Suffice to say, it’s hard to pick out a BLACK sheep among today’s PAP, and considering that his listeners are ‘innovators and disrupters’, I doubt he could easily pull the WOOL over their eyes. Or anyone else familiar with the regime’s intolerance for dissension for that matter.
This is the same leader who once described his skin to be so thick that it’s ‘flame-proof’, though some of his harshest critics got severely scorched in return. Yes, when one’s integrity and honour are at stake, there’s no way you can ‘not take yourself seriously’. People like Roy Ngerng and even his own sister Lee Wei Ling come to mind. One lost his job while the other stopped writing articles for ST completely because of their besmirching.
So it’s a bit rich that one thinks criticism is a good thing, while having a penchant of sueing not just individuals, but entire publications for defamation before even engaging in productive, lively debate. Yes, we welcome naysayers, but if you don’t watch it I’ll still set my legal hounds on your ass. As for admitting mistakes, you’ll need to go back 2 GEs ago, when PM Lee made a rally apology for fiascos such as the Mas Selamat escape and Orchard Road flooding. Those were, of course, pre-70% days.
Maybe Lee was in his not-so-serious ‘balloon helmet’ element here, imagining that he was a shepherd of our yes-flock, giving an inspirational TED talk.