Morning Reflection on Leadership, Political Will, Regimentation and the Future of Singapore

I was reflecting on some conversations I had with a few senior leaders from various organisations lately. I was told this: Today’s generation is challenging to manage. They do not subscribe to regimentation, discipline and how they view work is very different.

I think it is a fact accepted by mostly everyone. This generation has grew up in abundance. They do not have to be as desperate for jobs as their parents. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But this morning, a sudden thought hit me. You mean to say that earlier generations were easier to manage? When Singapore tried to make National Service compulsory, nearly 1000 students gathered to protest. I remember Lee Kuan Yew justified how he governs Singapore by sharing with the media his thoughts. While it can be debatable, what is admirable is his will and determination to shape things up.

“Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.”

“If you are a troublemaker… it’s our job to politically destroy you… Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.”

Lee Kuan Yew

Today’s culture and context is not an excuse for weak leadership. Today, we have stability, abundance and peace. But all these can quickly go away if we do not stay true to some foundational, fundamental values. Values that brought Singapore to where it is today.

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

G. Michael Hopf

For the record, I wasn’t exactly the best student back then. But over the years, I have came to appreciate why there is a need for certain systems, regulations and enforcement to be in place. I came to appreciate why there is a need for a rank and file system in the military, not that I adore it all the time. And I also came to understand why sometimes, democracy isn’t appropriate for all situations.

“People use democracy as a free-floating abstraction disconnected from reality. Democracy in and of itself is not necessarily good. Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action.

All men have the right to live their own life. Democracy must be rooted in a rational philosophy that first and foremost recognizes the right of an individual. A few million Imperial Order men screaming for the lives of a much smaller number of people in the New World may win a democratic vote, but it does not give them the right to those lives, or make their calls for such killing right.

Democracy is not a synonym for justice or for freedom. Democracy is not a sacred right sanctifying mob rule. Democracy is a principle that is subordinate to the inalienable rights of the individual.”

Terry Goodkind, Naked Empire

Most importantly, there are tightly linked concepts in every industry. We don’t go into a medical line not expecting the value of cherish lives. We don’t go into policing not respecting the rule of law. And we don’t go into the military expecting an absence of regimentation.

“Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards! 

Lee Kuan Yew





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