Interestingly, not a single one of them responded by simply thanking me for my good wishes – every one of them commended their colleagues as having been the real reason for their successful contributions towards the well-being of Singapore. Some said they consider themselves to be receiving the award on behalf of their colleagues.
To me, this is truly remarkable, and a testimony to the oneness most Singaporeans feel not simply as a nation, but also at their workplaces.
Leadership is making good things happen, which on their own would not happen. Leaders make good things happen. It is not chance, but a matter of grasping opportunity and creating opportunity to do good.
And oftentimes doing good is by helping others come up and become the best that they can be. I am reminded of the words of Laozi, an ancient Chinese philosopher.
Earlier this week, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Transport, announced that he would not be standing in the coming general elections, despite the Prime Minister’s expression of full confidence in him and intention to appoint him to the Cabinet if he were to be re-elected.
One can only guess why Mr Lui has decided to quit politics. The transport portfolio has, no doubt, been highly demanding, given public expectation of smooth and fast rides with no breakdowns. And, equally without doubt, Mr Lui has poured heart and soul into his responsibilities.
The social media has been chattering with people giving their reactions to Mr Lui’s departure.
Among them are comments which suggest that Mr Lui was in fact removed because of inadequacies in Singapore’s transportation operations, rather than that he had decided on his own to let another take on the task. The tone of the comments even suggest a measure of delight at this happening. It demonstrates a “blame and retribution” culture that tends to diminish performance rather than enhance performance.
Think about it: through all the breakdowns, Mr Lui would have learnt an enormous lot about what can and should be done about the transportation system, and for us to think that the smartest thing the government should do is to remove him cannot make sense – the result is that someone else will come on who will have to learn all the large and small things about the transportation system all over again.
Speaking of the “blame and retribution culture” with respect to Mr Lui is only by way of illustration. It often takes place in companies and organisations. It cannot be smart for leaders to act in this way.
By all means remove the incompetent and irresponsible, but as long as people have the willingness and capacity to change and to learn, removing the person for mistakes will only undermine risk-taking, creativity and innovation, which are the very essence of new idea creation and continuous improvement.
An open mind and an open heart make for creativity, innovation, progress, and productivity!