Lee Kuan Yew’s Leadership

Leadership is one of the most discussed and researched topics since the 19th century. Yet still, there is no clear formula for the best leader. That is why I think there is a depth in this topic and is very interesting. In our Organisational Behaviour class, we learned about factors that determine a good leader. I would like to apply this knowledge from the class and my views on leadership to Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore who has recently passed away.

Nature and nurture is often discussed when looking at leadership. There are researches supporting both sides and I believe that both are important factors contributing to the leadership. In Lee Kuan Yew’s case, nature is easily visible in his family background. Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather was successful with his large wealth. His aunt, Lee Choo Neo, is known as the first female doctor in Singapore. His three brothers were lawyer, chairman of stockbroker, and the president of Singapore Medical Council. Lee Kuan Yew’s children are current Prime Minister, former CEO of SingTel and Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and head of the National Neuroscience Institute. As shown, many of his family members take important leadership roles in various professional fields. His personality contributes to his successful leadership also. As a prime minister of Singapore, he was honest with his opinion to the people and attracted people with his charisma.

Nurture is also vital in forming Lee Kuan Yew’s vision and skill as the leader. He faced the horrible reality during the Japanese occupation and experienced the horror of the war. This experience allowed him to become the leader who seeks no conflicts and no war. Lee Kuan Yew was educated in top school and studied in England. There, he learned law and was influenced by the western culture. The knowledge and intellectual he gained through his education provided necessary decision making skill.

Nature and nurture both play strong role in shaping Lee Kuan Yew as a leader of the country. I usually think that nurture weighs more for most people, but Lee Kuan Yew’s personality and characteristics that attracts people and the accomplishments of his family members makes me think that nature weighed more in his case.

As a transformational leader, I believe that Lee Kuan Yew had all four of the “I”s. Lee Kuan Yew had the “I”ndividual consideration because he cared about his people and encouraged them to make Singapore a great country. He was very “I”ntellectually stimulated with all of his ideas that challenged the traditional life style and methods. Lee Kuan Yew was a great speaker and often spoke about his ideal future of Singapore; his “I”nspirational motivation catalyzed the forward movement of Singapore by leading his people. Lee Kuan Yew had “I”dealized attributes and behaviours, because he cared about Singapore and it’s people and took actions himself. He was exemplary role model and had the trust of his people.

Lee Kuan Yew was a unique and successful leader who built and led Singapore. Some people criticize him for violating the freedom of speech, but Lee Kuan Yew argued that some limitation on those opinions are necessary to maintain the respect from people in order to lead the country and avoid unnecessary conflicts that would slow down the growth in Singapore. In regards of his personality, I personally like his honesty and bluntness in his speech. He had ideas and values, which may be different from other people, but he has his reasons to believe in his way and advocates loudly. I think that this is rarely seen in politicians, since this kind of communication may offend people with different views. But in the end, this type of honest and clear voice allowed people to trust in his words and follow his path to build the Singapore to where it is today.


“Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.” – Lee Kuan Yew






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