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TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADER: LEE KUAN YEW



Introduction

Lee Kuan Yew was born on 16 September 1923 in Singapore
1
. His father including his
family was influenced by British culture because his father obtained first education in English
School. He was enforced by his father to take education at Singapores Premier Raffles College
2
.
He flew to the United Kingdom for further studies in Law at the Cambridge University. He
successfully graduated with Double Starred First Class Honours
3
. Then, he returned to Singapore
and he practiced law as an advisor for trade unions before starting a career in politics.

In World War II, Japanese was took over Singapore and ruled in brutal way. He tried to
survive as a trader in the black market. He believed that no one had the right to rule Singapore
except Singaporeans. He promised his people that Singapore would remain a free country from
foreign rule and colonial domination. He was strongly campaigned the cooperation plan with
Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to merge the countries of Malaysia and Brunei
together to form a Federation in order to end British Colonial Rule in 1961
4
. However, in 1964,
the union was short lived due to highly tension because of a race riot broke out between the
Malays and Chinese
5
. This affects both parties and result in skyrocketing prices of food and
transport disruption. He appealed to the public to end the riot and decide to sever ties with
Malaysia. The riot ended with 23 died and hundreds injured
6
. He believed that the Federation
with Malaysia was crucial for Singapore and because of a race riot, he ended the Federation that
no bloodshed occurred.

Lee Kuan Yew was referred to as expert power through his skills and knowledge that
has excellent command in English Language and also his presence in a political arena. He was
elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955
7
. He was able to gain trust because there was a
mutual understanding between him and his party members. They had same objectives, mission
and vision to achieve their common goals until he was elected as Prime Minister in 1959. He was
not only had expert power but legitimate power to rule Singapore.

1
Terry McCarthy. (n.d.).From sleepy colonial outpost to prosperous high-tech enclave, Singapore owes its rise to
the stern, stubborn lawyer who virtually invented the place. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from
http://madeinthoughts.com/pdf/LeeKuanYew.pdf.
2
Diane K. Mauzy, R.S Milne. (2002). Singapore Politics Under the Peoples Action Party. Routledge Taylor and
Francis Group. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from http://www.untag-smd.ac.id/files/Perpustakaan_Digital_2/POLITICS
%20AND%20GOVERNMENT%20Singapore%20Politics%20Under%20the%20People%92s%20Action%20Party.
pdf.
3
Simon Chesterman. (5 June 2013). The lawyer and his vision for Spore. The Straits Times. Retrieved 5 March
2014 from http://law.nus.edu.sg/about_us/news/2013/ST050613.pdf.
4
Kevin YL Tan. (2011). International Law, History & Policy: Singapore in the Early Years. Center for International
Law, National University of Singapore. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from http://cil.nus.edu.sg/wp/wp-
content/uploads/2011/02/KevinTan-Monograph-1.pdf.
5
Netina Tan. (17 November 2012). Constitutional Engineering and Regulating Ethnic Politics in Singapore.
Constitutional Design and Ethnic Conflict Conference, New York University. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from
http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/ECM_PRO_074075.pdf.
6
Sanjeev Sanyal. (14 July 2010). The art of public housing. Business Standard. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from
http://www.urbanlandmark.org.za/downloads/clipping_bs_jul2010.pdf.
7
Ibid.
2

Transformational vs. Charismatic

Lee Kuan Yew displays both a charismatic and transformational leader. Charismatic
leaders are able to inspire and motivate people but are not usually capable of bringing about huge
changes unlike transformational leaders
8
. He has transformed Singapore drastically towards a
new and improved Singapore by appealing to his peoples values and sense of higher purpose.

A Servant Leader

He as Prime Minister was a public servant that chosen by majority Singaporean. He
displays some aspects of servant leader. Servant leader is someone who places service before
self-interest
9
. He has always been concerned with developing his peoples welfare and
socioeconomic status, health and education standards. He will pay attention in order to gain
insight to the concerns, requirements and problems in order to decide what course of action to
take. As a politician, this is important because he wanted to remain relevance. He built a
foundation of trust early of his political career in order to gain supports. He consistently
delivered on his policies for example he solved shortage of Singapores housing problem by
building it on government owned land and more 90% of Singaporean own their own house
10
.

As a Prime Minister, he was responsible for his country with a population of over four
million and sometimes, he would be overlooked about his peoples problems but he tried to solve
it step by step because his peoples interests were placed first and parallel with three main
concerns were national security, economy and social issues.

Lees Attitudes, Morals and Ethics

In order to be a good leader, one must set a good moral standard for their people to
follow. Morals are defined as standards that an individual or group has about what is right and
wrong
11
. Unlike values which are fluid, morals are fundamental. He was a socialist first and
foremost and believes in the importance of freedom, better living and peace. This served as the
basis for his vision which is the Singapore we know today. He also believes in the importance of
multiculturalism and this is reflected in the nation he has created. The country is made up of 75%

8
Joan F.Marques. (2007). On Impassioned Leadership: A Comparison Between Leaders from Divergent Walks of
Life. International Journal of Leadership Studies, School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent
University. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/ijls/
new/vol3iss1/marques/Marques_IJLS_V3Is1.pdf.
9
Alireza Hejazi.(2011). How Servant Leadership Theory Serves A Biblical Theme. School of Global Leadership &
Entrepreneurship, Regent University. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/
resources/conferences/virtual/pdfs/MoralLeadConf2011_Hejazi_Charity.pdf.
10
Chua Beng Huat. (July 2008). Singapore: Growing and Wealth, Poverty Avoidance and Management. United
Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from
http://www.unrisd.org/80256B3C005BCCF9/%28httpAuxPages%29/3D4314DD55B39876C1257AE8003C3240/$fi
le/Singapore%20overview%20paper.pdf.
11
Bruce Jennings, Jeffrey Khan, Anna Mastroianni, Lisa S.Parker. Ethic and Public Health: Model Curriculum.
Association Schools of Public Health. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from
http://www.asph.org/userfiles/ethicscurriculum.pdf.
3

Chinese, 13% Malay, 7% Indian and 5% other minority groups
12
. This multi races population
requires a strict regulation in term of law to avoid any tension between races. Singapore had
successful to maintain their harmonies by fairly distributed country wealth and security of living
hood. Moreover, the safety of Singapore nation are the upmost important in which Lee enforced
the regulation to compulsory all Singaporean citizen to join the Volunteer National Service.

Economy

He always placed great importance on developing the economy and his attention to detail
on this aspect went even to the extent of connecting it with other facets of Singapore including
the country's extensive and meticulous tending of its international image of being a Garden
City something that has been sustained to this day.

Strategic Thinker

As a strategic thinker, he fashioned Singapore economic policies based on four
transformational trajectories from labor-intensive import substitution to:

a. labor intensive export-oriented manufacturing.

b. shift the whole economics towards high end products.

c. focus extensively to infrastructure, human capital and high technology.

Education Excellences

Lee Kuan Yew sees the importance of discipline and a good education which is why he
has provided a world class education system. Singapores Ministry of Education states that their
education system is recognized throughout the world and provides first class facilities.
Singapore educations system continues to impress with very little to work with, they rank in the
worlds top 4 in both primary education students scores and could overtake the United Kingdom
in the next top 20 poll
13
.

Visionary Leader

He had a high level of cognitive power which was instrumented in picking the right
springboard to first world status. He was faced with the question of survival after analysing the
existing socio political and economic context of Singapore and an ideal Singapore in the times to
come. He put economics development as top priority and embraced free trade and selective state
intervention. The plan was to transform Singapore from centre port economy to industrialised
manufacturing hub.

12
Chan Sek Keong. (2013). Multiculturalism in Singapore: The way to a Harmonious Society. Singapore Academy
of Law journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from http://www.sal.org.sg/digitallibrary/Lists/SAL%20Journal/
Attachments/625/%282013%29%2025%20SAcLJ%2084-109%20%28multiculturalism%29.pdf.
13
Its Official Japan has the World Best Education System in 2013.(30 December 2013). World Top 20 Education
System. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from http://worldtop20.org/.
4

Combating the Corruption

Like many countries, Singapore had problems with political corruption. He introduced
legislation giving the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) greater power to conduct
arrests, search, call up witnesses and investigate bank accounts and income-tax returns of
suspected persons and their families.

He believed that ministers should be well paid in order to maintain a clean and honest
government. In 1994, he proposed to link the salaries of ministers, judges and top civil servants
to the salaries of top professionals in the private sector, arguing that this would help recruit and
retain talent to serve in the public sector
14
.

Family Planning

In the late 1960s, fearing that Singapore's growing population might overburden the
developing economy, He started a vigorous Stop at Two family planning campaign
15
. Couples
were urged to undergo sterilisation after their second child. Third or fourth children were given
lower priorities in education and such families received fewer economic rebates.

In 1983, he sparked the 'Great Marriage Debate' when he encouraged Singapore men to
choose highly-educated women as wives
16
. He was concerned that a large number of graduate
women were unmarried. Some sections of the population including graduate women were upset
by his views. Nevertheless, a match-making agency Social Development Unit (SDU) was set up
to promote socialising among men and women graduates. In the Graduate Mothers Scheme, he
also introduced incentives such as tax rebates, schooling and housing priorities for graduate
mothers who had three or four children in a reversal of the over-successful 'Stop-at-Two' family
planning campaign in the 1960s and 1970s. By the late 1990s, the birth rate had fallen so low
that his successor Goh Chok Tong extended these incentives to all married women and gave
even more incentives such as the 'baby bonus' scheme
17
.

Corporal Punishment

Lee Kuan Yew as a disciplinarian and this comes from his strict childhood where he was
subject to corporal punishment and this is reflected in the laws and penalties he has set out for
Singapore today. He believes that there is no harm in corporal punishment and credits it to the
contribution of his success. He did not approve of the, bead-jangling, hirsute, pot-smoking,
guitar-strumming hippies so he banned from entering the country so that they couldnt influence
others and it help to maintain a virtually crime-free country.



14
Abdillah Noh, Makmor tumin. (July 2008). Remaking Public Participation: The Case of Singapore. Asian Social
Science Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from www.researchgate.net/publication/41846268_Remaking_Public_
Participation_The_Case_of_Singapore/file/d912f50756cdd8f16b.pdf.
15
Ibid.
16
Ibid.
17
Ibid.
5

Lees Strengths and Weaknesses

It is hard to fault him which is why he is such an outstanding leader. He has a strong
presence, the knowledge and experience and an excellent communicator. The top five leadership
behaviours or skills identified were
18
:

a. Performance
b. Character
c. Persistence
d. Adaptability
e. Flexibility

His performance record speaks for itself and he displays excellent character and this is
shown through his integrity. His insistence on replicating his integrity was recognised when the
Institute for National Development voted Singapore the least corrupt country in Asia and the
fifth least corrupt worldwide
19
.

He is persistent and this is shown through his forty years of service to Singapore. He is
also very adaptable as demonstrated through his strength through hard times during the Japanese
Occupation of Japan. Arguably, one of his flaws is his lack of flexibility. Many have argued that
his government regime is autocratic. He has tough laws including ones on censorship.

Conclusion

In the present political scenario, when big ticket corruption is the order of the day
between politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and criminals. We really need transformational
leader at different organisation level be it at executive, political, judiciary or at civil society level.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew was perhaps a successful leader is someone who can communicate with the
people and identify with their aspirations. Lee also be trustworthy and demonstrate a track record
of good judgment. His accomplishment and forty year reign in Singapores political scene speaks
for himself. He is highly regarded by others, he displays many traits of an exceptional leader. He
is testimony to show what hard work, perseverance and discipline can achieve. Lee Kuan Yew
has achieved what many world leaders dream of and accomplished this without violence. He is
an example of an exemplary of transformational leader.









18
Jessica Collison. (2002). Global Leadership Survey. Society for Human Resource Management. Retrieved 11
March 2014 from http://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/documents/global%20leadership%20survey.pdf.
19
The Top Most Corrupt and Least Corrupt Countries in the World. (3 December 2013). Reuters. Retrieved 11
March 2014 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/03/idUS95815491020131203.
6

References

Internet

Terry McCarthy. (n.d.).From sleepy colonial outpost to prosperous high-tech enclave,
Singapore owes its rise to the stern, stubborn lawyer who virtually invented the place. Retrieved
5 March 2014 from http://madeinthoughts.com/pdf/LeeKuanYew.pdf.

Diane K. Mauzy, R.S Milne. (2002). Singapore Politics Under the Peoples Action Party.
Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from http://www.untag-
smd.ac.id/files/Perpustakaan_Digital_2/POLITICS%20AND%20GOVERNMENT%20Singapor
e%20Politics%20Under%20the%20People%92s%20Action%20Party.pdf.

Simon Chesterman. (5 June 2013). The lawyer and his vision for Spore. The Straits
Times. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from http://law.nus.edu.sg/about_us/news/2013/ST050613.pdf.

Kevin YL Tan. (2011). International Law, History & Policy: Singapore in the Early
Years. Center for International Law, National University of Singapore. Retrieved 5 March 2014
from http://cil.nus.edu.sg/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/KevinTan-Monograph-1.pdf.

Netina Tan. (17 November 2012). Constitutional Engineering and Regulating Ethnic
Politics in Singapore. Constitutional Design and Ethnic Conflict Conference, New York
University. Retrieved 5 March 2014 from http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files
/ECM_PRO_074075.pdf.

Sanjeev Sanyal. (14 July 2010). The art of public housing. Business Standard. Retrieved
7 March 2014 from http://www.urbanlandmark.org.za/downloads/clipping_bs_jul2010.pdf.

Joan F.Marques. (2007). On Impassioned Leadership: A Comparison Between Leaders
from Divergent Walks of Life. International Journal of Leadership Studies, School of Global
Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent University. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from
http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/ijls/new/vol3iss1/marques/Marques_IJLS_V3Is1
.pdf.

Alireza Hejazi.(2011). How Servant Leadership Theory Serves A Biblical Theme. School
of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Regent University. Retrieved 7 March 2014 from
http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/resources/conferences/virtual/pdfs/MoralLeadConf2011_Heja
zi_Charity.pdf.

Chua Beng Huat. (July 2008). Singapore: Growing and Wealth, Poverty Avoidance and
Management. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Retrieved 9 March
2014 from http://www.unrisd.org/80256B3C005BCCF9/%28httpAuxPages%29/3D4314DD55
B39876C1257AE8003C3240/$file/Singapore%20overview%20paper.pdf.

7

Bruce Jennings, Jeffrey Khan, Anna Mastroianni, Lisa S.Parker. Ethic and Public Health:
Model Curriculum. Association Schools of Public Health. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from
http://www.asph.org/userfiles/ethicscurriculum.pdf.

Chan Sek Keong. (2013). Multiculturalism in Singapore: The way to a Harmonious
Society. Singapore Academy of Law journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from
http://www.sal.org.sg/digitallibrary/Lists/SAL%20Journal/Attachments/625/%282013%29%202
5%20SAcLJ%2084-109%20%28multiculturalism%29.pdf.

Its Official Japan has the World Best Education System in 2013.(30 December 2013).
World Top 20 Education System. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from http://worldtop20.org/.

Abdillah Noh, Makmor tumin. (July 2008). Remaking Public Participation: The Case of
Singapore. Asian Social Science Journal. Retrieved 9 March 2014 from
www.researchgate.net/publication/41846268_Remaking_Public_Participation_The_Case_of_Sin
gapore/file/d912f50756cdd8f16b.pdf.

Jessica Collison. (2002). Global Leadership Survey. Society for Human Resource
Management. Retrieved 11 March 2014 from http://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/
documents/global%20leadership%20survey.pdf.

The Top Most Corrupt and Least Corrupt Countries in the World. (3 December 2013).
Reuters. Retrieved 11 March 2014 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/03/
idUS95815491020131203.