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10/19/2017 8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew | Cooler Insights

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March 29th, 2015 6 comments



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Photograph taken by Larry Burrows (1926 1971), a photojournalist from Life Magazine

This week must be one of the saddest for Singapore. Our first and longest serving former Prime Subscribe

Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March 2015 at 3.18 am. He was 91 years of
age. powered by MailChimp!

Better known by his initials LKY or Minister Mentor (MM) Lee, Mr Lees political and public legacy
was legendary. Considered by many to be Singapores founding father, his imprint is seen in
virtually every square foot of our tiny island nation from HDB flats, schools, hospitals, roads, air My Photos
and sea ports, to parks and other public infrastructure.

As I join my fellow Singaporeans in grieving for our loss, I couldnt help reflecting on Mr Lees
contribution to Singapore as an inspired and transformative leader. Together with his team of
Cabinet Ministers and public officers, he led Singapore from being a sleepy seaport to what it is

What lessons can we draw from the life of Lee Kuan Yew? What insights can we glean from his
leadership style?

If anybody had the heart of a lion, it would be Mr Lee. Tag Cloud
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Bold and audacious, he led Singapore through a period of political turmoil and instability during the
1950s and 1960s. Rising from the ashes of Post World War II Singapore, he placed big bets in Reviews Book Reviews Branding
Singapores future by suggesting a merger with the Malaysia. Business Business Strategy
When that deal fell through, Mr Lee did not waste much time moaning its demise (perhaps beyond Consumer Behaviour Content
that fateful scene captured for immortality on film). He took it upon himself and his lieutenants to Marketing Copywriting Culture Customer
rebuild Singapore. His team of Cabinet Ministers and public officers pioneered unprecedented Experience Customer Experience Management Customer
policies in building our economy, shaping our public housing, and binding our community. Many of Service Digital Marketing Entrepreneurship
these were unheard of then in both the developed and developing world. Experiential Marketing Family Holiday Human
Resource Management Influence Influencer Marketing
Confidence Innovation Inspiration Leadership Life
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10/19/2017 8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew | Cooler Insights
Working hand in hand with courage, confidence is the next ace in Mr Lees deck. With much Marketing Marketing
aplomb, he ventured from task to task with unblinking confidence, even when the way ahead
appeared mired in uncertainty.
Strategy Motivation Museums
Personal Personal Effectiveness Personal
Back when Singapore was still a 3rd world country, Mr Lee and his colleagues like the late Mr Hon Musings Psychology Public Relations Social
Sui Sen went to the US and other developed countries to court Western MNCs to invest in
Singapore. With confidence and much gumption, he persuaded these political and corporate
Business Social Media Social
Media Marketing Social Media Strategies
leaders to put their money into a tiny tropical island with no natural resources.
Storytelling Uncategorized Word Of Mouth
Mr Lees faith in Singapore and his own teams abilities was a key reason leading to our eventual
success. Without that firm and unwavering conviction, he would have backed down when faced Archives
with obstacles or opposition. Archives Select Month

Mr Lee was also known for pushing unpopular policy decisions that may ruffle feathers, but lead to
a better outcome for the nation. These policies cover various areas like public housing racial
quotas, population control, vehicular control, and so on.

Some would say that Mr Lee was a hard man. Indeed, he doesnt suffer fools gladly and was well
known for using knuckle dusters on his political opponents. However, it was his very same steely
conviction which led to painful but necessary measures to be taken for Singapore.

With his eye fixed on the future, Mr Lees foresight was legendary. His long-term goal setting and
planning helped Singapore to achieve many accolades.

The best example of Mr Lees long-term view is seen in our urban planning and
greening policies. Thanks to his far sightedness, we are living in a city in a garden and are able
to enjoy beautiful greenery just a few steps away from our door steps. Comparatively speaking, the
quality of life in Singapore in terms of air quality, urban environment and road traffic is far superior
to that of many other Asian cities.

Mr Lee also realised early on that Singapore cannot survive on its own. This led him to go on a
global crusade for our Little Red Dot decades ago, helping us to expand our influence not just in
South East Asia but Asia and the world.

Communication Skills
A prolific writer and speaker throughout his long career, Mr Lee was a storyteller par none.
Articulate and convincing, he concocted the right blend of words, phrases and sentences to
achieve maximum impact.

The greatest example of how Mr Lee wielded the power of words probably occurred when he gave
a series of radio broadcasts as part of the Battle for Merger. Through a series of 12 radio talks,
scripted and spoken personally by Mr Lee himself, he was able to convince Singaporeans to abet
his cause.

Many would know that Mr Lee depended on his wife Mdm Kwa Geok Choo to assist in vetting his
speeches. A master of the English language herself, Mrs Lee worked in tandem with Mr Lee to
produce stirring speeches that were not only simple to understand but memorable and impactful.

Precise and unambiguous, Mr Lees approach to work and life is a study in exacting diligence. His
clarity of vision, mission and life purpose was unparalleled.

With great focus on what he wants (and do not want), Mr Lee pushed forward policies that had
clear objectives. While not all of them were popular, with a few needing to be dropped or modified
along the way, their end goals were crystal clear.

Beyond public policies, Mr Lee was also renowned for his clarity in thinking. Even at a ripe old age,
his formidable mind was razor sharp and he never backed down from a challenge by a worthy
adversary be it an opposition political member, a journalist with a different worldview, or even his
own Cabinet Ministers or senior civil servants.

A brilliant and eloquent lawyer schooled in Cambridge, Mr Lees charisma allowed him to negotiate
and cajole with his international counterparts for a better deal for Singapore. His ability to inspire
and motivate others were well known throughout public sector circles.

From the man-in-the-street to corporate leaders and academics, Mr Lees charisma allowed him to
reach across a wide spectrum of society. Taxi drivers, hawkers, teachers, drivers, office workers,
financiers, government leaders, CEOs folks from all walks of life are captivated when he speaks.

Beyond the podium, one could also see evidence of Mr Lees charisma in the way he personally
reached out to ordinary Singaporeans during walkabouts. He displayed a unique form of tough 2/4
10/19/2017 8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew | Cooler Insights
love which somehow resonated with the average Singaporean.

Tenacity and grit are qualities most commonly associated with Mr Lee. The man doesnt throw in
the towel easily, and remained relentless even when faced with seemingly insurmountable

Mr Lee has shared several times in his speeches that Singapore is his life. The man has poured
our his heart and soul to our nation, spending uncountable hours thinking and implementing
policies and decisions that would improve our lot. When he is latched onto a particular mission, he
just doesnt give up. He was also extremely disciplined, favouring a spartan lifestyle over the
trappings of luxury.

Perhaps the best example of Mr Lees fierce loyalty and commitment is seen in his lifelong love
affair with his wife. His dedication to her and hers to him were the stuff of fairy tales. Indeed,
many consider Singapore to be a fairytale of sorts a success story of a nation which started out
with no natural resources, a little red dot that somehow rose to prominence against the odds.

FollowingLKYs Legacy
Mr Lee Kuan Yew was probably the only person of his kind. I dont think it is plausible for us to
emulate all his qualities or to be a leader just like him.

As we remember his legacy, however, I believe that it is valuable for us to learn how he lived his
life and led Singapore. What Ive covered above probably just scratched the surface of Mr Lees
leadership and management style. However, I hope that it has given us some food for thought,
even as we prepare to get on with the rest of our lives and to honour Lees memory by working
hard and being the best that we can be in whatever we do.

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Tags: #RememberingLeeKuanYew, #ThankYouLKY, leadership, Lee Kuan Yew, life lessons, LKY,
management, politics, Singapore


posted on Mar 30, 2015 at 6:45 AM
Hi there. Truly excellent post. I would give a big high five to a communication skills,
since without them, one cannot neither communicate neither lead. Having good
comunication skills is, at least, the way I see it, absolutely essential. Regards,
Matija, Slovenia

posted on Apr 01, 2015 at 8:48 AM
Thanks Matija! Indeed having good oratory and written skills is an important thing
which leaders must have, in order to convince their followers to pursue their cause.
Thanks for swinging by all the way from Slovenia!

posted on Sep 03, 2016 at 7:46 AM
LKY is not only a father of Singapore but a father of all of us who are fighting to have
our nations a free and peaceful place for all to leave without discrimination. I believe
we can all leave comfortable lives. Long Live LKY.

posted on Mar 25, 2017 at 7:02 PM
His legacy is really noticed on Singapores development. These lessons ought to be
applied in private and public sectors .
reply 3/4
10/19/2017 8 Leadership Lessons of Lee Kuan Yew | Cooler Insights
posted on Mar 26, 2017 at 10:30 AM
Yes indeed. I hope that these are the same lessons that we can apply
wherever we are. Personally, Im trying to use them myself too.

Megha Gupta
posted on Jun 15, 2017 at 5:21 PM
Hi there, very nice information you;ve shared with us. Thanks for sharing this Post

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