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To be a great leader, one must be a good servant

I applaud Professor Kishore Mahbubani and Professor Klaus Schwab for emphasising the importance of leaders having the ability to protect and serve the interests of the people they represent, especially in today's dynamic environment (What makes a great leader?; Aug 31).

I cannot but stress that a great leader is a servant first. That is the key to his greatness.

A servant makes sure that other people's needs are served first. He focuses on other people's perspectives, gives them the support to meet their goals, and involves them in decisions, where appropriate.

This builds more trust and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.

This can also lead to increased innovation, which is critical in today's disruptive environment.

Servant-leaders manifest the key attributes of awareness, foresight and listening.

Such leaders, through their individual efforts, vision and service ethic, can make a substantial difference in the society they serve.

Servant leadership is a blend of leader and servant. One does not lose leadership qualities when one is a servant.

This is relevant both in public service and in our own personal life.

Tan Kok Heng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'To be a great leader, one must be a good servant'. Print Edition | Subscribe