Best kind of leader is one who is both realistic and inspirational

The issue of political leadership succession was elaborated on by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam recently.

But one point of paramount importance seems to have been missed (Stable leadership transition crucial, especially for Singapore: Shanmugam, Sept 25; and Don't leave leadership succession to chance, by Madam Lily Ong, Oct 1).

While we have a strong team of fourth-generation leaders who are supposed to take on the mantle of top leadership in due time, what is uppermost in the minds of Singaporeans is the issue of the kind of leader we need in these uncertain times. Should he be a realist or a visionary?

With the geopolitical situation in a state of flux, trade barriers by the big powers being an inhibiting factor and regional uncertainties, numerous challenges face the nation.

Uncertain times demand an inspiring vision on the horizon. Thus it becomes important for leaders to instil hope in citizens rather than pessimism.

They must be able to convince the people that our nation, which is built on strong fundamentals, can weather any storm and volatility.

History has shown that some of the great leaders of the world were even-greater visionaries; none more so than our founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

While following a vision has its merits, it must be borne in mind that every leader must also be a realist, being able to deliver reality checks when the situation demands.

He must keep a timely check on the tasks at hand and successfully get the strategies executed.

The question is, therefore, whether there is place for both kinds of leaders at the top. Both these types of leaders would inevitably have different approaches towards tackling a particular situation.

What really matters is how they use their qualities to turn the issue at hand to their advantage.

Although most leaders tend towards one style, the best ones are those that demonstrate both realism and inspiration.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2018, with the headline 'Best kind of leader is one who is both realistic and inspirational'. Print Edition | Subscribe