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Potential leaders must keep S'pore context in mind

Many of our present leaders came from the civil service and the armed forces ("Countdown to next PM picks up speed"; last Sunday).

There is no question about their abilities in their previous fields, but leading a nation is different from leading an army or performing well in the civil service.

One significant factor needed is the ability to communicate well and to be seen as approachable, open to feedback from the ground and to do this with sensitivity to the unique context of Singapore as a multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious nation.

We can do without the approach of "talking down" to the people, or the perception of being proud, not open or out of touch with the ground.

A leader should be seen as a person with character and moral courage, with the strength to make tough decisions, even at the expense of losing a few votes in the election. He must not be afraid to make unpopular decisions in the face of threats to the nation.

A good leader cannot be a "yes-man" - something that can help secure one's position in certain cases but a characteristic that can do much harm to the nation as a whole.

He should not be one who advocates policies to bolster his popularity but subtly ignores principles that contribute to the welfare of the country.

These factors should be considered as we look to who will lead Singapore next.

We need to acknowledge that the present Singapore is different from that of our early days, and our young people have different aspirations and values.

But good sustainable moral values, pertinent to Singapore, should not be compromised by those who seek to lead the nation.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Potential leaders must keep S'pore context in mind'. Print Edition | Subscribe