Selfless, principled leadership at all levels of society is what S'pore needs

Professor Kishore Mahbubani's commentary ("Can Singaporeans read?"; Jan 14) struck a chord with me, an occasional overseas reader of The Straits Times.

The mass self-absorption indicated by the popularity of self-help books is not unique to Singapore, and appears to be a problem in all modern consumer societies.

It is not just Singaporeans who need to lift their eyes above the horizon to see and understand the threats that are coming our way. Such self-absorption threatens all modern democratic societies.

The recent United States presidential election and British Brexit campaign provide real evidence of how appeals to narrow self-interest can overwhelm good public policy (and ethical standards) and lead to international instability.

However, addressing the new threats posed by increasing international instability is not just a matter of turning back to the methods employed by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr S. Rajaratnam.

They were products of their time and they addressed problems of their own times. How do you replicate astute pragmatism?

What these new threats require is selfless principled leadership at all levels and in all parts of society (not just from politicians) that draws us all out of our individual and collective self-absorption to understand and address the new threats to our security and prosperity in new ways.

Stephen J. Newton
Sydney, Australia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'Selfless, principled leadership at all levels of society is what S'pore needs'. Print Edition | Subscribe