President Halimah on what it means to be a leader

President Halimah Yacob at her alma mater, Tanjong Katong Girls' School, yesterday. She answered students' questions on what it takes to be a good leader and how they can contribute to society. The dialogue was held in conjunction with the school's 6
President Halimah Yacob at her alma mater, Tanjong Katong Girls' School, yesterday. She answered students' questions on what it takes to be a good leader and how they can contribute to society. The dialogue was held in conjunction with the school's 65th anniversary.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
A photo of a page from an old TKGS year book. Madam Halimah is in the second row, on the extreme left. She studied at TKGS from 1972 to 1973.
A photo of a page from an old TKGS year book. Madam Halimah is in the second row, on the extreme left. She studied at TKGS from 1972 to 1973.

Being a leader is not about titles or ranks, but about serving others and adding value to any situation, said President Halimah Yacob.

Speaking at a dialogue during a visit yesterday to her alma mater Tanjong Katong Girls' School (TKGS), Madam Halimah, 63, said an example of service is helping the underprivileged.

"Service is not about rank, title or status. People care if they know you care about them. People care if they know you're doing something beneficial to their lives," she said.

"No matter how much we progress as a country, there will always be people who struggle... and that is a commitment of the Government, of society, of everyone to help those who are struggling and are less fortunate than us."

During the hour-long dialogue held in conjunction with the school's 65th anniversary, she answered students' questions on what it takes to be a good leader and how they could contribute to society.

The visit to TKGS was Madam Halimah's first since she was sworn in as Singapore's first female president in September last year.

She spent her pre-university years at TKGS from 1972 to 1973 before studying law at the National University of Singapore. After graduating in 1978, she worked as a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress and stayed in the labour movement for 33 years.

HELPING THE UNDERPRIVILEGED

Service is not about rank, title or status. People care if they know you care about them. People care if they know you're doing something beneficial to their lives.

No matter how much we progress as a country, there will always be people who struggle... and that is a commitment of the Government, of society, of everyone to help those who are struggling and are less fortunate than us.

PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB, on contributing to society

Madam Halimah, a former minister of state and Speaker of Parliament, also spoke about her family: how she often had to help out at her mother's hawker stall and would skip school because she felt too tired. However, she said, she persevered because she was reminded of the importance of education.

TKGS principal Mary Seah, 45, said the topic discussed was insightful for the 55 students who attended the dialogue. They included prefects, class chairmen, co-curricular activity leaders and house captains from Secondary 3 and 4.

"Whenever we bring in speakers, we are trying to widen their perspectives to grow and develop into leaders of character and women of grace," said Mrs Seah.

Head prefect Kayleigh Mok, who is in Secondary 3, said she admired how Madam Halimah overcame adversities in her life. "Madam Halimah inspires others to work hard to achieve their goals."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'President Halimah on what it means to be a leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe