Leadership not about titles but about service and adding value: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour at a dialogue on leadership and how students could contribute to the community at Tanjong Katong Girls' School, on June 27, 2018.
President Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour at a dialogue on leadership and how students could contribute to the community at Tanjong Katong Girls' School, on June 27, 2018.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Being a leader is not about titles nor ranks but about serving others and adding value to any situation, said President Halimah Yacob.

Speaking in a dialogue during a visit on Wednesday (June 27) to her alma mater Tanjong Katong Girls' School (TKGS), Madam Halimah said an example of service is helping the under-privileged.

"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 will struggle... and that is a commitment of the government, of the society, of everyone to help those who are struggling and are less fortunate than us."

She was responding to questions from students on what it takes to be a good leader and how they could contribute to the society during the hour-long dialogue that was held in conjunction with the school's 65th anniversary.

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

Madam Halimah, 63, spent her pre-university years at TKGS from 1972 to 1973 before she studied law at the National University of Singapore.

After graduating in 1978, she started working as a legal officer at the National Trades Union Congress and stayed in the labour movement for 33 years.

A former Minister of State and then Speaker of Parliament, Madam Halimah on Wednesday also shared about her family background: how she often had to help out at her mother's hawker stall and skipped school because she felt too tired to attend classes.

However, she said, she pushed through the obstacles because she was reminded of the importance of receiving education.

TKGS principal Mary Seah, 45, said the topic discussed was insightful for the 55 students who had attended the dialogue. They included prefects, class chairpersons, 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.

Nur Ain Sakinah, a Secondary 3 student and a house captain, said the dialogue has provided timely insights ahead of her school's sports carnival on Friday.

"As a house captain, I need to make sure that my teammates are participative and that they can see the house as a common ground where they can forge more bonds... you need to build that sense of camaraderie," she said.

Head prefect Kayleigh Mok, a Secondary 3 student who also attended the dialogue, said she admired how Madam Halimah overcame adversities in life to become Singapore's first female president.

"Madam Halimah inspires others to work hard to achieve their goals," said Kayleigh.