Leadership and vision: Drawing a link to the Singaporean experience


The essence of visionary leadership has since the early Roman Empire days remained a key factor of business and national development.

In those early days, vision was, considered an ingredient for state stability and was used to project and facilitate leadership solutions that could stand the test of time.

Historians and management scholars are, best placed to trace back the success of some of the visionary strategies deployed and how they have managed to shape current leadership styles in Africa, Europe and the Middle East states.

Without digressing too much into history, I must confess my admiration for the visionary leaders of yore. For the sake of this article, I would wish to, particularly draw a number of learning’s from the visionary leadership style, executed and promoted by former Singaporean premier Lee Kuan Yew.

From the analysis of various leadership and management scholars, a clear line of thinking emerges on the fact that were it not for Lee’s leadership style, Singapore would perhaps be a pale shadow of its current economic, political and social state.

During his tenure, Lee, guided by a number of visionary leadership strategies managed to transform Singapore into a flourishing economy. Using a path of visionary leadership and resolve to transform his country, Lee, drew a formidable blueprint that effectively facilitated Singapore’s rise to one of the top five richest countries in the world by GDP per capita metrics.

Drawing a parallel to Lee’s leadership style, the oft-sighted attributes of his leadership were his vision, planning and strict leadership control skills.

Vision is particularly an essential attribute that provides a business leader the enviable latitude to dream of his organisations success. Beyond dreaming, a business leader would need to consider the ingredients needed to realise the dream.

It’s not enough to dream and set a vision without considering and charting a road map. As with any other leadership requirement, whether in business or even at the national political level, it is extremely important for a business leader to maintain what, is otherwise, referred to as a high locus of control. Leadership, particularly at the corporate level requires a high degree of control.

Closely linked with control is the need to maintain focus on planning and retaining measurable blueprints to facilitate corporate growth. As Winston Churchill, once noted: He, who fails to plan, is planning to fail.

A business leader must therefore operate within the frameworks of a well thought out and considered plan. Such an operating plan needs to be well; tailored to meet both the business and market needs while promoting commercial interests.

On a broader level, such a plan also needs to be aligned with national and now county level development plans. For example, long term corporate plans aligned to Vision 2030 goals are important ingredients for captains of industry wishing to reap from national development plans.

Beyond planning, it is also important to ensure that focus is, attached on enablers and foundation setting frameworks. A plan can, only be, achieved, once an enabling environment to spur growth is, created.

From this perspective, these for me are, key attributes that a captain of industry must seek to embrace and pursue. Business leaders like national leaders have an onerous task to inspire confidence and motivate their teams.

Business leaders also have to maintain a sense of strategic thinking, forward planning and remain resolute in decision-making. As they say, a split second failure at decision-making could end up costing the organisation dearly for years to come.

To foster some of these skills, intellectual prowess nurtured through constants immersion in reading, conferences, workshops, platforms and related self-growth platforms is essential. A business leader must always seek to boost his/her on the job experience with market trends. Largely, this, also involves adopting modern communication platforms such as social media and related digital tools.

Captains of industry should also take a moment to evaluate the stability of their executional team. A business cannot be an island and it is extremely important for a business leader to surround himself with a strong leadership team. The calibre, competence and experience of such a team tells a lot about the sustainability of a business.

Overall, realising a vision requires copious amounts of energy to inspire confidence.

(Kibati is the Director General, Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat)

4 Replies to “Leadership and vision: Drawing a link to the Singaporean experience”

  1. Thanks Mugo. That’s very true. We must constantly keep up with the up to-date technology and continuously indulge ourselves in creating new ideas for the growth of our country.

  2. Re: Vision 2030: The more I study our political economy, the more I ask myself whether we have put the cart before the horse. Why? 1: Vision 2030 should start recognize a new pillar: the ethical. Singapore worked hard to change the people thinking and ethics – something that we are not doing. 2: We have downplayed the teaching of liberal arts in our schools at the expense of sciences. Liberal arts subjects enable people to critically examine the priorities and direction of society and come up with better policies. 3: We must realise that our culture of primitive accumulation (mostly from stealing and corruption) is harming us and the future generations. Unless these 3 areas, we are like a man fetching water with a bucket full of holes.

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