Culture of leadership self-renewal needs to be entrenched: PM Lee

10-Nov-2018 Intellasia | CNA | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The next team of Singapore’s political leaders is shaping up and the “uneventful” transitions of the past will serve as useful precedents, Lee said on Thursday (November 8).

He was speaking about leadership renewal at the launch of Emeritus Senior minister Goh Chok Tong’s biography, Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story, held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Goh took over the reins as Singapore’s prime minister from the late Lee Kuan Yew in 1990, then passed on the baton to the younger Lee in 2004.

These leadership transitions were “uneventful” and led to both change and continuity, Lee said, adding this is something that rarely happens elsewhere.

While “we should not believe that it will always happen in Singapore”, he and his colleagues are doing their best to ensure that the changing of the guard will be “just as smooth and sure-footed” as Singapore approaches another generational change in political leadership, Lee assured.

“We need to entrench this culture of leadership self-renewal and cohesive teamwork in our political norms,” he said.

The book, Lee said, is particularly timely as one of its major themes is leadership self-renewal.

It is not just about finding the right successor, but assembling the right team to lead Singapore, he added.

Like his predecessor, Lee has inducted many younger ministers and tested them in different portfolios, he said.

“They are taking charge of sensitive issues and tough conversations with Singaporeans, making themselves and their convictions known to the people, developing rapport with voters and winning their confidence,” he said of the fourth generation leaders.


Tall Order, the first of two volumes, tells the story of Goh’s life from his childhood until he takes office as Singapore’s second prime minister in 1990.

Readers will understand how the personal hardships Goh experienced shaped his world view and imbued him with a strong sense of duty and service, Lee said.

“The stories he tells are relatable, not least because they describe the journey of many Singaporeans his generation,” he said.

Goh, now 77, lost his father at a young age, lived in a two-bedroom public flat with his mother and four siblings and needed a government bursary to complete university.

The book is written by former Straits Times editor Peh Shing Huei and published by World Scientific.

Peh, who spoke at the launch, said that the book was one-and-a-half-years in the making.


However, the book was never on the cards for Goh. Even before he became prime minister, he had decided not to write any memoirs, Goh said.

It was only when long-time grassroots leaders and personal friends floated the idea of commissioning someone to write the book did he agree.

“The idea of someone looking in from the outside, and unlocking my inner memory, appealed to me,” he said.

His book brings out the important aspect of political mentoring, and the training and experience needed to run a country, he added.

“I hope my story will encourage the present and future generations of ‘technocrats’, as my colleagues and I were called once, to serve their country,” he said.


Category: Singapore

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