Leadership Development: Valuable Insights From 4 Historical Leaders

The pandemic has forced many organisational leaders to halt in their tracks, being tasked to make crucial decisions for the present and future. However, when it comes down to leadership development, the past holds many treasures. 

Human resource is precious now more than ever, with companies seeking to optimise remote manpower while keeping staff safe amid the crisis. 

It might be the right time to visit the hallways of history to gain valuable insights from historical leaders. These timeless messages may help modern leaders better understand and engage workers toward optimising productivity and employee satisfaction. 

Lee Kuan Yew: Uniqueness

The founding father of modern Singapore was globally renowned for his staunch beliefs and pragmatism. In his 1998 book, “Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and his Ideas”, the senior statesman wrote, “I started off believing all men were equal. I now know that’s the most unlikely thing ever to have been…”

It is important to note that this alluded inequality refers to the background,  opportunities, and culture unique to each person. In leadership development, it is necessary to acquire the ability to discern the strengths and weaknesses of each worker and the means of engaging them accordingly. 

Alexander the Great: Empowerment

Alexander the Great is arguably one of the most decorated leaders in history. There is a powerful quote (from a book on naval warfare) commonly attributed to the legendary leader, “An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.” 

Leadership development is at its best when aligned with the morals of this message – A true leader (the lion) is one who helps realise the hidden potential of his followers (strengthening gentle sheep into warriors). Modern leaders must aspire to become lions during these critical times while followers are worried and uncertain.  

Sun Tzu: Opportunity

Imperial tactician Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” remains one of the most popular leadership manuals for over 2,000 years. In one chapter, the strategic author shares, “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

It is vital for current leadership development programs to focus on making the best out of the outbreak situation – discovering and investing in the opportunities during the chaos. Leaders must look at other avenues of possibilities while certain processes are disrupted. 

Abdul Kalam: Attitude

Abdul Kalam was a phenomenal thinker and one of the most beloved figures in Indian politics. He was known for his strong faith in people’s power. The former president once said, “All birds find shelter during a rain. But the eagle avoids rain by flying above the clouds.”

This saying may be applied to the attitude of leaders in assessing a situation. Effective leadership development should involve innovation and vigilance, two winning traits that enable safe navigation through the toughest crises.  


The current situation remains a challenge. However, strong leadership development will help organisations produce dynamic thinkers that will lead them onwards to a more favourable future. And when in doubt, the titans of history are always there to offer their wisdom. 


StrengthsAsia has helped many individual and corporate clients all throughout the region in identifying and maximizing their talents, in driving engagement and increasing motivation in their work and life.

Aly is StrengthsAsia’s marketing and communications guru and lead editor. She's over the top inquisitive and everyone in the company knows her as “The Googler” as she practically googles everything. Honestly, we all worry for her… She is also the Principal Trainer for our one of a kind ice cream team building workshops in Asia.

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