What The Singapore General Election Tells Us About Leadership

It is the Singapore General Election (GE) season once more and the subject of leadership is magnified and brought to the forefronts of society. Politicians are leaders with tall orders, for better or for worse. They run a nation with millions of livelihoods at stake, with their every word and action scrutinised to no end. 

Incidentally, we are living in a period of history that is fraught with unprecedented problems. The cure for COVID remains elusive alongside a flagging world economy. On the national level, infection cases continue to fluctuate, while the workforce continues to tread on eggshells – trapped in a limbo of what is acceptable and what is not; stability vs progress. 

Yet despite it all, the parties running for the elections are required to focus on the mission of offering what they feel is best for the people – and winning their hearts and support. The tension is real, the people are looking for some semblance of order amidst the pandemonium of everyday life.  This is the perfect storm for a lesson in leadership. 

singapore general election

Organisational leaders are likely to draw valuable lessons from the decision-making style and abilities of national leaders, which they apply at a down-scaled level. The current Singapore General Election is proof that the mantle of leadership must remain safeguarded regardless of immediate woes and crises. 

History has shown that leadership comes in many forms, some are effective, some have proven indecisive and disastrous. The most popular methods in leadership do not guarantee an ideal outcome, while less desirable alternatives may lead to surprising progress. 

A leader’s character usually influences the values and vision of his party – as to how an organizational leader shapes workplace culture. The candidates in the GE have exhibited their unique strengths, each with its respective appeal. 

Noticeable Leadership Traits in the Singapore General Election (GE)

Passion – Dr. Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is driven by a strong passion for the commonweal. He has undergone incredible challenges throughout his political journey, which has only served to refine his viewpoints. Dr. Chee is committed to reversing any status quo that he believes to have caused grievous injustice. 

Adaptability –  Dr. Tan Cheng Bock of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) accepts change as an absolute rule. While Dr. Tan is seasoned on the political stage, he understands the importance of connecting the new generation with the old to unite strengths in establishing a dynamic government. 

Courage – Pritam Singh of the Worker’s Party (WP) is an outspoken proponent of the people, a trait channeled from his legal profession. Being constantly on the ground enables him to connect with citizens at a deep level, to understand and tackle their problems head-on.   

Tradition – Incumbent PM Lee Hsien Loong of the People’s Action Party (PAP) is dedicated to preserving the promises of the old guards of Singapore.  He provides citizens with the assurance of continued peace and progress proven by the track record of the government in maintaining Singapore’s world-class economy. 

Extraneous Factors

Freak events such as COVID-19, SARS, or the Asian Financial Crisis are unexpected and beyond control. In truth, these are proving grounds for leaders to demonstrate conviction, reliability, and consistency in the face of insurmountable odds. This is the reason why wartime leaders are often lauded as legendary figures – veritable heroes who are forever remembered and adored for their contributions in a pressure cooker. 

The COVID situation is a war against an unseen adversary. The elected government requires the acumen, tenacity, and resolve to contend with the crisis. As such, initiatives and plans transcend the national stage. Citizens will inevitably compare government competencies with the likes of New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern, and Denmark’s resilient system

Once the GE dust clears, Singaporeans will be asking what’s next and how will Singapore’s economy fare into the future.  

Valuable Lessons for Organisations

Leadership is highly dynamic and adaptable. Organisational leaders can learn a great deal from the examples set forth by the election candidates and how these characteristics may be applied at an organisational level. 

Passion – Passionate organisational leaders are driven towards empowering employees based on clear and meaningful objectives. These leaders are highly interested in advancing their company and will not settle for minimum standards, especially if they fall far from an organisation’s full potential. Additionally, passionate leaders are motivated to achieve and succeed with the invaluable experiences acquired during their journey with the organisation.   

Adaptability – Highly adaptable organisational leaders are always developing themselves and their companies according to the latest trends and observations in the industry. They are careful not to invest too much in the past mistakes and successes of their organisation as they understand that times change and with it the “rules of the game”. Adaptable leaders believe in uniting old and new ideas and practices to synergise the perfect dynamo for success. 

Courage – A courageous organisational leader dares to be different, in taking a path that few would even consider. These leaders are ever-prepared to challenge and reverse stale practices and beliefs that have become ineffective. They are willing to ask (and seek solutions for) the hard questions and build relationships with like-minded partners/employees. They are true trendsetters that take calculated risks in redefining protocols for a better tomorrow. 

Tradition – Traditional leaders in an organisation stand firmly by a core set of time-honoured beliefs and philosophies. They remember humble origins and believe in retaining strategies that have proven to work. While they may accept tweaks to a system, they fear that drastic changes might upend the balance or demolish past achievements. As such, traditional leaders tend to graduate progression at a steady and well-controlled pace. 

Combining Leadership Personas

Since personalities are dynamic in nature, organisational leaders are likely to adopt a combination of the identified leadership traits. The challenge lies in balancing out the extremities such as tradition and courage. For example,  leaders who are traditional and courageous may hold onto core beliefs to excel and distinguish themselves from modern competitors. 

Win or Lose?

Regardless of the Singapore General Election results – the nation will be facing new dawn with fresh perspectives and much work to be done. The recovery process continues as society digs deep to channel the spirit of diligence and perseverance of forefathers who laid the foundations with their bare hands. 


StrengthsAsia has helped many individual and corporate clients all throughout the region in empowering leaders by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you want to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, feel free to reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

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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