TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP: THE SINGAPORE EXPERIENCE

bu                   By Adedara Oduguwa (27th April, 2016)

“Do not worry about Singapore. My colleagues and I are sane, rational people even in our moments of anguish. We will weigh all possible consequences before we make any move on the political chessboard…” Lee, 21 September 1965.

What! 3rd fastest growing world economy as at 2015, now not in the first 15 growing economy in Africa! This was reaction of many yesterday after stumbling on the news from Channels, a multi- award winning TV station.  But then, the doom of today was birthed by boom of yesterday. Today, it is incredible to see how Nigerians are suffering in the midst of plenty. Several opinions launched; why some believe our problem is lack of true leadership many believe it’s a case of corruption and incompetency. Well, whichever way, Nigeria is critically in need of reengineering, repositioning, re-purposing and rebranding.

Historically, Nigeria is one of the most respected British colonies in the 50s. The country is endowed in both human and material resources. In the 50s and early 60s, we do-not have Oil so much as we do today, yet we were true giant of Africa. Education was entirely free in the West, business and commerce was at apex in the East and herdsmen in the North were so peaceful and contributing, that we all had share of their honeyed beef-meat. Our currency was strong that it was not second to dollar and our soil was so fertile that even stone could grow on it.

What about our leaders?

Sir Ahmadu Bello represents a leader of focus. He knew what he wanted for the Hausa/Fulani of Northern Nigeria, and he stood by it with principle. He was bold, strong and full of natural bravery. Held the powerful title of Sardauna. He was only a college graduate, yet was a simple great-leader of purpose. He stayed in the North to the end, maintaining position of Premiership even when he had opportunity of becoming Nigeria’s Prime Minister. He introduced the doctrine of Northernisation (which simply means- the North for the North, Northern jobs should be for the Northerners). He was altogether a leader of purpose!

Dr. Azikiwe, most educated pre-independence Nigerian politician. Born in Zungeru to an Eastern parents who shared in Mr. Macaulay’s believe that ‘Education is a better safeguard to liberty than a standing Army’. At a time, he almost committed suicide due to frustration of not able to pay his bills in the US. He was persistent, focus and energetic that by the age of 33, he already founded a powerful newspaper (West African Pilot). He became one of the most successful and fortunate politicians in Africa! ‘Zik of Africa’ as fondly called knew what he wanted and he pursued it. Formerly, Premier of Eastern Region, later Governor-General and First Executive President of Nigeria. He was a great man and one of the most educated public administrators.

In the West, Chief Obafemi Awolowo needs no further introduction, his ‘Democratic Socialism’– Progressive indoctrination as a political ideology which gave birth to a number of first is well known to us, which included ‘Basic Free Education Programme.’ A programme that withdrew cutlasses and hoes from so many sons/daughters of less-privileges and replaced them with biros and papers thereby producing so many professors and highly successful captains of industry out of them today. Awo! As fondly called introduced Industrial Estates and Agricultural Institutes for the teaming populace of Western Nigeria. He was so prepared for Nigeria but Nigerians were not prepared for him due to ethnic bigotry and political self-deception.

During their reign, everything was so attractive to the European explorers who almost forgot going back home until they were whisked-out by pressure of educated few in the West, activities of newspapers like West African Pilot in the East and baba-go-slow approach of the caliphate, in the North. Nigeria was then a place to stay and not to visit and leave in a dash. We were envied by Arab kings and Asian emperors for our Soil and Oil. As if this reign would never end in our generation. Indians, British, Chinese and Americans were only few of our primary and secondary school teachers. In fact, even in the early 1990s, Ghanaians and Liberians were our cobblers and housemaids. We became laxed! And the rest is history. We started missing it when ethnic bigotry crippled into our existence.

Comparatively, Nigeria and Singapore were 3rd world nations as at 1959. Singapore was also a British colony with no much potential for the future. The country was blessed to be barren. No human and material resources, no- oil, Iron, bitumen, and even water. As at 1959, the population of Singapore was a little above 1.5million people. Per capital income was only US$400. Unemployment was high and how to get drinkable water was a major concern other than buying from Malaysia. “This must stop!” That was Sir Lee Kuan Yew’s comment shortly after he resumed office as Prime Minister (1963). Mr. Lee introduced the practical aspect of transformational leadership. This today helped him to enlist his name in world-history diary of great leaders. In three decades, Singapore was transformed from 3rd world nation to 1st world nation.

What about Nigeria, a 3rd world nation, a little above 44milion people with US$500 per capital income in 1959. Blessed with massive human and material resources, iron, bitumen, crude-oil, water etc all in abundance.  Giant of Africa in poor long-term planning and most wealthy-with impoverished leaders’/followers’ mentality.

However, what we presently need is a leadership of hope and not of ho hum. A leadership of how to move forward and not why we cannot move forward. A leadership of bail-out and not of bewilderment. And then, a true transformational leadership in practice. We are tired of countless excuses. The business of governance is a serious one since many destines are dependent on this political economy. Nigerians are not chess-boards which politicians can direct or redirect at will. The price of PMS is ridiculous even in rural-urban area like Sagamu; electricity supply is in shamble and disgraceful as it is so difficult to even get an handkerchief ironed to work; Just yesterday, NP was looking for only 10000 job seekers , over 700,000 showed interest, civil-servants have not been paid in months and government still dawdling signing 2016 budget. This is hyper-inflation; a N50 pepper is now sold for N200 (400% increment), a bowl of rice now sold for N500 from N250 (100% increment), yet salary remain unpaid and the same.  Enough is enough!

This is not an APC change government. It’s a government that has refused to move. It’s government of Federal republic of Nigeria where APC and PDP are subsets. Unlike few others, I like to talk about our problem and recommend solution(s). On this case, I will proudly introduce you to transformational leadership, citing late Harry Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore as model.

About Lee Kuan Yew

lee

What is transformational Leadership?

The concept of transformational leadership was formally introduced by leadership experts David Doubting (1973), James McGregor Burns (1978), Bernard M. Bass (1985), Bass and Avolo, (1990) and Patrick Yalokwu (2010).  According to Bass (1985) Transformational leadership is a process where a leader engages followers by raising their level of motivation through empowerment, learning, trust, and communication. Nonetheless, TL involves ‘running a vision painstakingly through others with positive change in mind (Oduguwa,2016).’

There are four components to transformational leadership, sometimes referred to as the 4 I’s: Idealized Influence (II), Inspirational Motivation (IM), Individualized Consideration (IC) and Intellectual Stimulation.

Idealized Influence (II) the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader “walks the talk,” and is admired for this. Lee Kuan Yew, instructed that “we cannot afford to forget that public order, personal security, economic and social progress, and prosperity are not the natural order of things; that they depend on the ceaseless effort and attention from an honest and effective government the people must elect.” –LKY, 1965.

For instance, he successfully transformed Singapore from: ‘third world to the first world in a single generation’ through his envisioned vision. Further, one of Lee’s abiding beliefs was in the efficacy of corporal punishment in the form of caning. In his autobiography The Singapore Story he described his time at Raffles Institution in the 1930s, mentioning that he was caned there for chronic lateness by the then headmaster, D. W. McLeod. He wrote: “I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he lightened his strokes. I have never understood why Western educationists are so much against corporal punishment. It did my fellow students and me no harm.” By 1993, it was mandatory for 42 offences and optional for further 42.Those routinely ordered by the courts to be caned now includes drug addicts and illegal immigrants. From 602 canings in 1987, the figure rose to 3,244 in 1993 and to 6,404 in 2007.

Inspirational Motivation (IM) – transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first two I’s are what constitute the transformational leader’s charisma. I.e In the late 1960s, fearing that Singapore’s growing population might overburden the developing economy; Lee started a “Stop at Twofamily planning campaign. Also in 1983, Lee sparked the “Great Marriage Debate” when he encouraged Singapore men to choose highly educated women as wives.

Individualized Consideration (IC) – transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts. I.e “Builds a nation in which everyone has a stake in it now and in its future.”_ Lee, 1965. Also, per capita income of US$400 in 1959 to US$22,000 in 1999 and US$55,000 in 2013. For the same period, Nigeria moved from about US$500 to about US$3,000.

Singapore has traditionally relied on water from Malaysia. However, this reliance has made Singapore subject to the possibility of price increases and allowed Malaysian officials to use the water reliance as a political leverage by threatening to cut off supply. In order to reduce this problem, Lee decided to experiment with water recycling in 1974. But shot-down in 1975 to cost and reliability issues. And by 2008, Singapore International Water Week was established; it focused on sustainable water solutions for cities. The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize was also introduced in recognition given to outstanding contributions towards solving global water crisis. The prize has become an international award given out to individuals and groups worldwide.

Intellectual Stimulation (IS) the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are “soft,” but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance. By establishing a First World infrastructure and standards in Singapore, the new nation could woo American, Japanese and European entrepreneurs and professionals to set up base here. By the 1970s, the arrival of MNCs like Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric laid the foundations, turning Singapore into a major electronics hub the following decade.

According to Mr. Lee, “The transformation of our society is a project in which we all have a shared interest.” He added, In a different world we need to find a niche for ourselves, little corners where in spite of our small size we can perform a role which will be useful to the world. To do that, you will need people at the top, decision-makers who have got foresight, good minds, who are open to ideas, who can seize opportunities like we did… My job really was to find my successors. I found them, they are there; their job is to find their successors. So there must be this continuous renewal of talented, dedicated, honest, able people who will do things not for themselves but for their people and for their country. If they can do that, they will carry on for another one generation and so it goes on. The moment that breaks, it’s gone.”

Having presented the case of Singapore in this format, it’s pertinent as a people to start looking above political party affinities, ethnic or religious preconceptions. Wrong is always wrong and whatever is black could only be white through a process of transformation. On this note, I present the following advice for Mr. President and his cabinet:

  1. Stop giving excuses for non-performance, generate useful ideas and implement.
  2. Stop blaming your predecessors for today’s woe, instead act!
  3. Governance is about governing challenges, even in economies that looks perfect i.e Canada or U.S, there are challenges for government to wrestle with.
  4. Nigerians voted for change (positive transformation) not complete sets of hopeless-drifters whose only interest is to talk and walk-about.
  5. If anyone is guilty of corruption, persecute the person with all instrument of government, legitimately (this could be capital or corporal punishment) but don’t concentrate all your energies chasing shadows. We all know the thieves!
  6. Feel free to ask for expert’s advice and don’t be too proud to cry-out if you are trapped. Remember no one is an Island of knowledge.
  7. Finally, if you think nothing can work again, don’t be ashamed, humbly resign! It is better to humble than to fumble. It is not a do-or-die affair! Remember, a leader that never emerged is better than one without clue.

Conclusively, having talked about transformational leadership style using Harry Lee Kuan Yew as study, I therefore recommend this style of leadership to Mr. President and other public sector administrators in Nigeria. As a person, I am tired of relying on hope and excuses. Government should act fast before some of us commit suicide.

God bless Nigeria.

 

 

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