Photo credit (above): Choo Yut Shing | Flickr
It was indeed a dark week for our southern neighbour Singapore. They lost their founding father and leader extraordinaire, Lee Kuan Yew at age 91. He will, unfortunately, not see the golden 50th year of independence this August.
That Sunday I bore witness to a nation weeping in sorrow. The dark clouds and rain seemed to weep in sympathy. The masses, of all ages and cultures, braving the heavy downpour to send him off during the 12.30pm procession was touching to behold. He was given a farewell, complete with 21-gun salute by four ceremonial 25-pounder howitzers.
There is no one word to describe him. The collection of moments in history tell of his years of transforming and propelling Singapore to where it is today; an independent, harmonious and internationally recognised successful nation. Through the years and challenges, one can witness his exemplary drive and perseverance.
I am not a person who followed his years of growth and tenacity in leadership, but in sharing of the solemn occasion, I witnessed, heard and felt how he is indeed well-admired, respected and loved. A commendable Asian leader indeed with an outstanding legacy.
Lee was known to be a man who lived up to his promises and did not mind getting his hands dirty to ensure things got done. The brilliance and persistence of the man who had great dreams and who made Singapore his life. A leader who had his ears to the ground.
On a personal front, he lived his life frugally, sleeping only 3-4 hrs daily during his days as Prime Minister, yet ensuring a balance of family time.
Interesting facts of Mr. Lee
- He was only of 36 years old when he became the first prime minister of Singapore.
- He first eloped with his late wife while studying law in England, and had a traditional marriage later in Singapore. In Cambridge, she had been his academic rival.
- Lee’s English-educated parents named him “Kuan Yew”, which stands for “light and brightness”, and an alternate meaning “bringing great glory to one’s ancestors”. His paternal grandfather gave him the English name “Harry”.
“I saw evidence of peace and love amongst the citizens regardless of race and religion during the moments of paying their final respects, which was what LKY fought for all his life! Truly I have never seen such a legacy that brought people together all over the world” – Melanie Ong, ex-leaderonomer currently working in Singapore
We like to express our deepest condolences to the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong and his family, for the passing of his father and to the nation who lost their founding father.
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Rest In Peace.
Leadership quotes by Lee Kuan Yew
“The task of the leaders must be to provide or create for them a strong framework within which they can learn, work hard, be productive and be rewarded accordingly. And this is not easy to achieve.” (The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew)
“Wrong ideas have to be challenged before they influence public opinion and make for problems. Those who try to be clever at the expense of the government should not complain if my replies are as sharp as their criticisms.” (From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000)
“I have never been overconcerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. If you are concerned with whether your rating will go up or down, then you are not a leader. You are just catching the wind … you will go where the wind is blowing. And that’s not what I am in this for.” – The Telegraph on his most memorable quotes, Mar 23, 2015
“A far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s life teaches valuable lessons to everyone. News of his demise is saddening.” – Narendra Modi, prime minister of India.
“With his incomparable leadership and unparalleled insights, His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew played, for more than half a century and throughout his life, a key role not only in achieving Singapore’s remarkable economic growth and prosperity but also in securing peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region and the world. He was highly revered all over the world… I still vividly remember how much I was impressed by his profound wisdom, including when I met him in person in 2014.” – Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan.
“Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development. I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of re-balancing to the Asia Pacific.”
– Barack Obama, president of The United States of America.
Roshan Thiran, Leaderonomics CEO, shares five leadership lessons that Lee Kuan Yew showed to us and the world.
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 11 April 2015