In the evening hours of Sunday, 21 August, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong provided his National Day Rally speech. He covered a wide range of topics and issues relating to the nation’s well-being and intended trajectory moving forward.
It was a momentous occasion in Singapore’s trajectory and has given us at ELF some food for thought. We take away lessons relating to human leadership in our workspaces.
Here, we discuss four different ways in which the theme that PM Lee discussed in his address inspired us in leadership capacity and formation of workplace dynamics.
In the speech, Singapore’s multicultural heritage was discussed, along with the diverging perspectives within our society that come from this multiculturalism. It is linked to numerous topics of debate that are at the forefront of modern Singapore.
Singapore, like many other nations in the modern world, is one that is increasingly embracing cultural and demographic diversity, whether with regards to race, religion, place of birth, or sexual orientation. This is a growing trend around the world, impacting many different societies as well as the dynamics of work environments globally. We do applaud organisations who have celebrated diversity such as Tapestry.
Within our work environment, this dynamic of diversity is one of the main features. Although this may be tempting to think, we should not only regard it as a problem to be solved, or an inconvenience to be brushed under the carpet. On the contrary, it is something to be celebrated and embraced. Such an environment will be more colourful, and more conducive to creative solutions. We have learnt to find a wide range of perspectives in the quest to strive toward a common goal.
Unity amidst disagreements
Amidst this trend of growing diversity, on a cultural and demographic level, it does mean that more disagreements will abound, as a result of the wider variety of perspectives and experiences from different groups. On occasion, these disagreements pertain to very sensitive matters – such as the repealing of Section 377A, which the Prime Minister announced in his speech.
Just as these differences and disagreements exist on a broader, societal level, there are going to be disagreements within a workspace that can run deep. Those disagreements could be based on a fundamental difference of identity or life experience. In any case,
'..a skilful leader will handle them well, and a healthy team will not allow them to get in the way of the collective flourishing.'
It is worth noting that he urged against such an attitude within Singapore’s society, instead pointing toward a vision where we could elevate national unity above these differences, thereby keeping the toxic forces of tribalism at bay. It was an admirable and morally clear set of remarks from him. And it should give an example for leaders to emphasise and pursue a unifying agenda to transcend such differences. We do practise that conflicts are actions wanting to happen. We get curious of what needs to happen next.
Seeing someone as fully human
On a more practical note, the speech provided a very welcome piece of news for citizens – that mask mandates would now only apply to public transport, and no longer in all indoor spaces. Alongside that, he also urged schools not to require mask-wearing for students inside their classrooms, suggesting that continuing it would hamper their learning and development.
Along with the literal, physical masks; there are ways in which we can put up metaphorical masks while working with other people. As a leader, we can put up a front before our team in order to mask .... It is also possible to create an environment that disincentivises authenticity and breeds distance. However, when we commit to embracing the full humanity of all team members, our work environment will be more whole.
We continue our work in "humanising organisations", in our journey to transforming businesses and growing talent.
Lastly, this speech laid out impressive and grand plans to move the country forward in concrete ways. Much like the adage of "Go Global, Act Local"; we encourage you to think big, go global and act in the interest of the very people, team and communities that brings your vision forth and impact felt.
The ELF Team
with gratitude of our past, current and future Growth Partners