Leadership style has to adapt to changing society: Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE – Every leader has to adapt his style to the circumstances and needs of society in his time, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (June 28).

And as Singapore faces different challenges and needs, and its society evolves, his leadership style has to adjust, he told union and business leaders and workers.

“There is one thing I am very clear on in terms of my priority… It is not just to lead, but ultimately, to serve, as I have for 25 years in public service, as I have in the last two years trying to navigate Singapore through Covid-19,” he said.

“And I will continue to help Singapore and all Singaporeans succeed in our next phase of development.”

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking alongside National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and NTUC president Mary Liew at a dialogue at NTUC Centre.

The session followed his speech at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise, an initiative by the fourth-generation (4G) leadership to engage citizens and refresh the social compact as the new team charts the next stage of the country’s development.

Mr Wong said that since he was chosen as the leader of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) 4G team in April and appointed deputy PM earlier this month, he had been asked “a lot of times” what would be different under his leadership.

“Maybe it’s on your minds, but you’re too polite to ask me that question,” he quipped to the 500 guests in the audience.

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“I would say every leader has to adapt to the circumstances and needs of society of their time.”

Mr Wong said first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the founding generation of leaders led Singapore through revolutionary times, and had to adopt a certain style of leadership that was necessary then.

Under second prime minister Goh Chok Tong and his successor Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the leadership style evolved because society was different and had different needs, he added.

“Likewise, for me… I’m very certain that it would be different challenges, different needs, a different society, and my leadership has to adapt and adjust to it,” he said.

Mr Wong said the 4G was embarking on the Forward Singapore exercise – which includes engaging a wide range of citizens from various ages and backgrounds – “because we want Singapore always to be a country for all citizens, not just for a few”.

“We want to value every citizen, value all talents, not just those who do well in school, but everyone must be valued, everyone must have a role in our society. That’s what we want to achieve through this exercise,” he added.