EVENTS | LUMEN
Exceptional Leader ?
November marked the conclusion of the second year of the Fullerton-SJI Leadership Lectures . Mr Gerard Ee was the first speaker of the 2011 lecture series . He was followed by Mr Peter Seah ( Chairman , DBS Bank ), Prof Tan Chorh Chuan ( President , NUS ) and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean . Here are excerpts from the lectures of these three exceptional leaders .
Mr Peter Seah is one of Singapore ’ s most accomplished bankers . He joined Overseas Union Bank ( OUB ) in 1977 , rising to be its President & CEO in 1991 . Mr Seah retired as Vice Chairman and CEO from OUB in 2001 . He subsequently served as President & CEO of Singapore Technologies Pte Ltd before taking up the Chairmanship of DBS in 2010 .
Mr Peter Seah : “ Being at the top is about managing people , managing crisis and strategic thinking .
Actually the Christian Brother Schools in Singapore produced many leaders in the private sector , in civil service and in the cabinet . At one time I think more cabinet ministers came from SJI than from any other school .
So I think it ’ s important that a wholesome education should have a component of religion because it provides strong moral values and guide posts . But having said that , practising these values in business is very challenging .
I would rather try to persuade somebody to see my way of thinking , my ideas , rather than to use position and power to tell them “ Do this ’, that ’ s a shortcut . In the short term this is more successful . But I believe that management by love , which is the Christian way of doing it , is probably more lasting and people remain more committed and willing to give you the extra 10 percent . I always believe people do not work for money
alone . And to extract an extra 10 % more from them requires them to actually want to work for you and with you . And that doesn ’ t come about when you do it through fear .”
On selecting potential candidates for a job should they have the same credentials , he stressed , “ Technical competence is important , but its importance diminishes with how high you go up the corporate ladder . The higher you are the more important weighting is placed on the ability to manage people , to relate to people and to get people to work for you . So , if I want to select somebody at a very junior level , then the technical level becomes almost the whole basis . But if I want to appoint somebody as department manager then how well he manages people becomes very important .
And this is something that I want to share because I think most of the students here are very bright people .
You know , people who are very intelligent tend to be very impatient . Why ? Because you usually know the answer to the question you are
asking , or you think very fast and you can come up with the answer in 30 seconds . Therefore , when you deal with people you expect them to be fast and quick . That ’ s something you have to learn to manage .
I had a wake-up call one day when I was complaining to my friend saying , “ My driver , he ’ s so ... I ask him to turn here he goes there and so on and so forth .”
My friend told me , ‘ Hey Peter , if he ’ s as smart as you , you ’ d be the one driving him and he ’ ll be the one sitting behind .” It was something for me to reflect over the next time I think somebody is stupid .’
If you want to change mindset and you want to change culture , you have to help be a role model . You have to be patient , and you may have to bring in change agents . So you may have to employ , bring in people who have the same mindset to build up a team of people who can drive change . But what I want you to remember is that setbacks and failures are very important in character-building . If you have never failed before , it ’ s like you ’ ve never been sick . The first time you fall sick , you ’ d probably die . So if you ’ ve never failed , you ’ ve never matured . You do not learn , and failures and setbacks are opportunities when you learn , to do things better and toughen up .”
In creating an environment where people can agree to disagree , Mr Seah emphasised , “ Predictably , the higher you are , the more important that you set the example . People see you as the role model . If you agree to disagree , that ’ s the definition of being gentleman .”