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Singapore needs to diversify concept of leadership: Tharman

Singapore needs to diversify the concept of leadership in society, and schools and community activities could play a part, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to diversify the concept of leadership in society, and schools and community activities could play a part, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Mr Tharman, who is also finance minister, was speaking at a youth dialogue organised by self-help group SINDA on Sunday, where he took questions from participants.

At the dialogue, one participant, Nanyang Polytechnic student Famidha Abdul Hai, asked the minister: "Usually, there's a stereotype that good leaders are those that come from top institutions and come from a particular working field, lawyers and doctors, and maybe top institutions like RI (Raffles Institution).

"My question for you is, I'm from a local polytechnic. So when can this barrier be broken down?”

In reply, Mr Tharman said: "We have to diversify the concept of leadership in society. It's not that it isn't there, it's not that no one is recognising it but we have to do more of it.

“And when schools invite speakers, whether it's for annual speech day or the annual, whatever you call it nowadays in school -- you know, invite speakers who come from less conventional backgrounds, someone who's become an outstanding mechanic, maybe someone who's become a senior nurse in a hospital.

“Anyone who's achieved something with passion and believes in his or her job or what they're doing in the community is worth listening to -- and it's usually less boring as well."

Asked if the government could do more to encourage youth participation in politics, Mr Tharman said what needs to be done is to develop opportunities for young people to pursue causes they are interested in.

But an interest in politics is not something that can be forced, he said.

"Causes that they (youth) themselves think of, as well as existing causes, provide the avenues for them to take part. Interest in politics per se is something that comes along with time.

“Some people develop an interest in it coming out from the causes they're involved in, some others are not too interested in politics but they just want to carry on with voluntary activity of one type or another -- it's not something you can force,” said Mr Tharman.

The 45-minute dialogue saw students asking a slew of questions, from what can be done to help single families and ex-offenders, to volunteerism and education in Singapore.

More than 130 young Singaporean Indians from junior colleges, ITEs and polytechnics took part in the dialogue. 

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