The Team Leaders Whose Leadership Style You Admire

Public officers across the Singapore Public Service share which team leaders, supervisors and honchos inspire them most with their winning leadership.

Winning Entry

When we first met Mr Koh Siong Teck, our former General Manager, he seemed quiet. But as we got to know him, we grew to admire his guts. When there was a major incident, he handled the crisis systematically. He was composed in reporting it to the senior management. He did not find fault but encouraged us to learn as a team from the mistakes so they would not be repeated. No one was at fault, but everyone gained from the experience. He is also a man of principles and respects staff’s various religious backgrounds. If our Muslim colleagues are fasting, meetings will be held without refreshments. This, I feel, is a way to show respect for our fellow colleagues.

Balasubramaniam Jeyanathan, PUB

Congratulations, Balasubramaniam! Thank you for sharing your story. You win CapitaLand vouchers worth $100.

In my first job, my submissions would become unrecognisable by the time they reached the highest layer. My first supervisor was Ms Lim Huay Chih. Being at the lowest level then, I asked her how I could be more creative at work since it seemed to be very top-down. She offered to let me make my own recommendations and would include her views without massacring the submission. When we had differing views and the bosses accepted my recommendations, she was always encouraging. Now, whenever I encounter difficult situations, I think about what she would do.

Stephanie Lau, EMA

There was once I could not cope with work as I was involved in too many projects. I went to the Senior Director of School of Engineering, Dr Lim See Yew, for approval to pass some of my tasks to my colleagues. I thought it would be like raising a white flag to surrender and I would be deemed incapable. To my astonishment, what I heard from him was all encouragement and his apologies for the high workload. He supported my request and said he loved how I asked for help.

Jeff Koh, ITE College Central

When I joined the Public Service as a recent graduate about 13 years ago, I was not the most organised person. My team leader noticed this, and so every morning for a week or two, he asked me some questions: “What are you going to do today? How important is that task? How urgent is that task? And how long should it take?” I still use this method every morning to give focus to my day, and I am forever grateful to the boss who taught me this practice.

Tiana Desker, PSD

For 10 years, I worked with Mr Achuthappa K, a firm boss and kind man formerly at Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise. Back then, I was timid and had low confidence. He had the courage to see the potential in me. His appreciation of my small achievements gradually boosted my confidence. He gave me jobs I had never done before, like note-taking for minutes, assisting on stage with award ceremonies, and even being the Dinner and Dance committee chairperson. If he had not encouraged me, I would not have become the confident person that I am today with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. My experience as his staff has enabled me to manage work and life better.

Jahabher Nachiya, MOE

Thanks for all your entries! We received an overwhelming response for this contest, but we've only got a limited number of vouchers to give away.

Here are the other noteworthy entries that didn't make it to print, for your reading pleasure.

My boss has served nearly 36 years in the Singapore Police Force. Yet, he has the humility to learn from me, who entered the Force only a year ago.

It was a usual work day when he called me into his office. As I sat down, he began to pull out dozens of files that were often only seen by management. He asked me: “What do you think I should write about these files?”

As the officer-in-charge of conducting investigations against officers, he has to make decisions on the consequences meted out. And there I was, a fresh officer who was given some say in this. He guided me to the SOPs I should read, and wanted me to structure some of the arguments for or against a recommendation.

Eventually, I asked him why he would let me do such a thing. He said that he could always learn from a fresh perspective and also improve himself in the areas he is weak in. Where do we find officers with such humility to learn from others junior to him? From his humble leadership approach, I have learnt a lot, and grown from the opportunities he has given me.

Manfred Kwek, SPF

Fearlessness is an under-rated and over-looked trait of a good leader – especially in the public sector where many seem risk-averse or prefer to be guided by precedence when making decisions. Fearlessness is neither recklessness nor carelessness. A fearless leader is one who trusts his or her gut, takes informed risks, makes prompt decisions – and once a decision has been made, stands by it and the team that made the decision.

This is a trait I admire most in Alvin Tan, my Assistant Chief Executive. Because of his fearless leadership style, I was able to venture fearlessly into a new area of work: to partner social services organisations to co-develop heritage and culture programmes for seniors. This is a “blue ocean” area for the National Heritage Board. In the past, we had offered only museum tours and craft programmes for seniors. Together with Alvin, I was able to prototype new age-inclusive projects such as our Conversation Starter Kits for Seniors, Reminiscence Walks for socially isolated seniors, Heritage Trunks for senior homes, and Drop-in Thursdays for persons with dementia and their care partners.

Because of Alvin’s leadership, we can be responsive to the demographic challenges facing Singapore society through heritage and culture. And because of that, I enjoy my work thoroughly while making a difference to the Singapore society.

Amanda Claire Chan, NHB

Leadership is more than the capability to lead and achieve results as a team. It is also to display personal touch and empathy. To me, my reporting officer (RO) is a great leader, but what she has is more than dictionary-defined leadership. Last year, my wife was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. From time to time, due to unforeseen circumstances, I would have to leave early from work or be on urgent leave to take care of my wife. As an investigation officer, my work is dynamic and I often have to respond or act quickly. My RO empathised with my situation and made arrangements such that if I have to leave from work, I may do so. It was difficult for me to juggle between my work and trips to the hospital. I often had to work after my wife had gone to sleep. But there were multiple occasions when I switched on my laptop to look through my emails, and saw many replies that my RO had sent out on my behalf. I was touched and am very fortunate to work under her.

Benjamin ONG, MOM

    Dec 6, 2018
    Brenda Lim
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