I had a fun week in Singapore recently. As well as celebrating old friendships and building new business, I saw great examples of the contribution made by leaders and by their visions. We spent a couple of days sightseeing, which was fun. They took me to Raffles Hotel at 10am – but even I couldn’t bring myself to drink a Singapore Sling at that time of day. Mind you, at $28 a glass, I think I would have managed to resist at any time.
It was fascinating to see the old pictures in the museum there. I saw the massive change from colonialism to the thriving economy that is Singapore today. I also loved the examples of innovation. Walking round the marina we saw giant sunshades, fitted with solar powered fans. They have motion detectors, which kick in as you walk under them, providing much welcomed shade and cool air.
Further on is the Marina Barrage. This is a dam built at the point where 5 rivers run out to the sea. It serves a number of functions; controlling flooding, keeping sea water out and providing a huge reservoir of fresh water. It’s also a tourist attraction and a place for leisure. Impressive in itself, I was almost more impressed by the vision of the leader who caused it to be built
In 1987, the Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, said “20 years, it is possible there could be breakthroughs in technology – both anti-pollution and water filtration” The project went ahead and the technology did indeed arrive. Without that vision, the project would have been far less successful. Now, they have another source of much needed fresh water
So, a reminder of two vital things that organisations need to survive and thrive, especially in challenging economic times: a climate in which innovation can thrive, and a vision to inspire people. Both of these need great leadership; leaders with vision who encourage creativity, and who tolerate mistakes – if learning comes from it. The good news is that all of this can be practised by anyone willing to try.