Friends who know me for some time will know that I love to write. I love to share my thoughts online and hopefully generate some insightful debates with others. But lately, I have refrained from writing too much. There are two reasons for this, first being that the more you learn, the more you think that you don’t know anything. I don’t think I am in a position to teach anyone anything. What I can do, however, is to propose what I think, and if it serves you, then take it. It’s free. The second being that somehow I have always been cautioned from sharing too much. I was told it allows others to read me like an open book. I always thought that it would be nice to be open. After all, I would rather others know me so that they do not have to speculate what I am thinking, however, it seems that in this world, some are more treacherous than I thought. And of course, somehow, people always feel that when I write something, I am “forcing” my opinion. No, I am not. I am writing for people to disagree so that I can learn from it. Even if they agree, I still refine my views from time to time. We can only know which idea truly stands after contention. So for those who hate disagreements, I am afraid that there is something invaluable still, from all the sparks and friction.
Still, I am writing today. Because I believe that the good outweighs the bad.
I want to talk about two things today. First being leadership. I am always obsessed with leadership. I have no idea why. Good leaders compel me to follow. And I am always impressed by people who can lead well. The recent leadership philosophy that I adopt is like a rudder. For those who have sailed before, they will know what is a rudder. It is the piece of metal that is stuck under the ship that controls the direction. A good leader to me is like a rudder. Not seen nor heard most of the time, but they set the direction. To quote Lao Tze, an ancient Chinese philosophy and probably the founder of Taoism (if I am not mistaken), said:
A leader is best when people barely know she is there. Not so good when people respect and acclaim her. Worst when people despise her. When the job is done and her will fulfilled, they will say we did it ourselves. (I used “she” as the male is always used as a default; I like gender balance.)
I wonder why. But despite not knowing why, somehow, this philosophy sits well with me. In fact, I memorised this by heart.
I shared this with a senior and she said: But if they think that they did it themselves, but they really can’t, and they try it without you, then disaster may strike. I think there is some truth in that. My reply to her was that in that case then time will tell a good leader from a bad one. But of course, if it is related to lives then perhaps a leader may have to step forward when they try to do it themselves and it is known that they will fail. I have no further insights on this.
The second thing that I want to talk about is practising what you preach. Many times, you see people preaching certain values. For example, I often hear senior preaching about driving or riding safely, but they drink and drive. I hear teacher preaching about inclusivity to their students but they themselves outcast their colleagues. I hear schools preaching about every individual is teachable, yet they choose to let staff go. I understand that it is important to have ideologies. We may never achieve perfection but that should not stop us from preaching about it. But we should be aware that our actions should be consistent with our words, or at least be aware when it doesn’t. Many times, we are unable to see our own blind spots. And thinking about that, I feel jittery because God knows when did I disgust someone else when I preach about certain things when I have not achieved it myself. When have I complained about someone’s flaws when I have it on my own. My answer to that is the three mirrors – your friends, your foes and yourself, an imperfect but simplistic way of checking your blind spot. And that is why it is important to have open communication. And to have open communication, you have to build that trust, that you are willing to accept feedback and not hold grudges to the one delivering. And one has to take honesty as a gift. It is an expensive gift, not everyone can afford it. For me, I pray for nothing more but sincerity and honesty. But although I can promise you that I will listen and consider, I cannot promise you that I can change to your liking. Because ultimately, I have to make a choice on what kind of person I want to be. And perhaps change also takes time.