The True Spirit of Leadership (Featured On The Straits Times, 1 June 2018)



The True Spirit of Leadership.

If you search online for what the term leadership means, you will get a whopping 765 million results. But one that particularly stood out for me is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this”.

The definition of “leading a group of people or the ability to do this”, speaks volumes, because not everyone has the ability or can harness the ability to lead.

The definition also resonated with me too because it focuses on one’s ability – and not one’s titles or position, but the behavior and action that one must adopt to become a leader.

Often, people are promoted based on how capable they are in their work. The day you become leader is the day you need to be highly proficient in people building and not task building. Unfortunately, all of us start from the ground when it comes to this, as there is no blueprint on people building.

But here are three simple tips for people building:


There are a myriad of leadership programmes out there. But during my interaction with my leadership participants. I tell them that if there is one thing they must not forget, it is the fact that the credibility of your people determines the credibility of your leadership.


It is not your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) but your People Performance Indicators (PPI) that matter.

If your people are growing in their job, learning new things and growing as a team, your KPI is a given. But if a leader chooses KPIs over the PPIs, he has chosen a mediocre path for himself.

The PPI has great potential in achieving over and above what a KPI can give.

A PPI can build a great team but a KPI cannot. A PPI improves a team’s overall identity and a KPI can’t. A PPI can cause a leader’s credibility and influence to skyrocket over time and a KPI cannot do that.

Why settle for less when your team can be so much more? As a leader, you should not get caught up in the KPI frenzy.


Leaders earn their privileges because of the people they lead and serve.

The privilege is given by their people not their titles. Leader must stop assuming that the privilege is an entitlement.

While I was working with the United Nation, there was a time where we had trekked several kilometers through mountainous terrain and were all exhausted.

We sat down and the first thing I saw was one of our team-mates passing a bottle of water around to quench our thirst, but the bottle was passed first to our commander.

Not because he was our commander – but because he had earned the privilege of having it first because we say so.

In other words, the privilege was given to him by use – the very people he led.