Lessons From The General Election (GE) 2015

by Patrick Liew on October 3, 2015

Political leadership and party can determine the success or failure of a nation.

They can change lives for better or for worst and shape the landscape of the community and society.

To help improve performance and results, political leaders and their team should adhere to 7 basic principles.

These principles can also be used to diagnose the results of the GE 2015 and draw lessons from it.

1. Envision – Step up with a worthwhile cause.

The first critical success factor to win an election is to have a worthwhile cause, a vision that is worth fighting and living for.

The vision must be so compelling that it will move voters to support the vision and put in the effort to turn it into a reality.

The rationale is simple.

If voters do not know what a party believes in and where it is going, they will never vote for and support the party.

In this regard, it was not surprising that the top two winners in GE 2015 were the PAP and WP. They have done a good job in articulating their vision and motivating their activists.

Between the two, the WP won a lesser number of popular votes than in GE 2011
probably because there were lingering doubts about the way it manages the AHPETC issues and whether it can fulfill its role effectively as opposition members in the Parliament.

It bodes well to remember that a party must not only have a worthwhile vision, it must also gain the confidence of the voters. It must demonstrate its sincerity and commitment to serve the people by, for example, actively contributing to the constituency and country in between general elections.

2. Exemplify – Show the right conduct.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Effective candidates need to show the way.

They should be the kind of a leader that they themselves would want to follow and that others would want to follow too.

In addition, they should be the leader that they want their activists to emulate and one that commands the trust of the voters.

As they say, the best way to be trusted is to earn it. And the best way to earn it is to walk the talk.

SDP’s chief Chee Soon Juan and his team have put together a comprehensive manifesto. He delivered some of the best speeches during the campaign.

Even though Chee had a good makeover of his image, there were concerns about whether he has truly changed and that he will not repeat his past mistakes. His character could have been in question and might have prevented his team and party from gaining more votes.

It is imperative that leaders need to say what they will do and do what they said they would do. It will help them win the hearts and minds of the electorate.

3. Enroll: Soar with a champion team.

An effective party needs to select the
the right candidate with the right talent to carry out their roles and responsibilities properly. Its candidates should know how to work well as a team in order to achieve the desired results.

Merely recruiting a member into the party does not mean that the person has been enrolled into supporting the cause of the party and that he or she has the appropriate passion to fulfill the vision and fight for the party or the country on a protracted basis.

In the lead up to GE 2015, some of the parties are plaque with unnecessary resignation, jumping of ship to other parties, and internal squabbling. These issues could have eroded the confidence of many voters and cause them to avoid taking a flight of risk to vote for the opposition.

4. Entrench: Shape the organisational culture.

A political party needs to set a high standard of ethos, morality, and conscience. Without such a standard, the activists and voters will lose faith in the party and the candidates.

The party needs to constantly forge an empowering culture to help support the shared vision. It needs to develop effective structure, system, and process to support the leaders and activists to run farther and faster in the right direction.

To achieve credible results, the organizational culture should be undergirded by a passion for the cause, positive relationships, effective systems, and competence to cooperate, collaborate, and co-create policies and solutions for the party and the country.

5. Empower: Strengthen the leaders to make positive changes.

The model for a party’s sustainable growth
is based on a “Leader build leaders who will continue to build more and better leaders” framework.

Political leaders need to lead the way in strengthening their commitment, character, competence, and compassion. At the same time, they need to continue to recruit better quality of activists and develop them to become effective leaders.

The cycle of leadership development should continue until it takes on a healthy and sustainable life by itself, resulting in ongoing and better improvements.

The success and failure of a political campaign is dependent on the candidates as much as it is dependent on the foot soldiers that are fighting for the candidates.

In this regard, the PAP has an upper hand as many of their activists have been well trained over the years and have honed their performance and teamwork through organizing political and grassroots activities.

A key downside of the PAP’s activists is that many of them are going on in age. Just as the PAP is developing its fourth generation of Members of Parliament, it needs to renew the base of activists and ensure a smooth transfer of leadership and power to the next generation of activists.

In the same way, opposition parties should also groom future leaders and ensure that their battle for a better Singapore continues into the future. At this point, there are hardly any details on how they plan to implement an effective succession plan.

6. Encourage: Shine with compassion, care and concern

Effective leaders have a servant’s heart. They live to serve and not to be served.

Whatever they do, they don’t do it to satisfy their ego or for a self-serving interest.

They serve with humility, and value others above themselves. They seek to not only meet the people’s needs but to also help relieve their struggles and sorrows.

At the core of their operating principles are the values of service, compassion, and proactive initiatives.

Great leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi have demonstrated the values of these qualities. They have shown that the best politics is a politics of service.

In living up to these values, they left a positive legacy that will last for years to come.

Leaders who lead and serve their people with love and wisdom can facilitate the growth of the country to achieve greatness.

On the other hand, leaders who don’t have a heart to love and serve their people should not deserve and qualify to be a leader. Their toxic leadership can bring destruction to the country.

7. Excel: Stretch for a higher calling.

There is great wisdom in the adage that what has worked in the past may not work in the future. If you keep traveling on the same road, you will reach the same destination.

The downside of democracy is the tendency for political parties to hold on to their dogma and doctrine. They fight for deep-seated ideas and ideology and in doing so, they may miss the forest from the trees, and produce less than desirable results.

I’m happy that in the process of nation building, we have developed a political system that is unique and relevant to our country.

This process of pragmatic democracy has helped us to chart new pathways and achieve quantum leaps of growth within less than a generation.

Looking forward, I trust that the government, backed by a strong mandate will continue to make brave decisions to improve our capacity, ability and agility to redesign Singapore. It will develop radical breakthroughs to help us capitalise on new opportunities in the fast-changing global landscape.

Just as importantly, the government will never back away from dispensing bitter medicine if it helps Singaporeans to strengthen our unity, performance and results.

It will continue to inspire us to join hands together to craft and ensure the miracle that we called the Singapore story will be even stronger for the next 50 years and more.

The above 7 basic principles of leadership and teamwork are imperatives to achieving personal success.

These principles are by no means the easiest to implement but if they are effectively implemented, it can help a leader to develop an organization of excellence, an organization that is built to shine and designed to last.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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