As arrived at work on Monday, everything seemed normal. Then, I overheard my colleagues speak about “his death” “His death”? Who could it be? Then I remembered that the Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew was in critical condition over the past few days. As I hear the sober radio music and later logged onto Facebook, I knew the inevitable had come to pass.
Our Minister Mentor had passed away. The man who had lead the nation over it’s stormiest times, the “founding father” of Singapore, had passed away. He, who led the nation for over 50 years, was no longer with us. As one colleague said, our world just got a little darker.
By this point no doubt you have seen a ton of tributes, videos and even debate on the great man. No doubt many of you would have gotten a great education on the man himself.
Mr Lee was defiantly a great salesperson. This is proof by being able to win election after election, to make his party almost invincible. Most remarkably though, his government who could not only sell a vision of the future but could also deliver on those promises and effectively follow up on them. As we, as the nation of Singapore come together to remember Mr Lee, we will see what sales lessons we can learn from the great man himself
Key take away lesson:
The power of Master Mind:
No man is an island, and even though Mr Lee did indeed rule an island, he did not do so alone. Napoleon hill once defined the Master mind as” the collective minds working together to achieve more than they would be able to otherwise”. Indeed, he had a team of top notch Ministers including deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye , first defences minister Goh Keng Swee ( Who built an army from scratch) , S. Rajaratnam ( foundered ASEAN and helped get Singapore into the UN) and many other core member who so helped. It was in this environment of association that Mr Lee and his team was able to lead Singapore to unimaginable levels of success.
JUNE 5, 1959: At the Cabinet’s swearing-in ceremony at the City Council Hall were (from left) Messrs Yong Nyuk Lin, Ong Pang Boon, Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, Lee Kuan Yew, Ong Eng Guan, Ahmad Ibrahim, S. Rajaratnam and K.M. Byrne.
In sales, we should be together a strong sales team to facilitate their own growth and to achieve new levels of success
Mr Lee was a man of great integrity. Unlike many of Singapore neighbours, corruption is virtually non-existent in the city state. Some may argue that it was because Singapore was so small that Mr Lee Could micromanage everything but true integrity comes from the top. As seen in the 1960s, Mr Lee turned down a CIA bribe, and later when the CIA denied involvement, rightfully threatened to embarrass them. His character was incorruptible, paving the way as a pillar of strength for anti-corruption measures in Singapore, namely the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and the prevention of corruption act.
As salespeople, we must have strong ethics to know what not only the right thing to do, but by also is doing the right thing.
Mr Lee possessed a vision to make Singapore a great nation. He saw not what the situation is, as it was in 1965, but what it could be, a dream of prosperous, successful nation. With that vision in hand, Mr Lee was able to draw people to his vision, and push though the troubling times. A leader, must have a vision, a target to work to towards. This vision probably drove him to implement some of the hardest legislations. This is very applicable to sales managers but also can be applied to every salesperson to have a vision to strive towards.
From Mr Lee
“This country belongs to all of us. We made this country from nothing, from mud-flats… Over 100 years ago, this was a mud-flat, swamp. Today, this is a modern city.
Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear!” a grassroots event in Sembawang in September 1965.
Mr Lee and his cabinet focused on doing whatever needed to be done in order to ensure Singapore survival. Whether it implementing economic policy or strict social legislation, he pushed though measures he believed would help the nation.
For example, when his government set up the now famous Singapore airlines, he make it clear that if it was to go bust, they would let it fail and not throw good money after bad. This was in line with his vision to make Singapore great, but it was indeed a vision to work towards, not some grandeur to simple spend resources. This drive for results eventually made Singapore one of the most efficient government systems in the world.
Connection to his Asian Roots:
While Mr Lee clearly took lessons from the west, he always knew his own local roots, not just in his Chinese heritage but as South East Asia as a whole. In let, this is what he said
“Let me be frank; if we did not have the good points of the West to guide us, we wouldn’t have got out of our backwardness. We would have been a backward economy with a backward society. But we do not want all of the West.”
Interview with Foreign Policy, March/April 1994
Mr Lee has a very different flavour of leadership, something that should not be forgotten when doing sales or even leading a sales team. He refused to let the press or anyone else smear him, and was willing to make people sacrifice individual rights for communal benefits. While the debate on the merits and drawbacks, the success of his actions are undisputed. He rejecting the idea of opinions polls, believing that voters would come round when they eventually saw the results of policies he had pushed through.
As salespeople in Asia, we must never forgot that Asia has some unique points that western sales tradition will not adhere too. Hence, we need to keep ourselves aware of events on the ground to maximise our sales in Asia.
As we come together to remember Mr Lee passing in the back drop of SG50 celebrations, we as a nation must not forgot the next goal. As a government official said, “When we come to SG100, what stories will we tell? What challenges will we go through?” Our greatest way to repay Mr Lee, we must never forgot, is to ensure that his hard work, his sacrifices are not lost to history and that Singapore continues to prosper. And that, is our responsibility
Goodbye Mr Lee. Thank you