On Leadership

I’ve had thoughts on leadership for some time, and decided it’s time to pen them down.  In this post, I refer to two types of leadership – one without the inverted commas, which to me is real leadership, and another type of ‘leadership’ that really isn’t so at all.

Leadership is one of the most fundamentally important attributes that a person can have. I believe it is a trait that may occur more naturally in some, yet others can also grow and mature into good leaders if they put their minds to it.

Today’s leader has to be authentic and true to his values. Not to mean that leaders must wear their sleeve on their hearts (to quote the new British PM), but to be open about what they stand for – even if voters do not agree. This is increasingly difficult in an interconnected world, with social and traditional media ready to descend upon the slightest perceived gaffe or unpopular stance. Internally, having honest and clear views will allow staff to act accordingly, rather than hypothesise and waste bandwidth.

One key value is integrity.  I believe one must believe in the cause of the organisation one is in, and do the best to achieve its goals, regardless of one’s position, in a manner which builds trust and respect. While it is human nature to desire career advancement, it should not be pursued at all costs to the detriment of the organisation. One of my own prayers to God is to let me advance, but not to put me in a position beyond my capabilities where I will do damage to others. Instead, allow me to manage my worldy affairs well enough so that I can focus more on doing His work instead.

Humility is also important.  Leaders must not presume that everyone will fall in line, even if things don’t make sense to them. While those of us in Generation X and older can still bow our heads and try to get on, the new generation of Millenials in the workforce, do not respect people for their rank but for what they can actually contribute.

Today’s leader has to be a good listener. He cannot be too autocratic. In times of crisis, of course, people need a strong commander to direct the battle. But even then, such leaders need to be aware of what’s going on at Ground Zero, to know if his original battle plan is still relevant or if changes need to be made.

Quite often, those whom we perceive outwardly as ‘strong’ leaders fail in this area – they believe they know better than anyone else and dominate discussions, leaving little room for contrary views. Staff lose their sense of ownership as a result.  This to me is not ‘strong’ leadership at all. In organisations with weak processes and culture, there may little recourse except for the whole organisation to plummet to a stage where the ‘leader’ is booted out.  Can more be done to minimise such damage?

Leaders also need to ensure continuity when they finally move on. Entire kingdoms have risen and fallen because a ‘great’ leader, who may have conquered many territories, never had a good succession plan. A good succession plan includes identifying and grooming potential successors, leaving them with a stable and progressive system and team to support them and room to grow their legacy further.  This is why I have long felt that the biblical King David was a better leader than Solomon, despite Solomon being the wisest and richest ruler. Despite sinning once, David departed this world with his heart in the right place and his kingdom in order, with a successor who started off on the right note.

Today’s leader has to keep innovating. As the cliche goes, the only constant thing is change. Thus, a ‘leader’ who just wants to stick to the status quo, producing incremental improvements to their products and services, may only get incremental improvements to their bottomline. But you never know when a rival is going to come up with the next Pokemon Go. Thus, while keeping a firm hand on the rudder, the leader must look beyond his ship’s immediate path, to the far horizon, and identify opportunities he can seize before anyone else does. This may call for bold moves, including shedding old ways of doing things.

These are the key attributes I believe a good, modern-day leader must have.  What are your thoughts on leadership?

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It never rains but pours

Today was possibly the worst day in my life for the last few years.

It started yesterday evening when I noticed some pain in my right ankle, after doing nothing particularly remarkable – walking about in the office and later, at home. Thinking it was just me getting old, I continued my routine, putting up with the growing pain.

I finished some work, went to bed past midnight and expected my ankle to be better when I woke up – because that’s usually what happens. However, the pain became worse and I woke up a few times, trying to ignore it.

When the alarm rang, I could barely take one step out of bed without feeling excruciating pain. Then I realised that it wasn’t my ankle joint itself, but the flesh right below it. It was protruding like a ball, as if all the muscles or tendons therein had decided to curl up together to stage a mass protest. And it hurt like crazy.

Next, in the process of hobbling to the breakfast table and trying to grab the nearest piece of furniture to stabilise myself, I knocked my iPhone 6 hard onto the floor. The screen went black and it could not be revived, even when connected to a power source with force rebooting. I had an old iPhone 5 but somehow it didn’t recognise my SIM card, so I could not receive calls or use any apps that required data, like Whatsapp.

It never rains, but pours.

Of course, it also happened to be the morning that I was going to have two important, back-to-back meetings. I was in no state to drive, and I couldn’t call for a cab on my iPhone or use Uber.  I missed the first meeting but managed to catch the second one, sent out some urgent emails, and then my dear husband fetched me during his lunch break and took me to see our family GP.

There, I had two needles jabbed into me – one in my arm to draw blood for a gout test, and another in my butt to relieve the pain and swelling in my foot.Besides gout, other suspected causes were some other form of arthiritis, plantar fasciitis (which I already have on my left foot) or even a fracture. But if it were a fracture, my GP said I wouldn’t even be able to walk. I hobbled out of the clinic with painkillers, anti-inflammatory gel, and a sore arm and butt.

At home, I put my leg up to rest, hoping that the rebellion of muscles, tendons and nerves on my foot would subside. Meanwhile, I also had to send the iPhone 6 for repairs while rejuvenating an old iPhone 5 to serve as a backup.  It was then that we realised the SIM card had become faulty – so we had to get it replaced too. What a day!

If I didn’t have such high arches, I’d say I was caught flat-footed. And it is in such bad days like these that we are thankful for the blessings that remain – supportive family, colleagues and friends who offered to help me carry my bags and wheel me around.

Some sole-searching is obviously required.  In future, I will ‘toe the line’ and do stretching exercises for both legs (if it really is a plantar fasciitis issue) and review the types of shoes I wear, now that the water retention caused by pregnancy has subsided. If it is gout, then it is time to review what I eat – although I have a pretty varied but balanced diet.  For now, just send me good vibes and prayers for a speedy recovery!

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MBTIs – my experience with various personality types

Now that I’m on a blogging roll (NOT a blogroll, ha ha), here’s my take on the various personality types that I’ve lived with, worked with and studied with. Given my own inclinations I have also included thoughts on how those personality types may see me. Please take all of this with a pinch of salt as obviously not everyone can or should be stereotyped this way. Also bear in mind that MBTIs do change over time, and within each type there are different levels of maturity. So there is hope for us all.


My favourite type of friend, classmate or colleague to get things done. Just hesitate a little or step out to the washroom during a discussion – and voila! The ISTJ has decided to do it for you.  Punctual and precise, things run like clockwork with an ISTJ in charge. No routine or detail is too mundane. Just don’t throw the less experienced ISTJs into the deep unknown. (Reflection: They probably think I should focus on getting stuff done instead of hypothesising or socialising so much.)


Love them, hate them – can you feel both emotions at the same time? With ENTJs, the answer is yes. Professional and ambitious to a fault, they are extremely hard on you because they are just as hard – if not harder – on themselves. This tends to take a toll on their health. Most of them are painfully blunt at pointing out problems and how to fix them – but they appreciate people who are bold enough to call them out as well. Unfortunately, in unconfrontational cultures that does not happen and they end up wondering why others get passive-aggressive with them instead. They love commandeering troops with the sincere aim of making the project or organisation better, although not everyone may buy into their mission if they feel trodden over. (Reflection: They think everyone they care about could have been *so* much better that it frustrates the hell out of them. They should consider loving people the way they are instead of always trying to change them. They should also realise that to get others to change, they need to change first.)


The life of the party. Great at socialising and improvising in uncertain or unexpected situations. Not so good at being punctual, meeting deadlines and doing mundane but necessary tasks. Won’t follow instructions if they don’t personally believe in it. Sometimes talks too much relative to the actual amount of work done. But overall, someone you won’t mind getting stuck with on a delayed flight for a few hours. (Reflection: They probably think I am too much a stickler for structure and should try to have more fun)


Strong teamwork ethos. Assertive, direct and unafraid to call people out if they aren’t pulling their weight, because ESTJs have already given their 110%. Type A personality that constantly worries if their grades are going to suffer when other team members don’t perform. Being near them in a high-pressure environment is probably not good for your vascular health. When they socialise with you, they usually have a purpose for doing so. They value orderliness, punctuality and all other forms of structure. (Reflection: They probably don’t think I am ‘high energy’ enough – with reference to Trump versus Bush! Every breath that I take that isn’t directed to improving the project is seen as a waste of effort – even if there are other things in life worth focusing on as well)


Possibly the most intelligent type I’ve worked with – and I have encountered several altogether at school and work. The most mature INTJ I know is patient, reads people well and makes long-term decisions while producing very strategic pieces of work and being able to coach others. All the INTJs I know have excelled academically and technically, and are great at directing and driving high quality projects to completion within deadlines and defining clear roles for each team member. However,  the less experienced ones come across as arrogant, insensitive and only being able to see things from their perspective because they tend to keep to themselves or a very close group of likeminded friends. They are initially unaware of the negative impact caused but do attempt to address their shortfalls when raised to their attention – although it makes them very uncomfortable. (Reflection: They know I’m not as smart as them but have also identified one or two areas I am better than them in, thus preserving some semblance of respect for our relationship. A couple of INTJs have directly told me as much – and I appreciate their frankness)


The personality type that some of my MBA classmates used to joke about for not having a strong sense of direction and being too involved in social activities. The three ESFP friends I know are really fun to be with, creative in their own ways and indeed lead lives less ordinary. (Reflection: Of all the types I’ve felt that I haven’t been judged by ESFPs. They’re just so open to other people being different, having their own definitions of success. They make great friends even though they often appear then disappear out of my life)


I lumped them together because I only know of a few of both types in total. I find NTPs open-minded and enterprising without being too judgmental. They do tend to be late with appointments and deadlines, but they don’t hold it against others who do the same thing to them. Given their easygoing nature, they tend to have a wide network of friends. Comfortable with uncertainty and creating their own path, away from the crowd. (Reflection: It’s hard to tell what their views are about me – we usually get along as we like to talk about ideas and possibilities. However, they probably feel I could have considered more options and pushed harder to realise some of our grander plans)


My fellow ENFJs are few and far between – probably because they’re good at camouflaging themselves to suit the situation. Warm, caring, people-oriented, they usually do well socially – but there is a tendency to be too caught up in the needs of others and the desire for harmony, even in situations where some conflict is needed to keep things on track. Insecure ENFJs are also emotionally needy and could spend too much time wondering what someone really meant when they said something earlier on. They can also unintentionally come across as micromanaging, through their desire to help others in every small way – whether or not that person wants help. (Reflection: We need to take a few steps back and rediscover what our own values and goals are, instead of only thinking of what others want and trying to fit ourselves around them. Also, when it comes to the crunch, just bite the bullet and take tough action!)


Sweet, sensitive and idealistic – you may think all INFPs are fluffy wooly sheep, but they are not. Deep inside lies a backbone of steel – violate their values and you will see a different side of them that’s willing to fight to the end. You would also think that this is a rather feminine type but I know two well-balanced males at school and at work who are INFPs. (Reflection: Supposedly the best match for ENFJs but I haven’t really worked much with any known INFPs. Maybe they think I talk too much and aren’t in touch enough with my own values)

[Update 26 March 2016: How could I forget our dear I*FJs!]


Stable and consistent, ISFJs make great friends for the long term. They are loyal and quick to offer help if something’s gone wrong. Two of my ISFJ friends are among the first people I would call on for support. They can hold on to certain views quite firmly and are unlikely to waver, even when they find themselves in the minority. (Reflection: ISFJs seem to accept me pretty much as I am, although they do have strong reactions when they feel their values are being challenged)


INFJs are neat, presentable and perfectionistic. They are model students and diligent employees but are humble about their achievements and can even be hard on themselves when they see areas for self-improvement. They can also be idealistic even as they live in a world they know is far from ideal. The INFJs I know have a quiet but creative streak in them – they are in some way involved in the arts scene and are pretty good at what they do. They just don’t like to brag about it. (Note: More INFJs required to strengthen my sample size – don’t be so shy)

I am not aware of other personality types I’ve come into close and frequent enough contact with, to write about them. If you’re someone I know well but whose personality type I haven’t covered, please let me know! Once my sample size is large enough (say n = 3!) I will add my thoughts to this post.

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The end of the personal laptop?

The last personal laptop computer I purchased was my MacBook Air, circa 2013. It replaced a 15-inch Macbook Pro which I purchased in 2008 during SXSW. I decided to switch to the Air due to its portability and the speed of its SSD, compared to traditional hard drives.

But looking back, I realised I never brought the MacBook Air anywhere. I seldom hung out at cafes and even when I did, all I referred to was my iPhone. At the most, my first generation iPad Air was all that was needed for more extensive bible study sessions or holidays. Thanks to the cloud, all the files I needed from my MacBook Air – be they Keynote slides or Evernote documents – were accessible from even more portable devices.

The other thing was the MacBook Air’s limited storage space (256GB) and ports. My ever-growing iPhoto database (which is currently nearing 200GB) had to be moved to a separate hard disk, which took up one USB port and made accessing my photos much slower. One solution was to extend my SSD capacity by purchasing an external 256GB SSD card, which fit into the MacBook Air’s SD slot. However, the system kept hanging when I tried to transfer the file over. I later learned that the file was too huge to be transferred to the external SSD!

I also like big screens. Call it an occupational hazard from my days as a designer.  So the MacBook Air was always connected to an external monitor, mouse and keyboard. Essentially, the Air was functioning like a standalone CPU since it was almost always kept closed, tucked out of sight. Worse, it had almost run out of usable space because it was designed to be portable – a feature I no longer required from it.

What is also tempting is the new iPad Pro, given that I like drawing and taking notes. It would make a great laptop substitute (should I ever need to use one in future) while the Mac Mini would be a more cost-effective high capacity solution for my home use.

This made me realise that I no longer had a need for a laptop computer, because it was ‘neither here nor there’ in terms of portability, capacity and value.

Could this be reflective of a wider trend, signalling the end of the personal laptop? For sure, students and certain types of professionals would still require a laptop to run more complex applications. But over time, phablets and tablets with increasingly powerful apps, processors and accessories – could very well sound the death knell for laptop computing.

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Maidless in Singapore

I chose the title of this post as a play on the Dick Lee song, ‘Single in Singapore’, with a similarly humorous take on the plight of the individual who is feeling plaintive about her situation.

Our most excellent helper (aka maid) has returned home for Christmas break and with two young boys to feed, clean and entertain, we had our work cut out for us. I was on leave and gave up trying to reply to the occasional office email – working from home without a helper was simply not productive.

Murphy’s Law, of course, had to come into play soon after our helper left. First, the baby contracted bronchiolitis and woke up a few times every night. He visited the doctor three days in a row to get his airways cleared. Then I and the older boy contracted what appeared to be stomach flu and diarrhoea. It’s still ongoing. Let’s just say there’s been a lot of cleaning up to do…

Apart from that, things are becoming more efficient. I think the reason for conflict is due to each person having his or her own way of doing things. If you are prepared to be flexible and just want to ensure the job is done (regardless of how it is done by other people), then you should be content.

So the children can be cared for by relatives, as long as they have enough sleep and nourishment (the children, that is :)). Delegation is key.

And when you have a window of opportunity, sleep.

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Unlike, unfriend

Many of us have been on social media sites like Facebook for a while, and over time we have probably accumulated a certain number of ‘friends’, ‘liked’ some pages and joined some groups. But have you ever considered that, at some stage, we should put our minds to doing the opposite?

Over time, our preferences may have changed. Maybe we’ve moved on to different social circles or our beliefs have changed. You don’t feel like you belong to a certain social clique anymore. And perhaps you haven’t been to that cafe in a while (or its standard has dropped, so you don’t want to endorse it anymore). Ditto for old pop bands, politicans and other public figures.

And we’ve probably had a few friends who had started their own businesses or groups and invited you to like their pages or join them. Being nice, you wanted to show your support, so you obliged. But you haven’t heard from them since. Similarly, you may have the odd friend who has become … rather odd, or has caused offense by making inconsiderate comments or being strongly associated with a cause that you do not believe in. However, until you do some housekeeping, others may continue to get the impression that you still endorse them.

In that spirit, I decided to start un-liking pages today. How do you do that?

  1. Go to your Facebook profile page (the link with your name and photo on it), and along the horizontal menu, look for a second link that says “More”, which will display a dropdown menu.
  2. Click on “Likes” and that will take you to a page that shows everything you’ve ever liked on Facebook.

(Note: Given how Facebook likes to tweak its layouts every now and then, my description may become out of date soon)

So far, I’ve un-liked several pages, including a footballer who left for a rival club, a few friends’ businesses that I probably won’t patronise, a browser that I don’t use anymore, and a few social pages whose topics no longer interest me. Given how little free time I have these days, I could do with fewer irrelevant updates on my news feed.

Give it a try yourself! A little housekeeping never hurts.

Unfriending may be a tricker process, as it feels more personal. What I do is put such people on a restricted list first and monitor how things go. If their behaviour online still doesn’t improve, then give them the boot.

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