Leaders. What are leaders? Who is a leader in society? Which qualities define such a person? Most of us imagine a leader as someone who inspires us to follow them. They are someone who understands human nature and takes all the advantages from this understanding. People aren’t born as leaders. Though they may inherit a role of leadership, you can’t replicate the qualities of a real leader. We are all products of our circumstances and the same is true for all rulers. It’s not like from birth they’re immediately destined to be the light of their followers to blindly follow. Leaders are made and carefully crafted, not made. There is one of those inside everyone and wants to be awakened and to bloom. The development of leadership skills is possible and it requires time and effort. Without gradual work, a person, who is not a strong leader from the outset, is unlikely to become a good leader. The most important traits are confidence and responsibility. A good leader does things confidently and encourages this confidence in others. They cheer people and make them feel that they are needed and that they are doing everything well. Though, a confident but non-responsible person is likely to get the whole team in trouble. The team needs to rely on its leader. Anyone can fail. In case of failure, a responsible leader should look for ways out of the situation instead of blaming others and criticizing them. Honesty is also an important quality. Naturally, people want to trust the person they’re following. A good leader is not afraid of admitting their own mistakes. They analyze the moment when something went wrong and do everything to avoid this mistake again in the future. Analytical skills are essential. Leadership is not only about personal qualities but also about management skills. A good leader can see the situation as a whole and divide it into subsections at the same time. This person is capable of making efficient every subsection of the project to make the whole project thrive. Communication skills create a leader along with analytical ones. A good leader is likely to be a confident, responsible and honest person with outstanding analytical and communication skills. Certainly, this is not the whole list of qualities and skills but the mentioned ones are obligatory and irreplaceable. They aren’t bosses. No, bosses are people who make others work. While leaders are people who make you want to work.

For quite a long time now, we the Filipinos have forgotten what a leader truly is. The image of one that is worthy of the power and fortune that they hold has been forgotten. Our leaders were once those who were willing to sacrifice their flesh and blood. They did it for a cause, for a belief, and a movement. They walked through hell and back for our sake and this is how we repay them? What shame this must bring to their graves. The “leaders” of now are the complete opposite. They’ve become the type of people to think of their subordinates as sacrificial pawns to their agenda. We become the ones who burn in hell for them to live in paradise. At some point in time in the past, we were injected with a lethal serum. A sort of death penalty that acts slowly and offers the maximum pain possible to man. Corruption was thrust into our county’s veins and pushed to circulate over time. The likes of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Lapu-Lapu must be rampaging in their tomb. Their efforts to make this nation into something a person could be proud of have been for naught. If only they could see our current status, they would rise from the ground in protest. However, what if they didn’t? What if even they have been convinced that we are too far gone? What if we’ve already become a helpless cause? Are the problems in this country too deep in our blood that they can no longer be changed? 

No! No, most certainly not! What we need is another great leader that can carry the burdens of the nation’s citizens on their back. What we need is a miracle. We require the human incarnate of Atlas. A person that is almost god-like in attributes and can carry the Earth on their shoulders, we need the most.  That is what the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, was to his nation. He was a man that radiated a powerful aura akin to one of deity. In many ways, you can say that he singlehandedly is the cause for Singapore’s rise to glory. Of course, not literally. A single human cannot bring up an entire nation by themselves. The intense cooperation, planning, and execution would be nothing without the help of the residents and officials of the country. But he was the person to set everything into motion. The non-stop meteoric rise to the top was the vision of this great man. Instead of complaining and waiting for others to do it, he did it himself. And that he did. In less than 50 years the entire country had transitioned from a third-world country into a first-world one. Historically, we’ve always been more or less classified as a third-world country. Why can’t we follow in their footsteps? They were once a small town of fisherfolk that have now dominated the global market. Why can’t we leave the cesspit-like state of the Philippines in the past? Why can’t we undergo an economic, cultural, and political metamorphosis?

We can, and we will improve this motherland. First, the key to being successful is understanding how one achieves success. The Gross Domestic Capita (GDP) per capita is the average amount of money a person earns per year. In 1965 Singapore had a GDP per capita of $500, while the Philippines was at $180. There was already a considerable gap between our country and theirs. But now, oh boy the gap is extreme. The nation that Lee Kuan Yew nurtured now has a GDP per capita of  $55,000 and the Philippines a lowly $3650 in comparison. How and what exactly happened? 

First, this was a man driven with a burning passion and desire for something better for his people. As we already established, the key element is a leader that is a leader. Not just some weak-minded coward behind a throne that barks orders. He wasn’t just a politician that pretended to comprehend the country’s problems and spout empty promises. All of his actions were based on the results of things that they’ve done, not things that they are “yet” to do. Instead of claiming to “finish drugs” within 3-6 months like the president of a certain nation, he invested his time and effort in solving the issues at hand. He knew his country’s problems from experience and wanted to rid the place of them.

Second, he wanted power and security. However, he made sure that it wasn’t for himself but the Singaporean people. To be able to keep up with the global giants, he took every opportunity to build the citizens a better life. He provided more than enough jobs and gave housing and welfare to those in need. The average house used to be a small shack that couldn’t exactly be considered grandiose. But wow, now it’s a flourishing metropolitan filled with beautiful structures. A lesser-known fact was that he valued people’s health immensely to the point of making the youth participate in sports and physical activities. He forced a standard of living that was never seen before. “No man is truly born equal.” He acknowledged this and gave compensation to those without, and yet equal opportunities at the same time. The happier the population is, the fewer problems you’ll have. This seems fairly obvious to but most say that “you can’t please” everybody. This fact is true, but that’s why you have to show people that in the end, they’ll be more than pleased with the end product. 

Quite a large portion of their success can also be attributed to their strict, sometimes bordering on authoritarian, culture. After all, being the ruler of a country for over 30 years doesn’t really describe democratic governance. It was with this style that he stifled political dissent and press freedoms, his firm grip on power and maintenance of stability which gave few opportunities for corrupt financial practices. This mentality seeped into the attitudes of the Singaporean people. Due to incredibly strict laws in place, they were forced to be more disciplined and self-controlled than ever before. They weren’t abused or enslaved in any way, they were just under tighter tolerances. They were continually refined until they reached a mirror-polished shine and luster. The laws of the country have actually received quite the notoriety in foreign countries. You can literally be imprisoned for littering or spitting bubblegum in public places. Honestly pretty brutal. But that’s one of the factors that led to their state of today. 

The next factor is something that we all should bring into our lives as well. It’s simple. Learn from the past, and yet be open to the future. Take what’s effective in the previous years but don’t rely entirely on those means. Be hesitant while also open to new ideas. Ideas and methods shouldn’t be set in stone. They should be magnificent creatures that change and evolve over time. We need to be more like crocodiles and humans. The crocodile is an animal that’s basically a dinosaur. Its genetic build is effective to the point where very minimal evolutionary changed happed to the species over the course of 95 million years. And humans, you probably already know. Based on the theory of evolution, we originated from Africa as tree-climbing monkeys. Resources slowly became scarce and tree-dwelling wasn’t a viable option to us anymore. We developed and evolved to be the dominant species we are now today. We can learn extensively from both of these examples. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a classic saying that’s somewhat based on truth. For example, if you have a computer that works, why replace it? Well, maybe because it’s old and close to breaking down and can be detrimental for the user. You can lose valuable data or it might even become a fire hazard. That’s what Singapore did. It kept what worked, but integrated new and effective systems and inventions. 

And lastly, they had a strong conviction to a particular aspect. They were incredibly competitive yet friendly. Every action was based on what they can contribute to others, not what others can give to them. They strongly believed that taking the easy way out would only create problems long term. Debt to other nations can sour international relationships. Not only that but borrowing mass sums of cash from others tend to be a short-term solution to a long-term issue. Attacking the issue was the name of the game, and they played it incredibly well. They constantly thought of how to be better than others, and not be others’ subordinates. Unlike a president of a particular country, they don’t suck up to China. They even try to one-up their international neighbors at every moment.

These were the factors that made Singapore into the global beast that it is now. That’s what made it so great. These were the steps to their success. That’s the type of reality that Lee Kuan Yew forged for his people. That’s the type of future we may wish to see one day.

Public dissent in the Philippines is getting stronger and stronger each day. The current administration’s screwups are shining brighter than the sun. Incompetency, corruption, and general ignorance are now recognized by even toddlers. It’s only a matter of time before a Philippine Lee Kuan Yew is born. It will be hard. No not just hard, almost impossible even. But that’s what it takes for a task of this magnitude. It’s a path marked with struggle and sacrifice. Nevertheless, we will reach that level one day. We will rise past our former glory and reach heights that have never been seen before. We will be a Philippines we can one day be proud of again.

“Filipinos don’t realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is the product of suffering.” -Jose Rizal

Photo Courtesy: Alex Bowie/Getty Images