Leadership and Partnership: Helping the UK to Win in Singapore

There isn’t a formula for an effective leadership, but there are certain qualities that all leaders possess. What are these qualities and how can we harness them to improve the entire organisation?



I was asked, for this edition of theOrient, to offer some thoughts on “leadership”. I recently read an article about a series of interviews with the 2011/12 Clipper Round The World Yacht Race crews in order to address the key leadership and team challenges that they faced, whether it was possible to identify ‘winning’
behaviours, and the implications within an organisational environment.
They came up with some interesting conclusions that, while they were operating in a very different environment, seemed very familiar to what I spend a lot of time thinking about:
Managing expectations: are we clear about what we believe can be done with the resources that we have available? This cuts both ways in the sense of we should always be setting our sights as high as possible,
but at the same time aiming for the unattainable is not motivating and lacks credibility.
Communication: once we have established what can be done, can we convey this clearly, externally and internally, in a way that maximises impact and effectiveness. It’s a pretty frantic world, with a lot of “noise”,
how do we ensure our message stands out from the rest?
Integration: we devote a lot of time to ensure that all the various teams here, including the British Council, are properly aligned and joined up. I am often struck that people see a big difference between the High Commission and the UKTI team, but we are all part of the “UK in Singapore”. 
Approach: in busy work environments, there is always a temptation to seek common denominator approaches in the interests of efficiency and time. But people are all different, their diversity is a strength, so we need to convey similar messages in different ways, to make sure we can land them with all in the organisation. 
Focus: I have often seen it suggested that organisations can either be taskfocused, prioritising objectives and goals, or relationship-focused, emphasising the satisfaction and wellbeing of employees. Quite frankly, we must be both. We must be clear about what we are trying to do, but we will have the best possible chance
of achieving those objectives if our people are motivated and incentivised.
Support: this one is rather obvious; whether actually or metaphorically we are all in the same boat and we all need to support each other. I know that I rely heavily on those who work with me.
Trust: also rather obvious. It’s hard to go out on a limb, or really push yourself, for someone you don’t trust whether you are a leader, or anyone else in the organisation for that matter.
Sleep: having seen the cabins on a Clipper yacht I can imagine that this one is really challenging for the crews. But it’s no less important for land lubbers, we have to find ways to make sure that individuals get to recharge their batteries on regular occasions, and that we keep the whole organisation refreshed and engaged.
Since we are approaching our end-of-year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what our priorities are going to be for
the next few months. And when I say “our” I don’t just mean at the High Commission but also at the Chamber,
because I think one of the most exciting developments in the last 12 months is the strengthening of the partnership between our organisations when it comes to supporting UK business in Singapore.
The reason I mention it here is that, together, we are leading the way in the creation of a new model of business delivery through the Overseas Business Networks Initiative. Many of the points above are relevant to this, whether it’s managing expectations in terms of being as ambitious as we can while remaining credible; getting the communication right to our stakeholders, internal (our staff, your members) or external (businesses
in the UK who we want to pull into the market here); integration of our operations; and the support that we need 
to offer each other. In time, more and more services will be offered by the Chamber leaving us greater scope to focus on the government-to-government aspects of the broader prosperity agenda. But there, too, we will be working with the Chamber to understand your members’ needs.
In fact I think there are myriad opportunities for us to enhance our partnership, which brings me to my last thought on leadership, which is the importance of “challenge” itself. If we are going to get the most from our resources then we need a culture in which we feel both encouraged and empowered to challenge ourselves, each other and the organisation we work for. The onus must be on everyone, particularly leaders, to be open to challenge and new ideas. 
In that spirit, I hope all at the Chamber will feel free to challenge us to do even more together, and I look forward to meeting that challenge head on to the overall benefit of UK businesses in Singapore.