Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that his approach to leadership would be to find common ground and "the things that bind us as Singaporeans" in order to forge consensus in a diverse society.
Speaking at the People’s Action Party (PAP) Awards and Convention 2023 on Nov. 5, 2023, Wong, who is the PAP Deputy Sec-Gen, shared his plans for the future of Singapore and the PAP.
"I may be the incoming leader, but this is not about me," he said, emphasising that the future of Singapore lies in collective aspirations and perspectives.
"Throughout my life, I have benefitted from learning from those around me; from interacting with others with vastly different life experiences and views of the world."
He expressed that this diversity of experiences shaped his approach to leadership.
"Judge the balance"
Instead of starting with the assumption that he knows all, or has the answers to all problems, Wong said he prefers to start by listening, hearing a diverse range of perspectives and views, and staying open to different ideas.
He will then have to "judge the balance", and act in the best interest of Singaporeans.
He acknowledged that with whichever decision, some will be left unsatisfied. He would also have to make "tough but necessary decisions from time to time".
"I've been in government long enough to know that I cannot please everyone. But I will do my best to explain my decision, while being upfront about the problems and trade-offs, and win the support of the broad majority of Singaporeans," he said.
Focusing on commonalities
His approach to leadership will similarly be about finding common ground and consensus.
"Not accentuating differences, but finding common ground and the things that bind us as Singaporeans. Not separating and dividing, but keeping us together as one united people," Wong elaborated.
He warned that in a society as diverse as Singapore, it is disadvantageous to disconnect from, dismiss and disagree with those different from us.
Hence, Singaporeans must focus on commonalities and find ways to make room for one another.
Wong said that this approach was how the government dealt with sensitive issues in the past, and is how they are currently dealing with the implications of the Israel-Hamas conflict on domestic sentiments.
This is also how he intends to lead Singapore into the future.
Wong added that he will ensure that "the benefits of progress are shared by all, not some" and to uplift "all Singaporeans, not just the few".
As such, Wong highlighted the need to enlarge and deepen the common space to unite and bind Singaporeans, and so that every Singaporean will be respected, valued, and have a place in society.
"Ready for my next assignment"
Looking forward, Wong emphasised that Singapore has numerous advantages, including determined and resourceful citizens, a strong PAP, and Forward Singapore as a blueprint for the future.
"I am ready for my next assignment," Wong said, adding that he and his team of 4G leaders are ready to lead with the support of the PAP.
"Let's strive for a fairer, more equal, more just society – a better Singapore, and a better life for all Singaporeans," he concluded.
PM Lee to hand over to Lawrence Wong
At the convention, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that he would hand over leadership of the party to Wong before the next general election — due to take place by November 2025.
He added that if "all goes well", the transition would take place by the PAP's 70th anniversary, which falls on Nov. 21, 2024.
Top photo via PAP/Facebook