Guest Blog featuring Prof Quek Ser Aik

Professor Quek blogs on why he believes that the world needs NUS MBA students the perspective and expertise to take leadership responsibly.

Professor Quek Ser Aik
PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Some say the military academies and armed forces colleges offer the best leadership training. But surely MBA programs rank highly in that respect too.

In the NUS MBA, for instance, you join with the understanding that leadership is about reading people (so as to better inspire them), allocating money (to invest in strategic areas), and streamlining processes (so that they integrate, rather than optimize in silos). Thus, leaders at all levels inspire, invest and integrate.

But, as they say, “it’s lonely at the top”; so isolation, or perhaps the want of introspection, sometimes tends to boost the ego inordinately.

Lucy Kellaway, the Management “columnist” on BBC radio and the Financial Times, has repeatedly warned executives to guard against having a big ego: “Business leaders are worse than they think”. She thinks that’s especially the problem with almost all CEOs.

Recently, Paul Gilfeather, a correspondent with Singapore’s TODAY newspaper, wrote in an article about his personal knowledge of Liam Fox, the just-resigned British Defence Secretary: “Dr Fox is just the latest in a longline of political suicides born out of terrible judgment, ill-advised friendships and that old chestnut … ego.” It’s so easy to think that we are better than everyone around. Paul titled his article “Liam Fox and the politician’s curse of ego”.

When you emerge from the MBA program, a lot more people will look up to you as a leader. You are going to have an expansive perspective, much expertise, and will take on enhanced leadership responsibility. Let’s begin our leadership journeys in the MBA program by often reminding ourselves of what Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

In the NUS MBA, we stress communal integration, hence provide many opportunities for students to watch out for each other. You will grow to be a collaborative leader and a team player, safe from an inflated sense of self. You will help build a lifelong community of talent to participate in leading the global economy.