Lee Kuan Yew “Lessons in Leadership” — The Harvard Interview

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

What makes for a good leader? That depends on how you define good and the context — a corporation or a nation or a social movement. How much do qualities such as morality, integrity, intelligence and other personal traits matter? Are leaders born or are they made by accidental circumstances? Can a political leader really alter the trajectory of a nation dramatically for the better?

Because questions like those matter to me, I found much of interest in the Youtube video of the October 2000 interview of Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore by Harvard Kennedy School professors David Gergen, Ron Heifetz, Dean Williams, and John Thomas. 

At over two and half hours long, the interview is long. Fact is that it could have been twice as long and still leave me wanting more. LKY is an incomparable fount of practical wisdom. He gives meaning to the concept of a “worldly philosopher.” He’s the gold standard of leaders, a standard by which nearly all others come out as base metal.

However that’s my opinion, and I could be wrong. But if you trust me, you’ll find that the time spent in listening to this interview is worth a semester’s study of leadership. No one who has any interest the subject of leadership, or harbors hopes of becoming a leader, will come away unimpressed by LKY’s interview. I should mention that the professors are good interviewers — they raise pertinent points and shut up, allowing the subject to speak at length.

So do yourself a favor and shut the door, put the phone on silent mode, put on your headphones, sit back, close your eyes and learn from Lee Kuan Yew.

Two minor points. First, around the 5:30 minute mark, there is a glitch in the audio. Be prepared to hear a sharp squeak. Second, I find it very useful to change the settings of the video to play at 1.25x speed. Doing so does not alter the quality at all. Anyway, enjoy.

BTW, I should disclose that I am a huge fan of Lee Kuan Yew. He occupies one end of the spectrum the other end of which are people like MK Gandhi, Nehru and the whole bunch of worthless leaders that India has had the utter misfortune of having.

Author: Atanu Dey


2 thoughts on “Lee Kuan Yew “Lessons in Leadership” — The Harvard Interview”

  1. ha ha. I agree with all except putting Gandhi in the conclusion. As the frameworks outlined in the first paragraph itself, you cannot two person by same glass.
    as far as personal choices go its fine.


    1. Gandhi was the undisputed leader around the time of India’s independence from the British. In hindsight it is clear that the course that he set India on has proved to be disastrous. Indians have been brainwashed into considering Gandhi to be a great leader. The motivation for the brainwashing is clear — the Congress party continued to rule under the “leadership” of Nehru and his spawn that used the Gandhi name. Besides they had the means–the government control of education to do the brainwashing.

      Try explaining why Gandhi was a great leader and I guarantee you that you’ll fail.


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