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.  Continue reading

In Celebration of Friedrich August von Hayek

Twenty-five years ago today, on March 23 1992, Friedrich August von Hayek died. Winner of the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Hayek was an Austrian / British liberal. I consider him to be not just one of the greatest economists of all times but one of the world’s most enlightened social thinkers.

Reading Hayek makes me marvel at the heights that human intellect is capable of. Compared to him, some of the most renowned economists appear to be pygmies. I feel sorry that most people — even those who claim to be economists — have not even heard of him, let alone read him. Here are a few excerpts, from Hayek and about Hayek.
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Of Prizes and People

Prize
First Prize

We humans instinctively categorize, especially people. We are amateur primitive set-theoreticians. There are infinite ways to categorize people since humans have a humongous number of characteristics.

Consider the categories of people who award prize and people who win prizes. In my view, people who institute prizes belong to the most prestigious set. I order the sets as:

  1. People who institute prizes.
  2. People who win prizes.
  3. People who don’t win prizes.
  4. People who award themselves prizes.

For example, Alfred Nobel belongs to the first set; Einstein to the second set; ordinary grunts like us, who never come within shouting distance of any prestigious award make up the majority of humanity, belong to the third set. We are mostly harmless and generally unimpressive. Continue reading

Nepotism and Modi

The word nepotism and the name Narendra Modi do not belong in the same sentence. Just read this piece The Other Modis (Dec 29, 2017 2016) in the IndiaToday magazine.

While the story is very interesting and it does show up as a shining exception to the pervasive nepotism of politicians, I am not too touched by the neglect of one’s family. Family and friends matter because they are our support and our inspiration. Certainly, nepotism is bad but not caring deeply about one’s flesh and blood is not a virtue.
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Thomas Schelling (April 14, 1921 – December 13, 2016) RIP

schellingthomas-cCelebrated economist Thomas Schelling died today at the age of 95. He was the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis”. I note his passing because he was instrumental in my recognizing that I belonged to his tribe — that I was at heart an economist. Mere accident led me to pick up his book Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978) at the Sunnyvale Public Library sometime back in the early 1990s. He received his bachelors degree in economics in 1944 from UC Berkeley, my alma mater.  Continue reading