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The prime minister’s powerful better half Essay

Introduction

Temasek Holdings is a Singapore-based investment company with over US100 billion in assets, including shares and investments in a wide range of industries worldwide. It is owned by the government of Singapore and the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has a supervisory role over the company. Although there were accusations of nepotism when Ho Ching, the prime ministers wife, joined the company in 2002 (at the time her husband was the Finance Minister of Singapore and her father-in-law the legendary former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew), Temasek Chairman Dhanabalan told Businessweek I got her not because of her political connections but because of her competence and record (Thomas White International 2010). Ho Ching has proved to be a formidable leader who transformed Temaseks inner structure as well as its international profile. In 2002 the companys investment portfolio was domestically-based and comprised mainly government-linked companies. Under her leadership, the company revised its investment strategy and took bold steps (in Asia and then further afield) through cultural diversification, a global outlook and transparent policies.

From a company which employed mainly Singaporeans in 2002, Temaseks staff included people from 22 different countries and the company had a senior management team that was 40 non-Singaporean in 2007 (Thomas White International 2010). The companys portfolio grew exponentially during her leadership and Temasek transformed from being a largely domestic investment company in 2002 to a global-oriented investment house. Thanks to Ho Chings deal-making, the net value of Temaseks portfolio grew 27 to US108 billion in 2010 from US80 billion the previous year. This is the first time that Temaseks portfolio has crossed the US100 billion mark, the company said in a statement. Temasek reports a healthy 17 yearly compounded rate of return to its investments since its inception in 1974 (top10malaysia.com). Despite the fact that the Asian region recovered relatively quickly after the Global Financial Crisis, the investment house suffered monumental losses. As often happens with those in positions of power and influence, Ho Ching, who has a reputation as a risk-taker, was criticised for the companys investment losses. Temasek announced in 2009 that its CEO would step down in favour of Charles Goodyear, only to announce four months later that Ho Ching would stay on.

This was a clear sign that leadership might be an issue for the company at a turbulent time of its existence. Ho Ching therefore needed to reaffirm her position as an effective and influential leader in order to strengthen her position at Temasek and steer the company clear of troubled waters. Ho Ching as an Influential Leader John C Maxwell has said Leadership is influence people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision (Maxwell nd). In recent years, Ho Ching has been criticised for her leadership of Temasek. It is evident that the company, and the people of Singapore, to whom the company really belongs, require her to demonstrate effective leadership essential for an organisation during turbulent times. Since power is the capacity to bring about change, and influence is the degree of actual change in behaviour, can Ho Ching be described as an influential leader Our answer to this question is unanimous YES. There are many theories about what makes a good and in this instance an influential leader. An efficient leader can combine different elements from these theories and models into a flexible and adaptable approach that works best in his/her circumstances or organisation. In the end, however, leadership is simply about influencing people to bring about change.

A true leader brings about positive change in an organisation, mainly through how he/she interacts with and inspires the people within the organisation and beyond (peers, shareholders and other stakeholders).Thus influential leadership is the leaders ability to motivate others through respectful direction to commit to his/her vision. A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind (Mandela 1995). Yukl (2013323326) provides the following guidelines for inspirational/influential leadership articulate a clear and appealing vision explain how the vision can be attained act confident and optimistic express confidence in followers use dramatic, symbolic actions to emphasise key values and lead by example. The most evident affirmation of Ho Ching as an influential leader is that she has received worldwide recognition as a powerful leader. In 2007 she was listed in Fortune magazine as the third most powerful woman in business outside the United States, and by the Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential men and women in the world.

In 2009 Forbes magazine listed her as the worlds fifth most powerful woman. In 2012 Bloomberg magazine included her in their list of the 50 most influential people, individuals with the ability to move markets or shape ideas and policies (Wikipedia). Ho Chings influential leadership is also demonstrated by her successful transformation of Temasek from a largely domestic investment company in 2002 to a global-oriented investment house by 2010, with a portfolio worth US135 billion in assets a growth of 40. Under her leadership, the company was transformed from a state-run and controlled entity with almost non-existent entrepreneurship, to one of the worlds largest sovereign wealth funds. She started the overhaul of the company by realigning its investment strategies and expanding its activities in the Asian market, including in India. In addition, as the company moved into other markets, she changed and invigorated the companys management by appointing foreigners as executives. This diversification extended to other staff appointments and led to a greater diversity of experience and perspectives, which helped her to build the institution and develop it even further.

By expanding Temaseks activities beyond Singapores borders, she helped to establish the countrys presence as a stable force in the globalised market. Over the five years from 2002 to 2007, Temaseks shareholder returns averaged a consistent 10 (Thomas White International 2010). Conclusion Transformational leadership can be regarded as one of the most influential leadership styles since it penetrates to the crux of what Maxwell says leadership involves, that is a leader is successful through his/her capacity and ability to influence his/her followers behaviour/performance to successfully meet the goals and objectives of the company. At the IPS Corporate Associates Lunch in 2009, Ho Ching said that the companys core purpose is to deliver sustainable long-term value and continue to grow and expand. She concluded by stating As an institution, we build not just for ourselves, but for our shared future with the wider community and also for our next generation, in Singapore, in Asia and around the world. This will guide us, and the institution that we in Temasek are working to build, in the years ahead.

Transformational leaders like Ho Ching have a clear collective vision, which they articulate and communicate clearly to all their employees/followers. They are role models who inspire and stimulate their followers to put the common good of the organisation above individual self-interest in order to achieve the collective vision. This helps followers to increase their commitment towards the organisation. They help their followers to grow and perform. Their rational persuasion tactics and their developmental and constructive leadership make them more influential among their followers they are admired, respected and trusted because they have the ability to make each individual feel that his/her extra efforts are appreciated and valued.

Jim Rogers (200782) refers to Ho Ching as the Singapore technocrat who made China take notice. He further says Talk about influence China, a country with 1,3 billion people, recently said it was considering establishing a company like Tamasek Holdings. There is no doubt that Ho Ching is one of the most powerful and influential business people in the world today. She has received recognition and accolades from major publications (e.g. Times and Bloomberg) in Singapore and throughout the world alike.


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