— Bishop William F Oldham, addressing the Methodist Episcopal Bishops in New York, May 1916
And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lordhas given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. (Judges 4:14)
Not to our names, thou only just and true,
Not to our worthless names is glory due;
Thy power and grace, thy truth and justice, claim
Immortal honors to thy sovereign name:
Shine through the earth from heav’n, thy blest abode
Nor let the heathens say, “And where’s your God?”
Heav’n is thine higher court, there stands thy throne,
And through the lower worlds thy will is done;
Our God framed all this earth, these heav’ns he spread;
But fools adore the gods their hands have made:
The kneeling crowd, with looks devout, behold
Their silver saviors, and their saints of gold.
Vain are those artful shapes of eyes and ears;
The molten image neither sees nor hears;
Their hands are helpless, nor their feet can move,
They have no speech, nor thought, nor power, nor love;
Yet sottish mortals make their long complaints
To their deaf idols and their moveless saints.
The rich have statues well adorned with gold;
The poor, content with gods of coarser mould,
With tools of iron carve the senseless stock,
Lopped from a tree, or broken from a rock;
People and priest drive on the solemn trade,
And trust the gods that saws and hammers made.
Be heav’n and earth amazed! ‘Tis hard to say
Which is more stupid, or their gods or they:
O Isr’el, trust the Lord; he hears and sees,
He knows thy sorrows and restores thy peace;
His worship does a thousand comforts yield,
He is thy help, and he thy heav’nly shield.
O Britain, trust the Lord: thy foes in vain
Attempt thy ruin, and oppose his reign;
Had they prevailed, darkness had closed our days,
And death and silence had forbid his praise:
But we are saved, and live; let songs arise,
And Britain bless the God that built the skies
In his day, Watts wrote this of Britain based on Ps 115.
We can pray this today too, for Singapore.
- the inner life of the leader is a complicated one. Managing goals, challenges, difficult people, organizational efficiency, strategy, stakeholders, time frames, superiors, middle managers…
- patience with great commitment is a prerequisite to fighting an uphill challenge.
- competence, character and calling with congruence. A good model for leadership.
- technology can be enhanced and used to perform the tool of a powerful info transfer channel. It can also promote accountability and ownership.
- information and data is everything in people management business
- never underestimate what the young can do. Even those without relevant training
- problematic data collection will lead to faulty analysis and confusions. Check your data accurately and look out for red herrings that might disrupt your process/assessment. Do not be afraid of presenting the true figures, unadulterated data - it will help the system regulate itself.
- creating a culture of trust and openness is quintessential to ppl really adding to the value of team
A while back Singapore was awarded the dubious honor of being the world’s least happy nation. Known for our commitment to professional excellence in various sectors and a incredibly strong work ethic, it’s not surprising that Singapore seems so unhappy - it’s probably because of our work culture (one of many reasons, surely).
Statistics indicate that 75% of Singaporean employers expect their employees to work over the weekends; that 50% of Singaporean workers spend 8 hrs a day in office and another 50% regularly take home work three times a week - and of course all these stats, when benchmarked against global norms, reflect the honest facts of our addiction to industry. The average worker in Singapore is overworked, overstressed due to work, and overly stressed by our national work stress levels.Consequently, Singapore has often been labelled as being a “boring” place to live, with little recreation and entertainment options (no longer true) and a doggedly plodding work rhythm. The arts and culture are regularly lamented for being undeveloped, and these are often characterized as luxuries that “practical minded” Singaporeans lack time to enjoy. In fact, one might even say that if we were given luxuries, we wouldn’t know what to do with them. This is also true of other areas that are seemingly “non-productive” - for example, higher education and the life of the mind. Pragmatism is our national ethos, since pragmatism is productivity and industry manifested in philosophical form, and it really is the guiding principle behind all our decision-making.
Why are we so addicted to productivity? Here are some thoughts:
- Industry makes us feel secure in the face of uncertainty. In our productivity, we deny the reality that we are limited creatures dealing with constant unpredictability. The existential crisis is simply too jarring and too disruptive a reality to deal with. Consequently, by keeping constantly busy, we feel like we are making some kind of progress, that we are doing something meaningful, that we have a leash on the untamable, an order out of the chaos. Of course, this order is really a self-imposed order, a false sense of security and it often takes personal crisis or societal crisis to reveal how hollow this security really is, but it makes us feel safe when things are predictable most of the time. And being productive is a large part of this. We feel like we’re okay when we hear the normalizing hum of the engine of productivity - things are okay, we’ve got things to do, life is as per normal.
- Industry gives us an inward sense of purpose. Productivity breaks down the abstraction of purpose into smaller chunks of measurable key performance indicators. As long as we’re moving along the ladder of performance, recognized by our meritocratic society in commonly acceptable terms of reward and shame, we’re doing okay. We feel purposeful. We have something to do, something to occupy ourselves with. In the exertion of self, worded in the language of professional self-actualization, even economic self-actualization, I am a productive unit in an efficient economy. I have a place and purpose. The language of achievement and success reinforces this, and the paper-chase that undergirds Singaporean education is really a manifestation of the pursuit of purpose expressed in personal productivity. So we have goals and targets and aims and measures and focus and plans and strategies and methods and seminars and other productivity-enhancing purpose tools that make us better at what we do, because what we do is who we are.
- Industry makes us feel socially acceptable to others. In line with the above, the moment I have something to do, a purpose to fulfill, a duty to perform a role to play, I find myself belonging the Larger Scheme. Socialization of individuals into these schemes of coherence and greater webs of interconnectivity give us value in the eyes of others, even if that value is perceived rather than real. Thus, an individual is valued and appreciated, coddled and developed, praised and encouraged based on their relative contribution to a team, to a company, to society, to a nation, and we bestow honor on the productive and shame on the unproductive. We become valuable to others for what we bring with us, and we are happily addicted to that quest, since feeling acceptable to others is a very wonderful thing. Universally, relational acceptance is a powerful motivating force, and the journey for identity is very often a cry for communal recognition and acceptance.
- Industry makes us feel socially superior to others. Meritocracy in Singapore is premised on the notion that there ought to be no interfering predisposed factors that keep us from reward - there ought to be no discrimination based on race, language or religion, but that a fair and just society should reward and value the thriving regardless of who they are. These lofty goals however, have an ugly edge - they do translate into a blissfully simple and yet brutally cut-throat way of doing society - transactional and dehumanizing. We value the productive, celebrating their achievements and sucesses, simultaneously showing our disdain for the average, mediocre worker. Industry then, becomes a means of weeding out the superheroes from the common men. And the common men are not very impressive. We reinforce social norms that celebrate the elite and scorn the average, since people are only as valuable as the value they bring to justify themselves with. Sense of superiority starts to set in, with a smug, self-satisfied middle and upper class that is insistent on privileged status, showing little compassion or empathy for others not similarly blessed - and why should they do otherwise? Meritocracy, in its purest form gives you no resources to do otherwise. And what a poison that is for an inclusive society. Industry makes us feel superior to others, and so we work, trying to distinguish ourselves from the next guy, scorning, biting, scheming and plotting our way to the top.
God, have mercy on a society addicted to industry, since we really are building, after all, towers of Babel to glorify ourselves. And how long O Lord, before the tower falls upon us, crushing us with the weight we piled onto it, or before we start talking past one another, alienated from one another by the foreignness of our words, a broken people seeking our own plastic glories and found nothing but division.