Leadership transition should be smooth and fuss-free – shouldn’t it?
Take Lee Chiaw Meng for example. He was appointed Education Minister in 1972, but left his post a few short years later, said to be after failing in his mission to convert the then-Chinese medium Nanyang University into an English-medium school.
Even Lim Chee Oon, once considered a contender for the top post, was appointed NTUC Secretary-General in 1979, at just his mid-thirties. Several conflicts with worker unions however led to him being replaced in 1983. He retired from politics soon thereafter.
Not to mention, Dr Tony Tan, who was publicly heralded by Lee Kuan Yew as his preferred successor. He rejected the job – and Goh Chok Tong was chosen by his peers and appointed as Singapore’s second Prime Minister – to great success.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent attempt at succession planning was abruptly disrupted when her intended successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, announced in 2020 that she would be resigning as leader of their party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after just two short years.
While Merkel has said she would not be running again when her term expires in 2021 – who knows if she’ll be forced to continue? And for Singapore’s current 4G? Yes, there may have been a slight hiccup in succession plans, but that doesn’t mean things will go south.
And there remain four worthy “contenders” in Chan Chun Sing, Ong Ye Kung, Lawrence Wong, and Desmond Lee, each with their own strengths. Not forgetting – with age on their side to take the country forward into greater decades to come.
Still, think leadership transitions are so straightforward? Think again