Leadership and the Workforce in Singapore: Evaluations by the Singapore Human Resources Institute

Article excerpt


During 2006 the Singapore Human Resources Institute commissioned two visionary Human Resources Management (HRM) surveys. The first, which was undertaken in March, was a comprehensive examination of the characteristics and behaviours of the Singaporean workforce. Later in that year, in September, a second survey was conducted to determine the views of employees as to 'what makes a good leader.' This paper presents an outcome of the findings of these two surveys. The key findings of the initial survey revealed that many employees held valued academic qualifications; that these employees were reliable, diligent, and held good work attributes; and many were enthusiastic, ambitious and held vocationally relevant skills of problem solving and team work. A key finding of the second leadership survey demonstrated that there were perceived substantial gaps in leadership skills such as motivating and inspiring, giving recognition for achievement, and providing feedback. More positive findings were in terms of relationships with staff, the quality of leadership performance and associated competencies. These important findings are discussed from the standpoint of engagement/recruitment as well as the strategies for human resource development, which are vital elements of healthy HRM policies and practices.


In recent decades, management research has evolved from the study of the attributes associated with managing production, finances, and technology, to an increasing interest in the crucial characteristics which successful leaders need in order to engage, inspire, and motivate their employees to consistent standards of production and quality. Coincident with the emergence of human resource management as a key component of overall organisational management, and the parallel rise of the services sector overtaking more traditional industries such as agriculture and manufacturing, effective leadership has become regarded as perhaps the single most important competitive advantage for public and private sector organisations in most countries.

In the contemporary global context of the replacement of unskilled and semi skilled labour by technology or off shoring in developed countries, and severe skills shortages in the trades, technical, and professional occupations, effective leadership can facilitate both the attraction and retention of talent. Such leaders not only gather around themselves qualified, enthusiastic and motivated employees, but they also create group synergies, and consequently, innovative products and customer responsive services.

Whilst there have been many studies of leadership in the United States, Europe, and Australia, very few have been undertaken in the Asian region. This paper attempts to redress this deficiency in the research by presenting the findings from a survey of Singaporean managers and business owners in a range of industry sectors. This survey was conducted by the Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI), to assess their views of the characteristics and behaviours of effective leaders in the Singaporean context; to elicit their leadership gender preferences; and to report on their perceptions of the gaps between their expectations and experiences of leadership performance. Overall, the paper thus, explores the general satisfaction levels of a sample of Singaporean managers with their designated leaders.



Data were obtained from 192 respondents who were engaged in a wide variety of Singaporean industries. As most of the respondents reported to others it can be conveniently implied that these respondents are in a position to provide a perspective of senior level leadership. Table 1 provides a profile of the respondents and their institutional linkages.


A questionnaire, which focused on incisive dimensions of leadership, was administrated to 192 respondents. …