Published August 5, 2008


Father's tough love that shaped a leader

Father's mentorship guided him in his early days: Far East Organization CEO


ESCAPING a leadership role in property developer Far East Organization was never an option for chief executive Philip Ng because of the 'conditioning' that he and his brother had received from their father and Singapore's richest man, Ng Teng Fong.

'We were born into that role and from very young, we were conditioned,' said Mr Philip Ng during the Global Leadership Congress.

'I must say he did a very good job in conditioning us because I never felt I had an option,' he added to laughter from the crowd.

Mr Ng, who became chief executive in the 1990s, said that he had wanted to pursue a PhD after his Masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

'I actually wanted to do a PhD because that would have meant three years away from having to immerse myself in work because I know that my father is a slave driver,' he said in jest.

And having his father as a constant mentor helped to raise his level of discernment which he needed as a leader.

'My father is a mentor but a tough one. As you know the term, tough love. When I was younger, he'd always tell me, 'I have to tell you, even if it hurts because only I can tell you. When you're at the position where you're in, everybody's going to say nice things to you',' said Mr Ng.

'I take it to heart because I know he means well. I also then sieve out what people are saying, good or bad' while remaining open to different views, he added.

He also told reporters on the sidelines of the event that the completion of its new mall Orchard Central will be delayed until the first quarter of next year. The project was expected to be completed by the end of this year.

'Unfortunately, there are construction delays,' said Mr Ng. 'It's just a feature of the very tight market right now. But I think we've explained the situation to the prospective tenants and most of them understand.'

Earlier in the day, Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping spoke on the role of education today in shaping future leaders during a question-and-answer session.

Mr Ho, who is also chairman of the Singapore Management University, said that primary and secondary schools today focus too much on technical education, and not enough on character development.

'The role of schools in developing a student's character is very important. Because a good character will lead to the development of personality, which is the foundation of leadership,' he said.

Chiming in with her views, Mr Ho's wife, Banyan Tree senior vice-president Claire Chiang, had some advice for corporates when hunting for candidates to become their future leader.

'Perhaps you should not only look for those with high or technical qualifications, but, instead, those with philosophy or creative arts background . . . (They) have the vision, the spirit and character,' she said.