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The Golden Tap

Posted on: March 30, 2010

Many Singaporeans might know the ‘golden tap’ uproar the National Kidney Foundation went through in 2005. The installing of a golden tap in CEO T.T. Durai’s private office had led to public outcry over the Durai’s private office suite, his salary, use of company cars and first-class air travel. If you don’t know the story, click here to take a look.

We discussed this as a case study in our MNO module (Management and Organization). The class was halved in deciding whether Durai was a good leader, or otherwise. The article we read, featured the transforming changes he created, in making the National Kidney Foundation what it was, benefiting countless patients with kidney problems, offering them a wholesome physical and emotional healing, involving their families, and themselves. Durai made a normal charity foundation to be phenomenal. Donations flooded in, and public trust was high.
Yet again it was Durai’s extravagant lifestyle and questionably high salary (especially looking at things from the point of view of a charity organization), that caused public confidence to fall, and an immediate retention of donations. When asked, the half the class (or more) in my tutorial group found that there were not any real pressing ethical issues in this case, with regards to Durai. A high pay was legal – and first class air-flights were legal, in a way too. The installation of the golden tap – so what was that? A CEO can spend money any way he likes, could he not? However, it was interesting that many Singaporeans were so highly perturbed by this issue. Of course in the tutorial, there were also issues not brought up like Durai being sentenced to a 3 month jail term for three charges, including fabricating a $20,000 invoice.
Was it fair to say, Durai was not a good leader after all his efforts transforming the face of NKF? He was highly charismatic, and he produced results, and most importantly, the results saved many a Singaporean’s life. But there was this other half of the class that doggedly insisted that ethical leadership was crucial to being a good leader. I was in that half. And I’m not bragging that I’m morally superior as compared to Durai or anything. This blog is not presented to judge Durai, nor to judge those that think Durai is a good leader (or otherwise), but just to record some of the more important things I learned in school that will propel myself forward in my career.
We had this lesson today in my leadership module, themed the Ethical, Servant, Spiritual, and Authentic Leadership. One of my classmates asked the Professor a very pertinent question. What about those CEOs, he said, who reap high benefits in terms of salary from company earnings? Is that ethical? Needless to say, my thoughts immediately turned to the case of the golden tap.
To be frank, there is not yet a clear definition defining leadership. It has been defined in many different ways, according to different criteria, and judgement needs to be made. But one thing was crystal clear: The intention is what that truly matters. Looking at a process of a decision, the ends, the means and the outcomes; it should always be known that the ends never justify the means, no matter what. No matter how good the outcome is, if the process of attaining it is not done ethically, it does not justify what you do as right.
Authentic leaders have high self-awareness, knowing their own values and beliefs. The whole point of an authentic leader who leads is to spread these core values within him to his followers, not to attain self-serving means. Otherwise,the leadership is not authentic. In an economical sense, nowadays it makes good sense for people to be ethical in their dealings too, as what they do has high connection to gaining public trust, and motivate followers as leaders. A leader who goes far is willing to make sacrifices, is concerned over the welfare of his followers, and is not too obsessed over the fact that he should be the one gaining credit for his cause.
Successful leadership means pointing people towards a cause, so that they would be motivated to work towards it. If the cause fails along with the leader that does not walk the talk, one might say that even with initial successes and benefits reaps, ultimately after being exposed in the light, the leader fails to convince people to follow him. It has been shown time and again that ethical leadership is especially important during times of crisis, when people look up to see if promises were kept, if a leaders actions is consistent with the company’s vision and mission statements, if they could be trusted to work and sacrifice together under a leader’s leadership. Such seemingly unprofitable actions (such as Southwest Airlines refusing to layoff during the September 11th crisis), many a time brought in very unexpected gains (the employees were motivated to work hard and be loyal, and in the end the company quickly turned around from the crisis).
I admit that my goals in life are to a large degree self-serving, and when I think of working in a corporate world, there are times where I consider these tempting areas of prestige, high salary and recognition when moving up the ranks. But today, I have been convinced to redesign these aspiration to take up the challenge to try and endorse this authentic leadership, should I have the chance to lead. To lead, not for personal gains; but to spread core values through the work I’m doing. To learn not to always seek credit, but put the job first. That leadership, I feel, would truly go far, and even if the pace and height of my career would not match up eventually, the sense of achievement and satisfaction ultimately gained is immeasurable.


3 Responses to "The Golden Tap"

It\’s my birthday!! 🙂

Happy birthday! Haha 😉

Bless u dear sis 😉

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