Icons of Modern Leadership: Lee Kuan Yew of Modern Singapore vs. Adolf Hitler, a Prominent Aggressor of World War II They say history must not repeat itself especially when it involves loss of lives, destruction of property and disruption in the delivery of basic services to people including relationships. In this paper, former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Fuhrer and Chancellor Adolf Hitler have been chosen as effective World Leaders whose achievements, whether good or bad, have been identified to greatly impact many lives of people around the world.
This paper is not to pass judgment on them whether they have become good or bad leaders of the past. What is being looked into is how effective these leaders have been in carrying out their goals, strategies, etc. and the lessons that must be learned. The strategies, ways and means both used to achieve their goals may have been totally poles apart or different based on their beliefs, manner of doing, choices, etc. But for one thing, both leaders dreamed of harmony, peace, unity and progress for their country.
The difference is how they executed that dream. Both leaders have left significant different memories, one of which is the unforgettable holocaust initiated by Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and a successful giant leap of economic redemption of Singapore from a Third World country to become an Asian Tiger country within the three decades of Lee Kuan Yew’s rule. Each leader delivered significant changes that deserve to be called great icons in the history of world leaders.
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Adolf Hitler who was the reason for the outbreak of World War II and Lee Kuan Yew who transformed Singapore from a Third World country to another Asian Tiger country, have been chosen and juxtaposed to learn the similarities and contrasts of their qualities and styles as leaders as well as how their reigns brought impact to the world. Credited to Hitler’s achievements were as follows: “awarded the Iron Cross, First Class in December 1914 (a rare decoration for bravery in action to a corporal)” (Hitler,A. , 2011); “annexation of Austria and Sudetenland” (Chen, P. 2012); wrote the book ‘Mein Kampf’ (meaning My Struggle) where it was an anti-Semitic, anti-Communist diatribe outlining his strategy for remaking Germany and becoming a conquering power throughout Europe” (Harkavy, 1996). “By 1938 Hitler had made Germany the most powerful and feared country in Europe (and perhaps in the world)” (Hitler, A. , 2011). “Majority of the German people supported him because they saw during his early leadership to his credit how unemployment virtually disappeared, the rising prosperity of the masses, the new social institutions and the increase of German prestige in the 1930’s.
All these achievements of Hitler were unparalleled in the histories of other modern totalitarian dictatorship”(Hitler, A. 2011). On the other hand, achievements credited to Yew include: redemption of Singapore from a Third World Country to become an Asian Tiger country now aligned with other rich Asian countries like Japan, Hongkong, and Taiwan. Singapore is now an envy of many neighboring Asian countries. Of Lee Kuan Yew’s outstanding achievements, eradication of corruption was envied by many ASEAN nations because ‘Corruption’ has always long been associated with Third World Asian nations.
Other achievements include the substantial “increase in the living standards (Loh,K. 2011)” in this country: “As Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew presided over an exponential increase in Singapore's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from US$704 million in 1960 to US$38 billion in 1990. This figure currently stands at US$222 billion, or over 300 times its level in 1960. Adjusting for cost of living differences, Singapore's GDP per capita was ranked 3rd globally by the International Monetary Fund in 2010” (Loh, K, 2011).
Evidently, everybody saw the difference of how improved Singapore is today from the 1960’s. Now Singapore will always be equated and associated with the name of Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore. Analyzing closely, the nearest similarity observed from both leaders is that they both embraced the style of totalitarian dictatorship during their reigns. Other similarities noted include: both became inspiring leaders to the millions of their respective constituents.
For Hitler, his actions united majority of the Germans and Austrians although some say this holds true prior to his order of mass executions for the Jews. It was also noted that both leaders started their political careers by heading the Popular Party of their masses: Hitler became a prominent leader of National Socialist German Working Party (Nazi) while Yew also became a strong leader of Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP). They also had one dream, that is. to achieve “peace, harmony and unity as well as progress” not only for their country but also for the whole world.
Both have redeemed their countries from economic downturn to economic recovery and continued progress. Both have shown improvements not only on the lives of their people but also on policies, economy and evidently on the overall progress of their respective countries. “How did Adolf Hitler who, according to Professor Jeremy Noakes, was just a drifter and a failed artist, become one of the most destructive political leaders in the 20th century? ” (Noakes, 2011). Hitler did struggle during his early civilian life. When his father died, he and his mother were left with inadequate pension and savings which is the reason why he never advanced beyond his secondary education” (Hitler, A. , 2011). This may be one of the outstanding differences between the two. Yew’s household was better off than Hitler’s because Lee Kuan Yew was able “to get education at Raffles College in Singapore and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, England. He started as a lawyer, founded the People’s Action Party in Singapore and became the Secretary General” (Yew, 2010).
This paved the way to Yew’s political career. On the other hand, Hitler embraced the military which paved the way to his rise to power. Accordingly, “He greeted the war with enthusiasm, as a great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of his civilian life. He found discipline and comradeship satisfying and was confirmed in his belief about the heroic virtues of war. He occupied two positions during his reign, as Chancellor (Kanzler) and as Fuehrer of Germany covering 1933 to 1945” (Hitler, A. , 2011).
A distinctive difference is the leader’s belief. At the early part of his life, Hitler developed a strong discrimination for the Jews. Certain events in his life have led him to develop strong anti-Semitism or hatred for the Jews. Lee Kuan Yew embraced the teachings of Confucius. Another difference is that Hitler alone had his inherent own unique leadership style while Lee Kuan Yew’s was greatly inspired by Machiavellian virtu as he cited: “Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right.
If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless (Lee Kuan Yew, 6. 10. 1997)” (Gordon, n. d. ). Comparing the two leaders on the basis of the magnitude and coverage or extent of each leader’s involvement and impact, Adolf Hitler may be considered the most effective leader because one of his greatest achievements among others is having the great majority of Germans and Austrians rally behind him until the end.
This is something that historians could not find from any predecessor who could have done or come close to what Adolf Hitler did despite being accused as the war aggressor and a tyrannical dictator killing 6 million Jews during his reign. Yet despite all these, much have been said and written about Adolf Hitler who has all the right to be an icon leader of the 20th century. For this purpose, Lee Kuan Yew is chosen to have less impact among these two most effective leaders. Lee Kuan Yew’s achievement, though only involved Singapore’s development, has also become a showcase to the world.
Finally, restating what Lee Kuan Yew imparted (not the exact words), “An effective leader is the one who can be dispensable” which means if you have left your realm or domain without anybody able to take over it, then you are not a good leader. Leading is a continuous momentum whether you are there or somebody takes the helm from you. WORKS CITED Chen, Peter C. (2012) Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland: 29 Sep 1938 - 10 Oct 1938. World War II Database [Data File]. Retrieved from http://ww2db. com/battle_spec. hp? battle_id=87 Gordon, Uri (n. d. ) . Machiavelli's Tiger: Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore's Authoritarian Regime. Retrieved from http://www. scribd. com/doc/38148245/Lee-Kuan-Yew Adolf Hitler. (2012) History Learning Site. Retrieved from http://www. historylearningsite. co. uk/adolf_hitler. htm Loh, Kai H. (May, 2011). Lee Kuan Yew’s Legacy. Dragons and Tigers: An East Asian Perspective. Retrieved from http://www. globalconversation. org/2011/05/15/lee-kuan-yews-legacy Noakes, Jeremy. ( 2011). The Rise of Adolf Hitler.
Retrieved from http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_01. shtml Hitler, Adolf (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved April 14, 2012, from http://www. biography. com/people/adolf-hitler-9340144 Harkavy, Michael D. ed. (1996) Adolf Hitler. The New Illustrated Home Reference Guide ( p. 499) Trident Press International, Canada: New Webster’s International Encyclopedia (print). Yew, Lee K. (2010). Distinguished Fellow: Lee Kuan Yew. Retrieved from http://www. lkyspp. nus. edu. sg/Faculty_Lee_Kuan_Yew. aspx
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