The Contrast of Leadership Styles between North Korea and

 

 

 

 

The Contrast of Leadership Styles between North Korea and Singapore

Saeed Hasan Salem Al Zaabi

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Abu Dhabi School of Management

 

The Contrast of Leadership Styles between North Korea and Singapore

Abstract

Leadership plays a critical role in enhancing an organization’s ability to attain objectives in the predetermined timeframe. Nonetheless, the availability of different styles of leadership gives leaders an opportunity to choose the style that best suits their objectives. The rise to power of the founding leaders of both North Korea and Singapore was based on the creation of strategies to be met within a specified timeframe. In reality, the success of leaders is determined by the ability to meet the laid down goals. The creation of both short and long-term goals is vital to the success and sustainability of leaders. Unlike the North Korean leader whose focus was the consolidation of power to his family, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew leadership was focused on improving people’s quality of lives through the adoption of Western-style leadership styles of democracy and market economy. The economy of North Korea is suffering because of the isolation of the country from the rest of the world. On this note, the preferred leadership style is that of Singapore because it focuses on the attainment of goals that promote the well-being of the people.

Introductory Statement

            Leadership plays a critical role in the ability to attain objectives in the predetermined timeframe. Nonetheless, the availability of different styles of leadership gives leaders an opportunity to choose the style that best suits their objectives. For instance, after spearheading the fight against Japan occupation in North Korea, Kim Il-sung (hereafter referred to as Kim) assumed the role of premier in 1948 after the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The division of the North and South Korea, which were allied to the Soviet Union and the United States respectively, led to the adoption of different leadership models for the two countries. For instance, South Korea is a democratic country while the North is highly oppressive as its leaders use propaganda to promote their ideas to the highly segregated public. On the contrary, even though Singapore’s founding president, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) was an authoritarian, he helped propel the nation’s economic transformation. Unlike the Korean leader that did not have the interests of his subjects at heart, LKY was determined to improve the well-being of Singaporeans by removing the dictatorial leadership of the British colonialists. Although Kim led North Korea to independence, his leadership style failed to improve the public’s quality of life while LKY’s leadership has had profound effects on the livelihoods of Singaporeans because of his desire to make Singapore a dominant power in the region.

 

Executive Summary

Leadership plays a critical role in enhancing an organization’s ability to attain objectives in the predetermined timeframe. Nonetheless, the availability of different styles of leadership gives leaders an opportunity to choose the style that best suits their objectives. The rise to power of the founding leaders of both North Korea and Singapore was based on the creation of strategies to be met within a specified timeframe. In reality, the success of leaders is determined by the ability to meet the laid down goals. The creation of both short and long-term goals is vital to the success and sustainability of leaders. Unlike the North Korean leader whose focus was the consolidation of power to his family, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew leadership was focused on improving people’s quality of lives through the adoption of Western-style leadership styles of democracy and market economy. The economy of North Korea is suffering because of the isolation of the country from the rest of the world. On this note, the preferred leadership style is that of Singapore because it focuses on the attainment of goals that promote the well-being of the people.

 

Main Issues / Concerns / Problems to be Addressed

The rise to power of the founding leaders of both North Korea and Singapore was based on the creation of strategies to be met within a specified timeframe. In reality, the success of leaders is determined by their ability to meet laid down goals. In this regard, Kim’s objective was to consolidate power in his family and the international community to recognize the country. As a result, Kim had to find a way to prevent external and internal challenges to the family’s leadership. At the same time, Kim abolished religion in the country, as he wanted people to worship him. The consolidation of power in the Kim’s family and the desire to achieve international recognition led to the creation of a large army. However, Lee Kuan Yuan combined authoritative and transformational leadership styles to achieve objectives he had set for the country and its people. Besides driving British colonialists out of Singapore, Yew focused on improving the people’s well-being. Yew adopted developmental programs to provide employment opportunities for Singaporeans and thus improve the quality of the services the administration had to offer. On this note, this paper gives a comparison of the different strategies adopted by Kim and LKY in their bid to achieve their predetermined goals.  The rise to power of the founding leaders of both North Korea and Singapore was based on the creation of strategies to be met within a specified timeframe. In reality, the success of leaders is determined by their ability to meet laid down goals. In this regard, Kim’s objective was to consolidate power in his family and the international community to recognize the country. As a result, Kim had to find a way to prevent external and internal challenges to the family’s leadership. At the same time, Kim abolished religion in the country, as he wanted people to worship him. The consolidation of power in the Kim’s family and the desire to achieve international recognition led to the creation of a large army. However, Lee Kuan Yuan combined authoritative and transformational leadership styles to achieve objectives he had set for the country and its people. Besides driving British colonialists out of Singapore, Yew focused on improving the people’s well-being. Yew adopted developmental programs to provide employment opportunities for Singaporeans and thus improve the quality of the services the administration had to offer. On this note, this paper gives a comparison of the different strategies adopted by Kim and LKY in their bid to achieve their predetermined goals.

 

Discussions of Main Issues

The creation of short and long-term goals is vital to promoting the success and sustainability of leaders. In the business world, managers find the best-suited strategies that would offer their companies competitive advantages over their rivals while in the political domain, leaders adopt different strategies to guarantee their popularity to enable them to remain in power for a substantial period. For example, Scobell (2006) notes, North Korea “is a highly centralized and militarized bureaucratic regime organized around an all-powerful leader.” As noted earlier, Kim’s primary objectives were to consolidate power to one individual; thus, he adopted authoritarian tenets to achieve his goal. Although the nation has a large military, Kim made all the decision regarding operations of the state. At the same time, Kim adopted dictatorial tendencies to silence any perceived rebellion within the country. Lack of democracy in North Korea created conflicts between it and other countries, which resulted in economic sanctions being imposed on the nation. However, Kim adopted unorthodox measures to ensure the prosperity of the regime including production and sale of narcotics, such as methamphetamines and heroin.

To increase the power of the ruling family, Kim introduced state-controlled crime. In the process, government agents followed dissidents to foreign countries where they used various means to assassinate them. As a result, even after the death of Kim, he remains a deity and members of the public are not allowed to criticize him or his leadership. Therefore, the North Korean leadership under Kim was totalitarian. Besides asserting enormous pressure on the people, the state-controlled media ensure that residents do not have access to reports from foreign countries. As a result, people are unaware of what happens in other countries or the kind of leadership that other world leaders exercise. Kim managed to build a powerful military to not only terrorize North Koreans but also enhance disharmony in the region. For example, Kim led the invasion of South Korea in 1950 in a bid to unite the two Koreas. Even though he did not achieve his goals at the time, the border between south and North Korea remains one of the most militarized in the world (Hodge, 2003). Consequently, three huge bureaucratic organizations, which are the state, the military, and the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), dominate the political landscape of the country.

The primary objectives of the three institutions are to exert maximum control not only to what the masses do but also to control their thoughts. In a majority of other countries across the world, people have the right to question their leadership. However, Kim did not allow the emergence of dissidents because of the rules he created to deal with real and perceived enemies. Besides imprisonment or assassination of dissidents, the leader would implicate other family members in crimes. As a result, many could not question the leadership because of fear of jeopardizing the lives of their family members. Nonetheless, the desire to create a self-satisfactory state with limited connection to the outside world has created numerous problems for the citizens of North Korea. Besides increased levels of hunger because of the inability of the country to be self-sufficient in agriculture, a large section of the populace does not have access to well-paying jobs, which could improve the quality of their lives. At the same time, the state-controlled economy does not entice companies to engage in international standards that ensure the protection of workers against inhumane workplaces and the creation of products that meet emerging needs of consumers. As a result, North Koreans have to live with the available products as they have limited access to disposable income and alternative products like their counterparts from other parts of the world.

In other parts of the world including Singapore, leaders focus on improving the people’s quality of lives but not their time and amount of control they would have. In reality, improving the well-being of the masses gives world leaders a chance to earn the support of their citizens. As a result, the leaders do not have to engage in campaigns of terror to ensure they remain in power. On the other hand, Kim knew that the only way he could remain in power was by threatening any dissidents to submission (Malici, 2008). Moreover, controlling mass media to ensure that citizens had limited interaction with the outside world limited the chances of dissent. The state adopted different ways to reduce instances of dissidence. Consequently, it created a large number of brainwashed followers who were fanatics of the regime or a group that pretended to love the leadership (Lisman, 2017). Abolishing religion in the country means that the people have to focus their energies on the leader. Kim oversaw the abolishment of Christianity in the country during his early days in leadership. According to Phillips (2017), Kim acknowledged, “we have executed all Protestant and Catholic Church cadre members, and all other vicious religious elements have been sent to concentration camps.” The use of assassination and imprisonment ensured that a limited number of people had the audacity to challenge the regime. As a result, the people had to pretend to love their leader out of fear, which ensured the longevity of Kim in the leadership of the country until his death in 1994.

In contrast, LKY’s leadership was focused on improving the people’s quality of lives through the adoption of western leadership styles that embraced democracy and market economy. After becoming the president of Singapore, Yew adopted several leadership traits that ensured the growth of the country’s economy. Moreover, he adopted self-leadership, which starts with intentions and visions but ends in a substantial impact. As a result, Singapore grew to become a leading economy in the region and ensured political stability that is independent of threats. Even though Yew grew up during British colonial times, he did not believe that he was inferior to Caucasians. Having studied in Britain at the Cambridge University, Yew realized that he had the power to change lives of his people in Singapore. Besides, the leader decided to promote Asian values because he acknowledged the superiority of their beliefs to those of Caucasians. Furthermore, his western education enhanced his ability to achieve desired results. For example, Yew was fluent in Mandarin, English, and Malay which enhanced his communication skills and reach a large audience in the global platform. His legal training enabled him to become a legal advisor to several associations and unions, which culminated in the formation of People’s Action Party on 12 December 1954 (Branigin, 2015).

Besides, Yew was an influential leader; as a result, during the 30 May 1959 elections, his party won forty-three out of the fifty-one seats in the legislative assembly. Consequently, Yew became the first Singaporean prime minister on June 3, 1959. In spite of the massive win in the general election, Yew faced serious challenges from different quarters within and without the country. However, his resilience ensured that he achieved what he had set out to. In addition, Yew practiced self-efficacy, which enabled him to overcome the numerous obstacles he encountered when offering leadership to the country. The unavailability of natural resources meant that Yew had to devise other ways of enhancing the well-being of the people. In effect, he focused on industrializing the nation to manufacture products for export to provide employment opportunities for the people. Nonetheless, lack of financial capital among the country’s investors encouraged Yew to invite various multi-national corporations to invest in the country and boost its economy. His commitment to export-oriented industrialization reduced from 10% to 3% in the 1970s thus massing the support from the masses. The creation of a market economy was one of the greatest achievements of Yew during his leadership (Luu & Capelouto, 2015). Currently, the economy of the country is thriving based on the tenets established during that time. A majority of companies in the country practice international standards, which ensures the protection of employees as well as the creation of well-paying jobs to improve the people’s quality of life.

 

 

 

 

Solutions

The economy of North Korea is suffering because of isolation of the country from the rest of the world. Besides the inability to trade freely in the globalized economy, North Koreans have limited access to well-paying jobs, which could improve their well-being. Therefore, the current leader should consider opening the country to the rest of the world to achieve the benefits of a global economy and marketplace. One of the leading benefits of the globalized economy is that companies in any part of the world have access to huge markets, which not only grows their market share but also guarantees their success and sustainability. In the modern business environment, leaders are striving to ensure that their countries attract foreign investors to boost economies of their countries and ensure the improvement of the quality of lives for their people. For instance, since China opened its borders to the rest of the world, its economy has grown at unprecedented rates, which has improved acceptance of the nation’s leaders among the populace. At the same time, the North Korean founding president adopted a know-it-all attitude, which is evident in the current leadership.

In reality, lack of collaboration with other people in the country reduces the chances of identifying and solving emerging problems that affect the state’s economy and the public. In spite of the advances in agricultural technology around the world, a large number of North Koreans are on the brink of starvation because of inability to have self-sufficient agriculture. Nonetheless, liaising with other leaders from different parts of the world would provide solutions to the problems the country faces, which will improve the people’s approval rates of their leaders. Nonetheless, the current leader uses threats of assassination and imprisonment to ensure he stays in power; this has adverse effects on the relationship with his followers and other leaders from around the world. In this regard, Korea should adopt the Singaporean style of leadership whereby the leader liaises with other stakeholders within the country. At the same time, the leader should reduce the high levels of focus on the military to consider the plight of the millions of people suffering because of their leader’s failed vision. A Democratic leadership such as the one practiced in Singapore reduces the instances of conflicts between leaders and their subjects. Therefore, North Korea should consider adopting a similar structure of administration as opposed to the use of threats to ensure the sustainability of the regime.

 

Recommendations and Discussion of Recommendations

The choice of a market economy, unlike the current state-controlled economy, would have profound effects on the success and sustainability of the current North Korean leadership. The North Korean dictator should consider focusing his efforts on improving the well-being of people unlike his current focus on consolidating power at the expense of peace in the country and the region. Kim created a dynasty to ensure that his family remained in power for the longest time possible but the conditions of the people were secondary to his thoughts. In contrast, Yew’s exposure to western culture during his studies at Cambridge University changed his view towards the leadership of the Asian country. After returning to his native nation, Yew implemented the leadership he learned in Britain to drive the country towards success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trials of Recommendations and Results

In principle, choosing a market economy would improve the quality of life of the people by providing them with well-paying jobs. Therefore, the economy of North Korea would grow at the same pace as that of Singapore. At the same time, the relationships between members of the public and the leadership would improve, which will reduce the need to execute dissidents. At the same time, opening North Korea to the rest of the world would improve the relationship between the country and other nations in the world. Consequently, multi-national corporations from different parts of the world would choose to invest in the country, which will provide employment opportunities for the people. Currently, a large number of people defect from the state because of lack of opportunities and food to feed the millions of the country’s residents. However, Singapore has grown to become an established export-oriented economy, which has improved services offered to the people. As long as the North Korean regime is unable to feed its people, defection rates will continue to remain high, which enhances the need to adopt extreme ways of punishment to discourage citizens from fleeing the regime. In contrast, Singapore not only attracts foreigners to work and settle in the country, it also offers fulfilling lives to its citizens. Yew implemented a democratic leadership, which encourages the sharing of ideas between people within and outside the country. Further, the Singaporean leader is open to opinions from other people unlike in North Korea where the leader assumes a know-it-all attitude.    

 

 

 

 

Review and Measurements of Results

North Korea could establish measurement techniques to gauge effects of a liberalized economy. One of the most suitable measurement methods is that of economic growth based on the gross domestic product. At the same time, the regime could measure the approval rates from the public to ascertain the effects of the changes in the people’s well-being. Even though the regime creates the impression that North Koreans live satisfactory lives in the country; nevertheless, a large number of citizens are starving. Furthermore, the country should encourage foreign direct investment to provide employment opportunities to citizens. In this way, the country would acquire the much-needed financial resources to support its army.

 

Summary and Conclusions

Leadership style is critical to the attainment of goals within the specified timeframes. In the world, leaders have adopted various leadership strategies to achieve their desired results. For instance, North Korean’s Kim Il-sung adopted authoritarian practices and consolidates power in his family to ensure the stability of his regime. In addition, the leader would execute any perceived enemies of the leadership, which forced a large portion of the public to support the regime. On the other hand, Yew of Singapore adopted a western style democracy to ensure the improvement of the people’s well-being. Since Singapore does not have natural resources such as minerals, the founding president adopted an export-oriented economy to provide employment opportunities to the masses. On the contrary, a majority of North Koreans lead impoverished lives because they cannot secure well-paying jobs. Besides, a significant portion of the population faces starvation because the country is unable to feed its people.  

 

References

Branigin, W. (2015). Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore into prosperity over 30-year rule, dies at 91. The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/lee-kuan-yew-who-led-singapore-into-prosperity-over-30-year-rule-dies-at-91/2015/03/22/00f7ccbe-d0d4-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html?utm_term=.da1811aee188

Hodge, H. T. (2003). North Korea’s Military Strategy. Parameters, 3(2), 68-81.

Lisman, B. (2017). North Korea’s Grand Strategy. Foreign Policy Association. Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017 from https://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2017/10/13/north-koreas-grand-strategy/

Luu, C., & Capelouto, S. (2015). Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, dies. CNN. Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017 from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/22/asia/singapore-lee-kuan-yew-dies/index.html

Malici, A. (2008). When leaders learn and when they don’t: Mikhail Gorbachev and Kim Il Sung at the end of the Cold War. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Phillips, J. (2017). The Twisted Ideology Guiding North Korea’s Leadership: Examining the isolated state’s communist roots. The Epoch Times. Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017 from https://www.theepochtimes.com/examining-north-koreas-communist-foundations_2235482.html

Scobell, A. (2006). Kim Jong Il And North Korea: The leader and the system. University of Oregon Libraries. Retrieved 20 Jan. 2018 from https://library.uoregon.edu/ec/e-asia/read/scobell-9.pdf