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GE2020: Jalan Besar GRC Josephine Teo vs Angry Uncle — A Look At Candidates’ DISC Leadership Profile

If you haven’t heard about the Jalan Besar Walkabout video, this is the video we are referring to:

This video was taken by a netizen and shared widely on social media platforms. The 34-second video features 3 politicians—Miss Josephine Teo, Mr. Heng Chee How, and Miss Denise Phua—during a walkabout within the Jalan Besar Constituency.

In the leaders’ political broadcast on 5 July, the constituency is described as a “place of history” and covers rich heritage areas like Little India, Desker Road, Kolam Ayer, and North Crawford. If I may add, besides being a culturally rich district, some estates within the GRC hold a sizeable number of the aged population—like Rochor where  seniors make up more than 20% of the residents.

Transcript of the video:

Miss Teo passes Uncle a campaign pamphlet.

Uncle (in mandarin): No use one la. What workfare? For the SIRS (also known as Self-employed person income relief scheme which is part of the budget 2020), some people can get, some people cannot get.

Miss Teo accidentally dropped her stack of pamphlets.

Miss Teo: I help you apply

Uncle: I have applied several times and still cannot get it.

Miss Teo: Okok, we help you.

Miss Teo walks off.

Uncle: Some people get, some people don’t get. Might as well don’t give to everyone.

Heng Chee How: ok ok (follows behind Miss Teo)

Uncle: I keep applying but still cannot get.

Denise Phua: Okay, we get someone to help you.

Uncle: Keep getting rejected *continues ranting*

Denise Phua: ok ok, let us get someone to take down your name.

Denise Phua gesture someone to take down Uncle’s name.

Our Leaders

Placed in the same circumstance, and faced with the same individual in the same predicament, the three leaders’ reactions couldn’t be more different. After watching the videos several times and based on some observable traits, here’s a simple leadership profile no one asked for, based on the DISC model.

In brief terms, leaders can be categorised into 4 main groups based on their observable behaviour.

  • Dominance (task-oriented and active)
  • Influence (people-oriented and active)
  • Steadiness (people-oriented and reserved)
  • Compliance (task-oriented and reserved)

1. Denise Phua – I for Influence

Miss Phua was the leader, who had to deal with the uncle after his rage doubled after he recounted his multiple failed SIRS application, and probably feeling frustrated that his concerns were left unattended. She was also the only leader who bothered to “take his name down” to bring that assistance further.

In the video, she faced the uncle fully while speaking to him—take note, her toes and body were pointed towards him. Plus points: she took an actionable step to help him.

2. Heng Chee How – C for Compliance

In the short clip, Mr. Heng had little or almost no dialogue with the Uncle and also had the least interaction—he was probably the most silent leader amongst the three. Therefore, we can only rely on his body language cues—in a feeble attempt—to decipher his leadership style.

He mumbled yes a couple of times and trailed behind Josephine Teo closely. He seems to be lacking control of the situation, did not provide any steps to mitigate a situation of aggrieved residents but continued the walkabout—just like a checklist to be completed.

3. Josephine Teo – D for Dominance

Josephine Teo was the leader who first made contact with the visibly disgruntled man. There are three main observable points in her brief “encounter” with him.

Her quick response

Before the uncle could finish explaining and expressing his frustration of the multiple unsuccessful applications tries, she responded with “ok, we will help you.” Which is the right response since the gentleman clearly needed some assistance and guidance in completing the undulating administrative SIRS process.

She repeated herself

Both Miss Teo and the uncle tried to get their respective points across; they were speaking over one another repeatedly and furiously. Repetition in communication can mean many things—to persuade and change minds are some that comes to mind.

One must remember that a conversation is a 2-way street: talking and listening. As a candidate running for elections, what happened to having a “listening ear” and a “willing heart” ?

D can also mean dismissive. But, I digress.

She walked away

Lastly, she walked away to continue with the remainder of the walkabout while the uncle rages on mid-anger. While we can’t be sure about what was going through her mind when this interaction happened, it does seem like the walkabout was her priority then—an epitome of being task-oriented.

A walkabout is ultimately a political outreach event to get acquainted with the residents. Politicians want their votes and residents want their life problems resolved. Agendas between politicians and residents may deviate slightly but the outcome remains the same—a better Singapore.

Servant leadership is a popular term in today’s context but an oxymoron in definition and even harder to achieve. Also, serving the people starts now, not after an election; let alone within the four walls of the parliament house.


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