The AWARE Saga – Prelude to Leadership Fatalities

Courtesy of Lucious Young
Courtesy of Lucious Young

Those of you who’re in Singapore would be no stranger to the AWARE saga – an event (or some say coup) involving a Civil Society in Singapore that caught the young nation’s attention.

For those of you who are (*ahem*) unAWARE (pardon the pun), of what this is about, you may read on to find out more. Otherwise, you may skip this prelude to proceed straight to the lessons on Leadership Fatalities

Started in 1985, AWARE is an women’s advocacy group that seeks to promote gender equality and women’s rights in Singapore. Over the years, it has been fairly successful in leveling the playing field for women and giving marginalised women a voice in society.

On Saturday March 28 2009, an unusually large turnout appeared during the AWARE AGM (about 3 times bigger than normal, almost 80% are new members). An Executive Committee consisting of mostly new faces were voted in, defeating seasoned AWARE members (known as the “Old Guards” who had been serving the organisation for years).

The President of the new Executive Committee (which later came to be known as the “New Guards”) had joined AWARE for one year and came on board with the Old Guard’s blessings. She, however, resigned from her post 11 days after the AGM, citing she was uncomfortable with how the bulk of the New-Guard Executive Officers were operating.

A flurry of events quickly surfaced as public curiosity became aroused and the media became eager to get in on the “scoop”. What followed became a battle between the Old Guards who wanted to preserve the organisation’s culture and trajectory and the New Guards determined to embark on their path of “change” (a la Barack Obama style).

Chiefly among the New Guard’s assertions, the Old Guard has lost sight of AWARE’s original mission and moved to “promote homosexualism” with the “Comprehensive Sexuality Programme” – a programme that aims to educate schools students on issues of sexuality in schools – that the Old Guards designed and delivered.

The Old Guards countered that the programme was all but one minor part in its array of activities, and that the manner and motives of the New Guards were highly suspect…

The battle quickly unfolded in the press. I’ve taken the benefit to download some of the key articles to help you understand what went on through Singapore’s main newspaper: The Straits Times

Long story short: An Extraordinary General Meeting was called, a massive crowd followed the story decided to sign up as members, turned up, and the New Guards were overwhelmingly ousted by popular vote. The meeting was not without drama however, and the Old Guard’s victory was no fluke either.

Having studied a little bit of sociology and history and having volunteered at the EGM, I was able to dissect and distill a couple of reasons why the Old Guards won so overwhelmingly.

Click on the link to find out more!

Leadership Fatalities – 5 Things You Must Not Do as a Leader
(Lessons Learned from the AWARE Saga)

Related Post: Leadership Fatalities

*Disclaimer*This article was written for the purpose of education in the area of leadership and communication. Let it be known that the author does not expressly support or discount or discriminate against the integrity of the organisation or individuals involved in the events leading up to the writing of this article

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