Of Courage and Change

After an illustrious record in public service, Tee Tua Ba took on Chairmanship of the Singapore Red Cross in 2008. Over the past decade, he has and will continue to lead the homegrown humanitarian organisation with distinction. Red Cross News brings you quoteworthy anecdotes from Chairman Tee.

His Chairmanship

“Then President Nathan invited my wife and I to lunch at the Istana after my stint as Singapore’s Ambassador to Egypt. He said I could not be doing nothing after my retirement. When former Chairman, Lieutenant General (Retired) Winston Choo called me up afterwards to take on the Chairmanship of the Singapore Red Cross (SRC), I realised what the President had in mind for me, and it was to help the disadvantaged and the vulnerable, which I found hard to decline. As SRC was new to me, I was not prepared to assume the chairmanship immediately and wanted time to learn more about the organisation and see whether I could add value to it. I joined the SRC Council in January 2007. In December 2008, I took on the role of SRC’s Chairman.”

His proudest moment

“My proudest moment was when we were awarded the Charity Governance Award in 2013. This was the culmination and recognition of the various successful changes brought about in the major review of our Constitution and the reorganisation of the Council, the restructuring of the management, the setting up of oversight Committees and the incorporation of Corporate Governance principles and practices. The Award says a lot about the SRC and the way we manage ourselves.”

His belief in integrity and honesty

“I believe that integrity and honesty must be deeply embedded in the culture of the SRC in addition to adhering to the seven fundamental principles of our movement.”

His management philosophy

“I am a firm advocate of empowerment and always support the courage to exercise initiative on the ground. My management philosophy is best encapsulated by "the turtle and how it moves" forward. Just watch how a turtle moves. The turtle can just retract and not move forward at all. If you do nothing, you will make no mistake. People fear to exercise initiative and act decisively primarily because of the fear of making mistakes. If the turtle wishes to take one step forward, it will have to "risk its neck". Making major changes and advancing forward requires the courage to exercise initiative and take decisive action. I have always thrived in taking calculated risks, especially in empowering people to exercise initiatives and making decisions.”

His hopes for Singapore Red Cross

“I hope to change the perception that SRC is a Western organisation that goes in aid of only countries hit by major disasters. SRC also provides voluntary aid for the elderly, the disadvantaged and vulnerable families. We also run the most severely disabled home in Singapore. I want to recruit more volunteers, and do more to reach out to the heartlands. I want to push the SRC to become a distinctive humanitarian organisation and hopefully top-of-mind when someone is thinking of volunteering or donating.”

Need to stay relevant

“I would like to share with you the ‘Boiling Frog Syndrome’. A frog was in a pot that was put to boil. As the temperature rose, the frog could have jumped out, but it didn’t. When it reached boiling point, the frog died. Similarly, one has to be conscious of changes in one’s environment. Likewise, Singapore Red Cross has to constantly review its services, for the purpose of maximising resources and focusing on services that had a lasting impact, and with the advantage of being sustainable.”

“Mr Tee immersed himself into the mission and objectives of the Singapore Red Cross as a humanitarian organisation, especially regionally. He also built up its programmes and activities amongst its members and the public, to raise its profile locally.”

Chris Liew, SRC Council Member

"Mr Tee is a strong supporter of engaging and empowering young people. On numerous occasions during our Council Meetings, Mr Tee stressed the importance of encouraging the youth to be more proactive in our service to the community, apart from Red Cross Youth activities. During the 2017 General Assembly, he encouraged me to speak out and present an intervention during the plenary on volunteering. I remember his confidence in my ability to deliver it. He told me it was a job done well done! That spoke volumes about him as an approachable and youth-friendly leader."

Mohammad Zaidi Ariffin, Red Cross Youth