The Keys to Greatness: Centeredness (The First Key)

Here’s another exclusive excerpt from my new book, Unleashing the Greatness in You: The Power of Self-Leadership. Enjoy it!


Greatness is a Choice. Desire, burning desire or holy discontent is the beginning of change to achieving anything beyond the ordinary. (Dr John Ng) 


I would like to share the Five-C model of greatness with you. Whether you are a parent, teacher, athlete, artiste, banker, engineer, fashion designer, biotech specialist, architect, fin-tech specialist, manager or leader, this model applies to you.

The Five-C model is a model of great leadership, comprising five critical components: Centeredness, Calling, Competency, Character and Community.


The First Key: Centeredness (The Value of Other-Centeredness)


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)


One core aspect of greatness is to be Value-Centered. Values serve as both the gyroscope and thermostat in our lives. The gyroscope provides stability and a reference point to our lives. Values, like the gyroscope, serve as your stabilizer and keep you on the right path.

Value-centeredness is like a thermostat, not a thermometer. Thermostats regulate the temperature. Similarly, your values help you set the tone and regulate the texture of your life and organizations. Unlike the thermostat, thermometers merely follow the environment.

Values keep you in balance and guide your decision-making. The ‘Who’ comes before the ‘What’. In other words, ‘Being’ comes before ‘Doing’ and your ‘Doing’ results from your ‘Being’. The values you hold determine the way you lead.

At the core of this value is to be Other-Centered. From this springs respect, honor and honesty, gratitude and generosity. If you want to be great, you have to love people. The great heart is one that cares for others.

Most of the great people we know are Other-Centered rather than Self-Centered. We have the highest respect for people who are selfless. We admire teachers who care and spend that extra time to help us through our mathematics examination. We remember the manager who coaches us, develops us and pushes us to greater heights in our career. We value parents who work long hours to eke out a living so that they can pay your school fees. We appreciate young people who are willing to give up lucrative jobs to help the poor and impoverished.

My eldest daughter, Meixi, has lived out this value of Other-Centeredness.

She has lived and worked in Mexico City. She applied for and obtained a place in the Princeton in Latin America Fellowship, which selects and matches recent graduates to work for a year with non-profit organizations in Latin America. Through the fellowship, Meixi had the great privilege of working with Dr. Gabriel Cámara, one of the world’s foremost educationists, and his team of teachers, who helped transform 9,000 of the poorest schools and communities in Mexico, using the Tutoria Relationship (TR) pedagogy.

The key concept is to encourage the kids who have mastered or are passionate in a certain topic to tutor other kids. The teacher serves as a coach, friend and facilitator of learning throughout the school. (For more, see

Meixi was offered a fully-paid scholarship to do her Ph.D. at Cambridge University. But she wanted to go to Mexico City and learn TR from Dr. Camara. Mexico City conjures up all kinds of negative images for me: Mafia-style kidnappings, murders, rapes and robberies. Of course, for my wife Alison and me, the decision was a no-brainer: She should do her Ph.D. at Cambridge!

But her heart was with the poor in Mexico City and she wanted first-hand experience working with Dr. Cámara.

A good friend, Professor Low Guat Tin (who has since retired as a professor in educational leadership from Nanyang Technological University) persuaded us to allow Meixi to go to Mexico. She had heard of Dr. Cámara’s work because she knew Pablo Freire, one of the founding fathers of social justice education, who had gone to Mexico and worked with Dr. Cámara. Taking her advice, we reluctantly relented.

Rather than being self-obsessed, I am glad that Meixi is making others a core center of her life.

Click here to buy Unleashing the Greatness in You today!

0 755