Javier Ng is a man who understands leadership from experience. This Social Science student is the president of environmental sustainability club, SMU Verts, and heads the school rugby team as business manager.

Speaking at the SMU Leadership Symposium, Javier gave his peers a glimpse of what it is like to be a leader in SMU. He focused on the Five Practices of the Leadership Challenge model, which helps SMU student leaders to develop life skills and on-the-job training.

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“No man is an island”, Javier shared on his leadership philosophy. “Without my amazing committee supporting me, I would not have been able to survive my two semesters as president. A leader cannot do things alone and must unlock the strengths of his team while improving their weaknesses to make everyone successful.”

Learning from the All Blacks

Javier goes on to explain that he always aims to “sweep the sheds”, an All Blacks value perpetuated by rugby team captain Richie McCaw, whom Javier holds in high regard. McCaw’s teamship belief that one should never be too big to do the small things that need to be done, is a value that Javier keeps close to heart, to stay humble and keep grounded.

Another trait that Javier has learnt from McCaw is the constant quest for perfection. For instance, during a recycling event that Javier led, an elderly couple had stopped by the photo booth for a photo request. After the photo was taken, the elderly lady seemed dissatisfied with how it had turned out, but was shy to ask for another.

“She didn’t say it out loud, but commented softly to her husband that she wished for a better photo. I overheard their conversation and invited them to take another photo, or as many as they wished. The smile on the lady’s face after she heard that could light up a room”, he shared. “A year on, and this moment still sticks with me. Whenever I feel worn out from my responsibilities, remembering this incident gives me strength to carry on.”

Leadership is a journey

Javier was not always the leader he is today. He struggled with leadership in his JC days when he was the rugby vice-captain at Jurong Junior College. He made the mistake of letting his appointment get to his head, and behaved superior to his peers.

“I would expect a certain standard of my team, but I would not abide by those standards”, he explained. “For instance, my team had to run extra laps if they were late, but I was a regular latecomer and never did the laps myself.”

Even though his season ended with a championship win, he did not have the company of his team as he had lost their respect. “In hindsight, I am glad that I had that experience relatively early on in life so that I am able to continually learn and be the leader I am today”, he reminisced.

Off the rugby pitch, Javier likens leadership to running a marathon. During the 42-kilometre race, runners constantly check in with themselves and slow down to ensure they do not drop out. “Everyone has 24 hours, but a good student leader prioritises his commitments to ensure a steady finish.” A smile creeps across Javier’s face, “but if you pull through and finish the race, it is a wonderful and fulfilling experience.”