In this section:


Image credit: Laurence Putra

David Hoe: Knowing what matters

David Hoe: Knowing what matters

How clarity of purpose helps leaders work with people

Image above: David Hoe addressing I am Talented

David Hoe is a teacher at a Junior College in Singapore, and the Founder of social empowerment initiatives, I Am Talented and Collaborate. #LCJB winner, Kevin Tan asked him about networking, working with partners and managing people.

When Mr. David Hoe was 12, his mother suffered a stroke and passed away. Faced with such turmoil, David’s academic performance was affected. He began picking up bad habits like smoking and drinking.

Fortunately, with the help of caring mentors and disciplined hard work, David went on to earn a teaching scholarship from Singapore’s Ministry of Education. David’s life experiences have spurred him to champion youth empowerment causes.

Clarity of purpose

Working as a teacher has expanded David’s understanding of youth empowerment. “Teaching gave me perspective to see what’s going on. We are not here to change the world. If we see a problem, we solve the problem,” he explains.

One problem David noticed among youths was the challenges they faced in deciding what to study at university.

David Talking To Collaborate Participants

David talking to Collaborate participants. Image credit: Laurence Putra

To address the issue, David started Collaborate, a social empowerment programme “seeking to connect pre-university youths with people in industry of various professions”.

“It all happened because of a Facebook note,” David says. In his brief note, David pitched his plans to “pilot a professional network where it will consist of people of different professions”.

Collaborate allows participants to get to meet career professionals and learn about their work. The project has assembled an impressive pool of professionals, coming from various sectors such as the civil service and management consulting.

David credits the success of Collaborate to being able to set clear goals and objectives.

“Collaborate is a solution to bring people together. It’s not that people don’t want to help. It’s about defining their roles,” he explains.

Working with partners

In 2011, David founded “I Am Talented” (IAT), a youth empowerment programme. The programme “aims to allow students to explore areas of interest in non-academic career pathways, and is founded upon a two-fold model of core values and skill sets”. 

David believes in having a firm clarity of purpose when you are seeking external partners and sponsors. “Give them a problem. When you get people to do corporate social responsibility (CSR), to give money, the question is always what you are going to do with this money,” he says.

“Don’t give me money. Give me your time. I don’t need your money. Give me your time to teach certain things. It has a greater impact.”

One Of The Ongoing Classes At I Am Talented

One of the ongoing classes at I Am Talented. Image credit: Laurence Putra

To David, clarity of purpose is vital to one’s success. “Many youth leaders lack this. The clarity of self is not strong. If you can’t articulate this, then why would people follow you? Self-leadership is about knowing yourself. If I don’t know where I am heading, then I must know.”

He adds, “People buy you as a person. If you are not even convinced about a problem, how could they buy your pitch? Why do you matter? You matter because you create a voice. From a management perspective, what is something only you can do?”

Managing people

It is apparent that David applies the same principles he teaches as an economics teacher to his very own life. In economics, the theory of comparative advantage states that if countries specialise in producing goods where they have a lower opportunity cost then there will be an increase in economic welfare.

Similarly, David’s leadership style is built on the idea that quality is best achieved when one focuses on a person’s unique talents and skills.

“When I run ‘I Am Talented’, I hand write cards for every single participant. The card makes a whole difference. It is something only I can do. The others are there to manage the programme.” 

I Am Talented Participant Thank You Cards

Handwritten thank-you cards for I Am Talented participants. Image credit: Laurence Putra

David credits the success of his projects to having good collaborators.

“Flying people to the moon took people with different skills,” he says. “The trick to management is this – people are not your most important assets, the right people are,” he says.

When assembling teams, David focuses on the group’s skillsets. “Everyone has different strengths. If we harness everyone’s strengths, every problem can be solved,” he explains, “Nothing is impossible, if you assemble the right team.”


David has experienced his fair share of setbacks and obstacles when working on his projects. “There were times when the outcomes weren’t desirable,” he recalls. “There were days when the attendance was small.”

It is at moments like these that David reminds himself to stay true to his purpose. “The problem with success is that you want it to get better. Getting bigger and better doesn’t mean I’m achieving my purpose,” he explains.

“Although all these things were disappointing, I remind myself why I am doing certain things. I started these things genuinely to solve problems, even if it impacts one person. Numbers don’t determine success.”

David’s work is a testament to how important clarity of purpose is in determining one’s success.

His advice? “Know what matters and stay true to the purpose. Never be distracted.”