The Unknown Leader: An Eulogy
Ding Cheung Yue
May 1929 - Sep 2009
"Well my view is that you can't take it with you. Be it money, talent, patience, love.
Whatever your gift is, you can't take it with you. So what are you going to do with it whilst
you are here? Who have you lifted up? Who have you made better? Who have you
helped out? Not how much do you have but what do you have? Some people have love,
some have patience, some have money. Whatever your talent is, and we all have
something, help your fellow man..... You do the best you can with what you have.”
Denzel Washington on ‘what is your gift?’
My dad left a precious gift. He may not have seen it as such.
He toiled and struggled throughout his working life - struggling to provide for his family.
Yet, through it all, he demonstrated great self-leadership and leadership. His values and
ethics never faltered. What a great 'living' gift he bestowed upon my two brothers and
me. The gift of knowing and understand that .... you can remain who you are in spite of
your environment and circumstance.
So, what do you have? What gift are you bestowing upon others?
This is a celebration of a human
being who, because he is a
human being …..
He was someone
who survived the
rough and tumble
that life threw at
him. And yet,
the imperfection is a
‘diamond from the
Before I talk more about my dad - let me tell
you a little story of Dee Hock’s one horned
mother cow, Lily. Dee is the former founder
Dee was working late one night at his farm
when he heard the distressed call of Lily. Lily
had escaped out of the barn and gave birth
near a steep river bank.
The calf had been swept downstream, but it
was beginning to drown through exhaustion
when Dee found it. Dee pulled it out of the
water and it revived a little.
Dee carried the calf on his back and began
inching up the bank.
So, what does a one-horned mother cow
have to do with my dad?
A true leader cannot be forced to lead. A true
follower cannot be forced to follow. The moment
we are forced, we are no longer leader or follower.
We become superior or inferior, manager or
employee, master or servant, or owner or slave.
The first responsibility of any leader is to lead
themselves; to manage their own stuff, the
RIGHT STUFF!! What kind of right stuff am I
This is incredibly difficult.
We find it much easier to
control others and because
of this, we spend little time
mastering our own right
However, if you can’t lead
yourself, you cannot lead
others no matter how much
authority you’ve got.
I don’t know how much
time my dad spent in
leading himself – but he did
a remarkable job
The second responsibility of a leader is to manage
those who lead us.
Without their consent and support, it can be difficult
to do our stuff. Dee Hock says you should spend
25% of your time doing this
For most of my dad’s life, the only leader he had to
manage was my mum. And he probably only
spent 5% of his time doing that.
Whereas my mum probably spent 90% of her time
managing my dad. Now you know why it’s my
mum who wore the trousers in our house. !
The third responsibility of a leader is to manage
their peers because without their respect and
confidence, it would be difficult to achieve
And my dad treated everyone the
same. He always said, there is nothing
wrong in opening the front door in my
pyjamas … I don’t care whether it is
the postman or the Queen at the door!
It has been said that ……
“Unless you are clear about your purpose and your
values and are doing something that you really
care about, it is difficult to act as a leader. You are
unlikely to possess the will and the resilience that
are needed to carry you through the inevitable
uncertainties and setbacks.”
So, a vital question is how to insure that those who
lead are in possession of the RIGHT STUFF. The
answer is to follow those who have shown they
have the RIGHT STUFF. I’m thankful that my dad
had the right stuff
He showed us the RIGHT STUFF through his sense
of community; through finding meaning to his
life; through his vision of a future, our future; and
through his ethical principles. He had lots of
Mind you, he had some of
the wrong stuff too …. !
Everyone was born a leader. From the
moment of our birth, don’t we immediately
lead our parents, siblings, and peers? Watch
a baby cry and the parents jump.
We were all born leaders; that is, until we
were sent to school and taught to be
managed and to manage.
Perhaps that’s why my dad never lost much
of the RIGHT STUFF. He had very little
schooling or education.
He had very little Chinese education and
taught himself to read and write. At 80, he
still wrote beautifully.
He failed to master English in his 45 years in
England. That’s not quite true, he knew the
names of every race course, jockeys, horses
and bookies …. And more importantly, the
words ‘each way bet’ !
When my grandfather was killed during WW II - my
father was chosen by the family to trek 200 miles
from Guangzhou to Hong Kong to ensure one
member of the family would survive the Japanese
invasion. He was 12 at the time. He made it to
Hong Kong and had to fight for himself ever since.
Prior to the Japanese invasion, we were a
very wealthy family - we had land in Canada
that required crop spraying with a plane and
my grandfather operated a rural bank. That
was all gone.
In all of this, my dad
never lost his
self-esteem and a
sense of honesty
and integrity. He's
how bad life has
treated him. He is
the embodiment of
But what about Lily, the one-horned cow?
Dee Hock managed to get onto the edge of
the bank. As he paused to gather his
strength, he heard an enraged, heart-
Lily was staring at Dee; who by now is
exhausted, thigh deep in raging, icy water
and with sixty-pound junior wrapped around
his neck. He knew what Lily was thinking,
that he was taking her baby home for lunch.
In that brief instant, the essence of
leadership for Dee Hock was simple
Second: manage the one-ton of
enraged cow that most certainly had
power over him.
Third: manage the environment and
get the hell out of here.
Fourth and by far the least important,
manage his only subordinate, the 40kgs
living, breathing scarf wrapped around his
The moral of the story is simply this: if you keep your
wits about you, you can learn everything you need
to know about leadership from a one-horned cow.
My dad may not have had the education or formal
leadership training, but he kept his wits close to him.
There were only 3 things that got closer to my dad
than his wits. They were my MUM …..
that order !
Some of you will know
that I have formed the
Foundation. As I
speak, there will be
students who will hear
of my dad’s story of
hope, courage and
resilience. This is a
precious ‘gift’ from a
man of simple means,
simple tastes and
That’s why today is a celebration
Emigrating to the UK in 1970 and not speaking any English -
getting a grade C in English is my greatest achievement to
date. I’m proud of this because it reflects my dad’s
My dad was a great believer in education. Here is
my certificate for successfully completing nursery
education in Hong Kong - aged five.
When I finished my secondary schooling at 16 and
got my ‘O’ levels. I wanted to stay in the same
school for my ‘A’ levels but my family needed to
move to another area 35 miles away.
Yes, this is Kwai - aged 5
My dad decided to let me stay at my old school. He had to
pay for my food and shelter and for extra help in the new
takeaway shop 35 miles away. He needed to replace his 16
year old chef (me) because I was also the chef of our
The following sums up what my dad did for my two brothers
and me …..
“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd
people together to collect wood and don’t
assign them tasks and work, but rather
teach them to long for the endless
immensity of the sea.”
He toiled and struggled as the ‘shipbuilder’ himself.
But he always got us to focus on the horizon.
Going peacefully was his just reward.