President, Druk Chirwang Tshogpa
Lily Wangchuk is the first women in Bhutan to serve as the president of a political party. Through her leadership of the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa, a new political party that registered with the Election Commission of Bhutan in January 2013, Wangchuk hopes to build a strong foundation for the party and encourage each member to actively participate at all levels, especially women. With Bhutan’s second parliamentary elections in history scheduled in 2013, Wangchuk hopes that she will able to lead the political party to success. Prior to her role in politics, Wangchuk served as a Bhutanese diplomat for 12 years.
[DC]: Tell us a little about what principles guides your work and life decisions.
[Wangchuk]: I have always believed in hard work, maintaining a positive attitude, and self-empowerment. I have gained a lot of wisdom and strength from the challenges I have gone through in life. I am sustained by a sense of justice and duty. The quality that best defines me is selfless nature, sincerity, and honesty. I strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
[DC]: What inspired you to follow your career path?
[Wangchuk]: My decision to step into politics has been influenced by both professional and personal reasons. During 18 years of my service to the nation I have observed, learned, and experienced a number of challenges in the country. While I have made valuable contributions to the nation wherever I worked, there were limitations being in different professions. After my resignation from the Foreign Service I was able to visit all 20 districts covering the most remote areas in Bhutan. It was during my travel that I observed developmental gaps and socio-economic challenges faced by common people. However, other than voicing out my concern at various platforms, there was little I could do. This made me realize that if I want to see change, I would have to be part of it in many more ways than I have already been, and the only way to do so was by joining politics. So I went to politics to work towards my vision of more prosperous and happier Bhutan.
The final entry into politics had a lot to do with my near death experience with cancer. This experience led me to believe that I needed a second chance in life to prove my worth as a human being and as a Bhutanese citizen. For me politics is the best platform to practice spirituality and accumulate good merit with good deeds as it can have huge impact on the lives of other people.
Money, power, and fame are impermanent and are meaningless for me. I want to give all that I have to our nation and take nothing. For me, obtaining political power is not an end in itself – it is means to an end with the end being positive concrete reforms and change for the nation.
[DC]: Who is your leadership role model? How would you describe your leadership style?
[Wangchuk]: I draw inspiration from our King who is popularly known as the People’s King and freely interacts with the Bhutanese citizens so that he can best understand their needs and challenges. I believe in being connected with people I serve so I would like to follow his example. I also greatly admire Aung San Suu Kyi for her selfless nature and determination to bring positive change in her country. I relate to her principles and leadership style.
My leadership style is participative. My biggest strength is my confidence and my passion to bring positive change in my country and the lives of the Bhutanese people.
[DC]: What would you say is the toughest challenge you face in your position? [Wangchuk]: Politics and democracy are new experiences for Bhutan. In addition, governance and politics is male-dominated. As a leader I have the responsibility of providing a vision and strategic way forward for my political party. The toughest challenge I face is to stay and look positive during difficult times and situations.
[DC]: What is your greatest career achievement to date? How do you give back to Society?
[Wangchuk]: I have always been an effective performer at work. I have made valuable contributions during my 18 years of service in Foreign Service, the United Nations Development Programme, and non-governmental organizations. However, the highlight of my career was during my assignment as a Bhutanese diplomat in India when I greatly strengthened and promoted media diplomacy for Bhutan and contributed towards India-Bhutan relationship.
[DC]: Why is International Women’s Day important to women around the world?
[Wangchuk]: It is a special day that celebrates women’s strengths and achievements and reminds women of their importance in the lives of their families, society, and country.
[DC]: What is your advice to the next generation?
[Wangchuk]: We can fulfill the true purpose of our lives if we can make positive differences in the lives of other people. However, before we change the world, we need to begin by empowering ourselves. With the right attitude, nothing is impossible in life. Sometimes in life it is important to slow down and reflect on one’s priorities and purpose. Finding and clarifying one’s life purpose can help one to move forward with greater focus and clarity.