By Marie Lim
IT IS rare for men, especially men who are constantly in the public eye, to break down and cry.
But retiring minister Lim Boon Heng hit the headlines last week when he unexpectedly became emotional towards the end of a press conference to introduce three new People's Action Party (PAP) candidates.
It reminded some Singaporeans of an incident in 1965 when Mr Lee Kuan Yew wept at the separation of Singapore and Malaysia. That was on television as well.
More recently, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (right) shed tears at a televised press conference as he urged his countrymen to pull together for Japan, which is grappling with the aftermath of last month's earthquake and tsunami, its worst crisis since World War II.
These leaders have often portrayed a tough image to the people. But when they break down in public, how does it change the image the public has of them?
Mr Teo Ser Luck, 42, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Transport, said strength can also be seen when men cry.
"I definitely believe that grown men crying is not a sign of weakness. I would say that you need more strength to show your softer side," he explained.
Mr Teo said the last time he cried was when his mother died earlier this year.
The MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC also revealed that there are instances that would cause him to break down.
Said Mr Teo: "I would be very upset if I could have assisted in a situation, but I could not because
I didn't know about it in time. Especially so when it involves children suffering, and mishaps happening to them."
For Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive officer of real estate firm PropNex, he knows all too well what it's like to shed tears in public.
The 47-year-old teared in front of hundreds of people at a convention at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub two years ago.
"I was talking about how the drive to succeed and earn money can lead to spending less time with your loved ones.
"And I remembered my grandparents, who had passed away," he said.
But he quickly regained control and went on with his speech for another hour.
He had teared because he wished he had spent more time with his grandparents.He too said it's good for men and leaders to show their softer side.
Mr Ismail said: "I will not see a leader who teared for a good reason as weak."
But they must regain composure quickly and not let the floodgates open.