Leadership is a trait, a character quality, which has been exciting our minds since times immemorial. Talks, presentations, lectures, debates, movies and theatricals, articles, essays, digests and books, and all sorts of audio-visual means of communication form part of a heap of material on leadership that tags its’ fabled allure. Spiritual leadership was made available to mankind by Almighty Allah through His chain of prophets and messengers and amongst those we all idealize the role of Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the most successful leader for all times to come.
Leadership once connoting images of power and dominance such as knights in shining armours, and warriors, who were perceived to be peacetime rulers too, have now also been transformed into business and corporate success stories which claim to churn more leaders than conflicts used to in bygone centuries. The fact remains that more humans have perished in their quest to be recognized as leaders than humans who have been cherished as leaders.
Discussions on the phenomenon of leadership probably initiated by Machiavelli in the sixteenth century, only to be formally analyzed by Max Weber in 1946, propagated different schools and theories enunciating various aspects of a leader’s personality. Common to all remain the followers, who look up to the far-reaching vision of their leader, a vision that is convincing enough to frame and phrase their own aspirations and mindsets, pertaining to the role of the state and the society. It must impart a semblance of law to prevail and justice to be done. A leader’s rhetoric and communication skills must apply colours of well-being and prosperity to the bland canvass of people’s imagination, littered with insecurities. A leader makes the followers dream big and in doing so unchains the minds.
Delivering on the vision is imperative, for which formulation of a well-honed team is a prerequisite. Choosing the right man for the right job is also an expected output from a leader. The team must be ruthless in execution and to this end, speed is off essence. It should be able to deliver in the minimum possible time, the maximum quality expected. The governance mechanism has to be evolved to facilitate execution.
Leaders leading from the front, do not expect the followers to do what they cannot do themselves. They have a canny knack for innovation and encourage out of the box thinking. They invest in talent hunting and its efficacious management through the creation of opportunities where followers can unleash their potential and can self-actualize. The weakest of followers is taken along and not deserted. Whatever gains are made, are consolidated, so as to accrue maximum benefits. Second tier leadership is also mentored for succession so that a leadership void is nor created, as and when required. Role of society provides for the grooming of its leaders. Societies that have a strong interwoven moral fabric provide for the best nurseries, where grooming starts at origin (home, the social unit). It is where an individual is made aware of basic ethics regarding the value of honesty, hard work, and commitment. All this and more is manifested through setting up of a personal example by the parents. In non-secular societies faith and religion also plays an important role, right from the lap. The major onus of imbibing morals is then taken on by the elementary educational institutions.
In progressive, free but responsible, societies national leadership stem from local, city or municipal politics. This is where a politician learns to apply ethics to his / her brand of politics. Local political institutions provide for strategic leadership through a better understanding of future operating environment, identification of opportunities and challenges, risk assessment and mitigation and decision making surrounding the same. It gives an opportunity to the potential leader to handle public funds and make major investment decisions on behalf of the community.
Leaders who can be regarded as revolutionary leaders have gone through the evolutionary processes discussed so far, getting groomed, intentionally or intentionally, one way or the other. Let us apply the attributes of leadership and available grooming mechanism to our social environment, which is at odds with what has been highlighted above. It is becoming increasingly evident that parental responsibility of grooming kids in ethics and morals have been either left to the internet or at best to the Qari Sahib teaching Quranic recitals, nothing wrong in the later, but parental involvement has diminished to a major extent.
Presenting their own example parents have been lost to the daily churn of making both ends meet. Our education system has also failed to deliver on this account, mass privatization that is too uncontrolled has rendered education more of an economic compulsion than a means of producing responsible citizens. Emphasizing on science has made the education of humanities apparently useless, which otherwise is essential to produce good humans. Our political system relegates the importance of local bodies and politics. Public developmental decisions and funds being handled by parliamentarians, instead of local governments present a major vacuum to nurture future national leadership.
In the quandary of provisions and lack of will to reinforce our education and political systems through lawmaking, how can we expect to be led by leaders who are virtuous, honest and committed to imparting a vision with corresponding means of execution and governance, supporting innovation and ensuring meritocracy? This has been the dismal story of our leadership so far and if at all in this murky situation a ray of hope has appeared, let us not fend it off on the basis of its suboptimal glow, it may enlighten the scene soon either going bright or through our eyes getting accustomed to its ever-increasing luminosity, though incrementally and slowly, but surely. Let it glow – for once