LEADERSHIP is a crucial, if not the most important element, in any organisation, as it provides direction for the well-being and prosperity of the organisation.
Therefore the quality of leadership is important to ensure that the organisation prospers. There are many forms and levels of leadership from non-profit NGOs, corporate, educational and religious to political organisations.
In the hierarchy of leadership, political leadership is the most crucial for the nature and quality of leaderships, as it affects all other levels of leaderships.
No leaders are perfect for they are human and have strengths and weaknesses.
Therefore, the apex leadership must be the role model par excellence in discharging its responsibilities.
The attributes of good leadership are honesty, sincerity and humility, moral integrity and being ethical.
The practice of these principles of leadership in a democratic setting will ensure a cohesive and unsolicited support from the masses that determine the ones to lead them.
Another essential attribute but rarely adhered to is that leaders must stand corrected when they veer from straight path.
It is the duty of the people to censor a leader if he has violated the principles of good governance.
However, this too is rarely practiced because of vested interests, culpability and complicity. People can be manipulated to favour the elite cohort through patronage, and material and non-material gratifications.
Therefore, if a leader cannot aspire to the principles of leadership and good governance, he should withdraw. But this is rarely the case, as no leaders, with very rare exception, acknowledge their shortcomings.
For some it may not only be the end of their political carrier, but may also open up a Pandora box of malfeasance for contention.
To ensure compliance with ethical and moral leadership, there must be a system of checks and balances in the form of agencies that are indifferent to overtures, coercion, even threats.
These agencies must abide by moral and ethical principles of governance and not be enticed by patronage or material gratification.
Above all their task is to serve and protect the people from unscrupulous leaderships. The current leadership all over the world has taken varying degrees of adversarial roles in maintaining power.
A new set of paradigms has been put in place to ensure continuity in leadership. Among them is a premium placed on loyalty.
The position of leaders is sacrosanct and, therefore, must be protected. Gratitude is a virtue and people must err on the side of caution when taking leaders to task.
Shakespeare wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. Throughout history, leaders have faced trials and tribulations, some for the good of humanity such as Mahatma Gandhi while others such as Attila the Hun were a bane to humanity.
No leaders are perfect for they are human, and have strengths and weaknesses.
But as long as they are guided by the principles of honesty, humility and have the moral and ethical integrity to serve the people, they will be a boon to their country.
What defines the leader of a nation
HISTORY is a great leveller of politics as far as the assessment of a nation’s leaders is concerned. For this, there can be no immediate Government Transformation Programmes, key performance indicators or benchmarks to quantify the efficiency and effectiveness of the leadership.
Or even subjective, qualitative judgments on a leader by the most learned citizens of the land — or foreign journalists for that matter.
A great leader must display integrity, trust and consistency of character.
The true measurement of a leader’s capabilities can only be fairly made against the perspective of the nation’s history; in relation to its multifarious socio-cultural, political and economic developments and when juxtaposed against the continuously evolving needs and demands of the people.
It is no truism that a leader inherits the context of his leadership and is eventually defined by it.
His leadership attributes will be tested against the ongoing concerns of the nation, that is, the people that constitute it.
Even with the most dynamic of personal qualities and the most innovative of visions, a leader’s successes (or failures) will only be in direct correlation to the mood of the citizenry and how receptive they are to him.
It is also no truism that media and information and communications technology have accelerated to such an extent that the dissemination of information has become more extensive and intensive than the human mind can select and absorb at any one time.
The modern leader has to answer to everything — facts and figures, arguments and argumentations, views and opinions, rumour and slander, even half-truths and lies — to ensure his survival.
His mind, heart and soul are open books for all to read, and the leader in turn must be able to penetrate the deepest recesses of the national psyche to know what is expected of him.
Looking through the voluminous selection of writings on leadership, one can easily identify taxonomies of leadership attributes and their manifestations in spiritual, corporate, civil, community and government organisations.
A good leader must have integrity, inspire trust, show capability and demonstrate resilience in his conduct and behaviour.
But how many actually manifest all these attributes? How many have integrity and inspire trust?
An inspiring leader must be visionary, innovative and creative in his ideas and approach. A dynamic leader must have the courage to rise to the occasion and above his people in the most trying of times.
He must be decisive and consistent but he must also be prepared to learn and modify his approach to make it more relevant.
A respected leader must earn the people’s trust by going to the ground and understanding their problems first hand.
But out of all this motivational maze, what has caught my attention is The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day (John C. Maxwell, 2000).
Based on the leadership principles exercised by biblical characters like Joseph, David and Moses and some of his more modern colleagues in the spiritual fraternity, Maxwell identifies the 21 Laws of Leadership to be applied in our daily lives.
Not all of us will be called upon to lead at whatever level but by internalising these principles, we will be able to learn or sharpen leadership skills that will help us to grow in our personal, professional and spiritual life.
In emphasising the importance of integrity, trust and consistency of character in determining a credible leader, Maxwell quotes from Matthew 12:33-35, “… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
What this means is that a credible leader is a man of his word. He sticks to his principles. When a leader stands firm in his convictions and executes his vision for his followers faithfully and concertedly, he will inspire confidence and respect for his leadership.
A leadership attribute which is not highlighted enough is teachability — “effective leaders are teachable — their eyes and ears are always open to learn more, and they embrace change as a catalyst for growth and improvement”. (Maxwell, p 162)
By connecting with the people he leads, a leader establishes a relationship with them and is thus able to sympathise and empathise with them in a more genuine way. Maxwell calls this the equaliser or leveller in leadership.
By being sincere, open and vulnerable the leader inspires trust, hope and encouragement. He listens to and learns from his people.
At the top of this networking is the inner circle of highly talented people that a leader nurtures and empowers, whom he can depend on to translate his vision and extend his influence.
These must be people who are mirrors of himself, people who have the competence and energy to perform with excellence, and who have the responsibility and loyalty to ensure his job is well done.
There’s no doubt that leadership at any level is a huge responsibility. The leadership of a nation is a calling and deserves nothing short of a spiritual commitment.
Challenges and problems are as multifarious as the people that make up the nation. Our country is now seeing the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, the sixth prime minister of Malaysia.
He is heading the government at a time when there is a new awareness of old concepts like democracy, equality, justice, rule of law and integrity.
For too long these concepts have either existed at an ethereal, abstract level which were ill understood or if understood, were not transparent enough in their manifestations.
The gates of transparency opened by worldwide movements and communication exchanges are ajar and there’s no way of stopping the information flow to a citizenry who are much better educated and politically engaged.
Local and global developments on all fronts which are accessible immediately on the new media have made them better informed.
Universal benchmarks in justice and human rights and whatever else are considered relevant to the proper growth of societies and civilisations are impacting Malaysians as they have never done before.
Changes and challenges are volatile and sometimes explosive. It becomes all the more important that the leadership of the nation is guided by a set of levelling principles that will see it through these trying times.
When all is said and done, Malaysia’s prime ministers will be remembered for the good and bad that they did as the nation’s foremost statesmen.