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Sakmongkol ak 47

Monday, 14 July 2008

The Art of Leadership(1)


This is the raging argument in Malaysia at the moment. The issue of the PM’s leadership. His supporters may scoff at the slightest suggestion that Pak Lah is a weak leader.

You cannot however facetiously ignore the signals from the public however intense your loyalty towards Pak Lah is. Almost everyone can accept that Pak Lah is a very personable fellow. Whether that quality alone is sufficient to lead the nation is another question.

This is the question that has challenged thinkers for a long time. In terms of practice, when we talk about leaders, we think of people who have sufficient resolve, energy and drive and presence of mind to lead us achieve better things.

At the heart of the leadership qualities is an elusive concept called character. Lee Kuan Yew, the Singapore leader has always maintained that the advancement of a society depends on the quality of leadership they have. People scorn at this elitist concept. But Lee Kuan Yew has the proof in Singapore to back his belief in that concept. Society needs leadership.

What has the experience with Pak Lah taught us? The answer it seems is that it teaches us of the need to create a system of identifying leaders early. Identification based solely on academic excellence has proven to be sadly deficient. No Rhodes scholar for example has become a leader of distinction. Clinton perhaps was the exception in recent times. No president of the Cambridge and Oxford debating societies has become the PM of Great Britain. Debating is seems is not a very important quality that is required of a leader.[1] We want to create a system that can provide opportunities for the more than above average performer emerge to give us his or her leadership.

What is happening in our country at the moment? The planned passing of the baton( just like that) by Pak Lah to Dato Najib, is an irresponsible act. It’s not a personal property. We cannot guarantee that Dato Najib has the wherewithal to succeed and lead us. He has not shown resolve and in fact has assiduously cultivated the image of a compliant and easily cowed crown prince that is beset with somethings that are disturbing him.

What has Dato Najib got? The professionalism of political leadership. He has been at it since 1976 and if he hasn’t learnt and accumulate the experience, then he is, sorry to say it, dim-witted. But he is not and so that is his saving grace. But has he got the leavening values of leadership? He can only offer us the muffled murmurs and whisperings that he is a person who adheres to tradition. What tradition is he speaking of?

The tradition of passing the baton is an act of political expediency which reflects deficiency in thinking through the leadership question. First, that act mistakenly assumes that leadership is obtainable by chance. Leaving everything to chance we appear to accept that willy-nilly or as a matter of course, chance has produced us a Dato Najib and that he is the best. The reality is, he is there because of the convergence of fortuitous events which hardly offer us the hard system of identifying leadership.

By his own admission, Dato Najib says he has been lucky. Since 1976 he has gotten everything free. And you know what getting free of everything creates- erosion of any resolve and idealism by the soft and baneful influence of power.

[1] Lee Kuan Yew- The Man and his Ideas.


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