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Monday, 19 October 2009

Transforming UMNO

Everyone seems to be talking about change and transformation with some air of authority nowadays. The nameless ketua cawangan to the heavyweight ketua bahagian- they are all talking about the subject of transformation. The regularity by which the subject is reverentially spoken of, would suggest that UMNO is already on the mend. Let us hope, we don't fall prey to the popular expression that we are experts at arranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, but we can't prevent her from sinking.

Picture the following.

Some people say, they have never felt inspired like this. Some said, their hairs stood on end. Some say, Najib is our messiah. People in Pekan of course have been saying these things up to the point of being nauseatingly revolting. He is the bright star that shines on our gloomy shores, the diamond among the rough stones etc. I don't think PM Najib wants to hear this kind of kowtowing flattery all the time. He knows support for him is ephemeral. He remembers well the almost nightmarish episode in 1999. Even his relatives in Kampung Langgar rejected him by voting his opponent. So, when people come out gushing with all sort of hollow congratulatory comments, their antics can be unnerving.

Despite that, what can we make of such exuberance? I would say, PM Najib is on to a good start. He understands what it takes to carry out transformation. He has to offer hope and optimism. He offers an exciting vision. He knows that a transformational leader is measured first, in terms of his influence on the followers. He needs to imbibe in UMNO members, trust, admiration, loyalty and respect to him as leader. Judging from the almost childlike exuberance above, the UMNO president isn't deficient in this department.

As leader he needs to transform and motivate followers by charisma, intellectual arousal and individual consideration. In addition, this leader seeks for new working ways, while he tries to identify new opportunities versus threats and tries to get out of the status quo and alter the environment.

What DS Najib is offering is quite revolutionary to how things are done in UMNO. Allow me to explain.

I am sure PM Najib knows all about the theory of transformational leadership. His advisers would be explaining the concept to him countless times. The problem lies in the translation. When this problem arises, organizations decline as there is an increasingly disconnect between the way things should be done and the way we do things here.

The way UMNO does things are more attuned to horse trading, pork barrel politics variety or in theoretical term, what people know as transactional leadership. As the term implies, within such an organisation, between the leader and followers, there is a constant stream of trading and transactions.

The biggest question that needs to be answered, is UMNO ready at all to embrace transformational leadership style? This calls for a complete reversal of the existing UMNO culture steeped in the transactional style of leadership. Under this style for example, people are motivated by reward and punishment. Accordingly, the system most appropriate for conferring rewards and punishment is the system where there is a clear line of authority and command structure. The leader expects the followers to perform certain functions for which they are rewarded if they performed to expectations and punished if they failed. In exchange for being rewarded, authority is ceded to the leader. The leader who commands patronage and resources to muster submission will become supreme.

By his pronouncements PM Najib is ready to relinquish his authority, placing absolute faith in his shield of 146,000 delegates in future. In other words, the PM is saying he is ready to discount patronage. This is indeed a bold statement as it is revolutionary.

The trickier question is, are the UMNO people, rank and file, ready to forgo a system of rewards and punishment? Are they ready to embrace higher and nobler values in dispensing their duties? People will follow a person who inspires them. A person with vision and passion can achieve great things. The way to get things done is by injecting enthusiasm and energy.

The immediate problem is, enthusiasm and energy are not tangible rewards. The UMNO culture is one that is built on almost an article of faith-like system of rewards and punishment- more of the rewards in fact. No UMNO activity at ground level takes off without financial incentives. Even the crowds that make up the audience at functions are sometimes paid to attend. UMNO people doing skunk work in by elections needed to be paid. The UMNO faithfuls and purists are justified in decrying the diminishing level of idealism. Now UMNO appears to operate on the very system the President wants to transform.

Ok, the PM has developed a vision- it's called 1 Malaysia. It's a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers. This vision is important to the PM. He is constantly selling the vision. A lot of energy has been expended to secure commitment. We see and hear the selling of this vision every day. It's a radical vision that requires time to set in and reception of the concept varies in terms of speed. Some will join the show much more slowly than others.

As a Transformational Leader, PM Najib needs to take every opportunity and will use whatever that works, to convince others to climb on board the bandwagon. He has to develop followers who share his vision who are motivated by enthusiasm and the higher values as opposed to immediate material rewards. How will he do this? He has to create trust among his key followers- let's call them, the change-masters. The most important characteristic that will allow them to gain trust is their personal integrity. Because in the vision conceived by the PM as the transformational leader, all those committed to selling the vision are selling themselves too.

How will PM Najib get his knights of his round table? Perhaps, because the PM recognises the paucity of the existing UMNO talent pool in this department, he has to widen the talent pool. Democratise the selection of leadership talent pool. Hence the decision to relax the rules relating to the way UMNO elects its leaders must be seen as means to achieve this goal. Supplying a talent pool of transformational leaders committed to achieving the PM's vision. It's not a means for political pranksters and irritable fellows to get power.

7 comments:

Anonymous,  19 October 2009 at 08:11  

UMNO has full of members who go all out to flatter their # 1 leader. The perhimpunan rakyat 1 Malaysia in Ipoh last night is exemplary. Witness who the audience were last night on TV ?Mostly school children who must have been coerced into attending the event, probably paid to attend.I was told that each school inthe Kinta Valley had to send a group of teachers with 85 pupils to attend the charade. As if UMNO members and BN supporters in Perak cannot fill the 30,000 capacity stadium! Subservient of government officers to politicians, in this instance to the MB and Minister of Education is a rule. The syndrome of PNH-"penyakit nak hidup" for civil servant still continues and TDM legacy of non independency of the Executive from the Legislative is here to stay under NR. This is bad !

Anonymous,  19 October 2009 at 14:00  

At least UMNO are capable of rejecting those who failed to lead the coalition to victory. PR don't have the gut to do the same. Even after failing to execute the agenda of 16 of September, their members still putting an unrealistic hope on that unpromising leader!

Dulu Pas

ServiceB4Self,  19 October 2009 at 14:17  

More often than not, the respective division heads (or div wing heads) are full time politician and therefore has no time to administer or run a successful businesses. Whether we like it or not, these politicians require funding both for their personal and the divisional expenses.

The new amendments to the UMNO constitution merely increases the delegates from an average of 6 delegates per branch to 9 per branch - merely 150%. As such the changes don't really amount to much and if at all, puts greater pressure on the aspirants to obtain more funds in order to carry out a successful division campaign and subsequently divisional activities.

Ultimately, for any UMNO divisional head, the stress would always be the taking care of the relevant branch heads and not looking into the needs of the constituent.

The change that must be undertaken at every UMNO division is that UMNO must be seen to be looking out for or championing the interests of the voters.

In today's political scenario, taking care of the relevant UMNO branch doesn't equal taking care of the voters and therein lies the problem.

UMNO has to look into ways to ensure that each division pay greater attention to the needs of the voters instead of constantly trying to raise funds to support their political survival.

Anonymous,  19 October 2009 at 14:20  

Tuan Moderator,

Nakhoda boleh arahkan anak kapal menyusun kerusi dan meja atas kapal Titanik dan dalam masa sama tidak salah kalau-kalau nakhoda memantau sama ada anak kapal menjalankan tugas yang diamanahkan. Tanpa kehadiran dan pengawasan daripada nakhoda, anak kapal lazimnya kurang bersemangat, suka curi tulang dan mungkin tidak buat kerja. Budaya sebegini perlu diubah.

Sepatutnya anak kapal perlu diterapkan dengan nilai-nilai sejagat yang positif. Dengan nilai-nilai tersebut diharapkan mereka tahu apa yang perlu dilakukan dalam keadaan tertentu.

Sesungguhnya Titanik telah terbukti boleh karam kerana kurangnya tahap kewaspadaan, terlalu yakin, tidak proaktif mengesan cabaran yang mendatang dan gagal bertindak tepat berdasarkan kedaan yang melanda kapal berkenaan pada saat-saat yang amat kritikal.

Andikarya Maya

Jamil 20 October 2009 at 04:19  

u shld read KJ's Ucapan dasar....

Anonymous,  20 October 2009 at 09:34  

Ak,
You got to be kidding ? Umno will transform? Nah! Everything vile is in their blood and you expect change?Even the fear of GOD is non existant these guys!
Every big umno do is around the lead chorus sing wonderful songs and this 1 Malaysia crap and paid audiences were to show the people all semua okay!
This PM thinks Perakians are idiot !
When will umno wake up from their slumber?Look the people had enough and its going to boil!

Anonymous,  20 October 2009 at 13:32  

"Even the fear of GOD is non existant these guys!"

For Muslim the fear factor is there forever. In this aspect PR is a bit hypocrite. You guys afraid that the rakyat won't vote in your favor come GE13 more than anything else!

You see the difference?

Dulu Pas

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