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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Leadership Lessons: Loyalty or Competence?



Loyalty or competency?

Loyalty is sometimes an overrated virtue. One much respected counsel once suggested that PM Najib form a new team.

The PM was reluctant to do so. The main reason he says, the people around him have been loyal to him. For that reason, he is prepared to overlook other qualities.

The wise counsel answered back. Loyalty is indeed an esteemed virtue. It was essential when you operated at the other level. You needed that virtue to ensure you achieve your goals. The loyalty that you speak of is specific.

Now, you are operating at a different level. The loyalty that you require is of a different kind- a higher level of loyalty that is universal in its effects. Its loyalty in the sense of being faithful to a cause. Not faithful to a person.

The kind of loyalty that you speak of, serves your personal purpose. To get where you are. You can reward those who are loyal to you in other ways.

But at this level, competence is more important than loyalty. Because competence affects other people, it affects the whole country. Loyalty serves a narrower purpose. Competence and the elements that flow from it- efficiency and dedication affect whole people.

Suppose those who are loyal to you are incompetent? Their incompetence debilitates people and undermines good governance.

To make the great leap forward a personal and often specific nature of loyalty, is by nature violent and harsh. But that is the call of a leader.

Loyalty is of special interest only in a feudal setting. In the history of Malay civilization, the only time when loyalty was the center of the universe was during the epochal battle between the Malay warriors Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat.

I feel inadequate if I were asked to discuss the full symbolic significance of the battle between these two warriors. Only one person in Malaysia can do justice to such a prominent cultural event. I am of course referring to Kassim Ahmad (comrade Kassim to me always) who was the one who actually produced the gold standard in the study of Hang Tuah. He was the one who wrote the book which became staple text for students of my generation at 6th form level.

Nevertheless here is my interpretation. At the centre of the epochal battle, is the concept of loyalty. Two concepts of loyalty were involved. One, which was represented by Tuah and the other by Jebat. One may argue that both were actually fighting for two different versions of loyalty.

Tuah was fighting for loyalty towards the preservation of an eventually disappearing world- loyalty to the preservation of a feudal order embodied in the person of a feudal king. It was a loyalty that was specific; serving the narrow interest of a reckless and unjust king that caused irreparable damage to a wider concept of loyalty- that of seeing justice and the brotherhood of man prevail.

Jebat was fighting for a loyalty to a cause. The loyalty which he represented was of universal import. To fight for the universal principle of justice so that future generations can build on this principle as one of the foundations of a modern and democratic society.

So while both can claim they fought for a concept of loyalty, we the present generation shall judge which kind of loyalty is more functional to the greater good.

Hopefully, the symbolic significance behind the bloody and macabre fight between two protagonists of two different concepts of loyalty is not lost on the leader of this country.

To move from a specific centered loyalty to a loyalty of universal import is never easy. As the epic fight between Tuah and Jebat demonstrated, by the very nature of the principle at stake, it was also essentially and necessarily violent and, in contemporary terms, revolutionary. The leap between the lower level of loyalty to the higher level must by necessity, be violent. Hence it will not be in the manner of attending a dinner party, or making embroidery or having a cup of Darjeeling tea.

In terms of leadership then, in order to take the next leap and to take the nation to the next level, the leader needs to be assertive and firm. Just like the carriage cars that are pulling the carriage head ever backwards, the solution is to replace the carriage cars.

Now, apply our judgment on the 10 ministries that failed to submit their reports on KPIs and the BN lawmakers who absented themselves from the business of the August House. There are thousands of others who are willing to take up the responsibility as lawmakers and do something that makes a difference for the greater good of our society.





10 comments:

A. Alshukor 16 December 2009 at 11:09  

Yes, this is such an interesting topic and I just cannot refuse but to add some thoughts.

In the first instance, anyone who rise by political means, have no choice but to take care of those who are "loyal" to them. If not, this people will be disgruntle, and might just change their "loyalty" and this could be very dangerous for such leader. That was what happen to TDM during the earlier Team A Team B crisis.

Then during DSAI sacking, it leads to and era that finally what we have today.

The crisis of DSAAB (now Tun), how from such pride of GE11, and the shame of GE12, lead to "disloyalty" of sorts and finally to the rise of our present PM.

Yes, for reasons only known to the person bestowed with power to appoint, his appointment shall be his, and the good appointee shall perform for the benefit of the nation, while the bad appointee shall be the downfall of the leader and therefore the nation.

For all the good that TDM has done for the country and the nation, he has failed miserably in identifying great new leaders.

Until today we are void of such leaders.

You Dato, from your writings(some) has brought out good points, but that kind of writings especially when it hits right on the nose of the leaders are not (will not) be appreciated.

And to me, that is the reality, look at MCA, LTL the opportunist, with the recent resignation of the 13CC. I hope, OTK accept the resignation, and just continue on with his plan, he is still the Presiden of MCA.

Finally, on competence, you can never go wrong because good and competent leaders shall always perform well, because they have standard to uphold.

Alizan,  16 December 2009 at 12:09  

Point to note that in the fight between Hang Jebat and Hang Tuah, it was Jebat's loyalty to Hang Tuah that compromised his loyalty to the greater cause of ensuring justice - he surrendered the kris Tamingsari to Tuah in order to allow Tuah to vanquish Jebat. As such, Jebat has failed to maintain his ideals and thus were not competent to maintain his loyalty to ensuring Justice.

Just some of my thoughts.

Are You Gonna Go My Way,  16 December 2009 at 13:07  

Loyalty and competence..which must come first? that's what Najib should ask himself. Among the loyals who are the most competence? or among the competence who are the most loyal?

Najib should take the latter..

Vani R,  16 December 2009 at 14:11  

and the best part is, the 10 lawmakers do not give two hoots about what we say...life still goes on for them, in luxury!

Anonymous,  16 December 2009 at 20:21  

Dato', hopefully you will lead the Third Force that the nation is really in need.
Just food for thought!!! to the next level of agree to disagree rather than "jadi unta kenyang".
Happy new year!!!

Suci Dalam Debu 16 December 2009 at 21:00  

Sir,

I thought Malaysia exports COMPETENCE to Singapore and we don't have any left at the moment.

We need to wait for another generation to mature provided the BTN people don't screw up.

Good luck my beloved Malaysia.

walla 17 December 2009 at 09:23  

After the splash in the news about the exercise, both eyebrows and expectations were raised that sleeves would be rolled up for a great transformation.

Now, with protectionism as a poor specimen of an excuse for damage control, the expectations are, alas, dashed, especially on the tracks of 'performance now'. Transformation has become deformation.

Procedurally, it's just a KPI exercise. Like a 360 degree self-assessment. Or, if you will, a look in the mirror. To see the ravages of age. Or, of politics.

That they are having so much trouble with it implies they don't have a game plan for each ministry involved which means the ministries have been going on auto-pilot. However without an inertial guidance system. But if even ducks know where to fly come winter, what not gomens?

Now, unless they spin something quick about it, the perceptions are going to be rather grave:

one, they don't care; two, they don't know; three, they did it and didn't like the results, so that, four, it must not be released, which thus means, five, they want to bury the truth, and that concludes in six, "we versus the masses".

If it is know-how and time that they need, damage control would have been more efficient if the man had just come out to say exactly that - 'we need more time and promise all will be released after new year' thus giving the impression that it is a serious business which requires the heaviest concentration and maximum effort, not to say brainpower.

If they are fast, then it can be julian new year, but if it will be slow, then chinese new year. The option of about a couple of weeks more is retained. There, done.

Using loyalty as an excuse merely conveys the impression that ministers are no different from...well..ma-chai's. Right or wrong?

walla 17 December 2009 at 09:23  

The blogger has also mentioned 'competency'. However if we are to delve into that, we may have to replace our computer screens with that 42-inch LCD panel you saw last night at the showroom.

So, to spare us all from such excruciating duress, let us instead ask a funny question about service delivery in the mold of people now, performance first (that's raising the bar of the original).

And the question is this (it's all for Pat btw):

'why didn't anyone fly a helicopter over the roads last night to identify how come all of them were jammed up so badly and then coordinate with whatever data came out of the mega-million CCTV system to analyze the root causes of those recurring jams....and then solve the problem?'

The total fuel of the idling cars would have been more than that consumed by one helicopter.

The purpose of KPIs is to instill the importance of competency in order to actuate higher efficiency and faster delivery of better services to the rakyat typified by teeth-gnashing motorists.

That's focus on removal of one type of blockages.

There are other types of blockages. If, for instance, non-national schools are in demand, then policies should be changed to meet that demand especially if the products are of higher standards with stronger functionalities that help in increasing trade, commerce and scientific nationalism. Meaning revenue, prosperity and progress.

Giving a hearye speech at a dinner is just giving a hearye speech at a dinner. As Bond would have said, 'put your back into it, Moneypenny'. Ideas on what to really do are a-plenty. Do more than talk. Don't worry about the consequences. Nazri has spokeneth.

And if one is annoyed to the zenith by this contretemps, note the following:

http://is.gd/5qzUF

Pick a scenario from it, add the headline on reduced revenues from Petronas and then follow both up by mentally extrapolating forward by say four years the landscape in:

http://is.gd/5lLTU

then explicate how the KPIs of all the ministries combined can help the nation at least maintain a modicum of living standards of the rakyat now that prices of vegetables and meat have shot up.

Meanwhile, some other food for thought:

http://is.gd/5qAaZ
http://is.gd/5qAbX

as well as:

http://is.gd/5qAhD
http://is.gd/5qAio
http://is.gd/5qAj0

Anonymous,  9 December 2010 at 05:53  

Wow, that's crazy man. They should really try to do something to fix that.

Anonymous,  9 December 2010 at 11:15  

Nice post, kind of drawn out though. Really good subject matter though.

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