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Sakmongkol ak 47

Saturday 11 April 2009

A Socratic Dialogue on Leadership

I am reproducing here a comment made by my blogging friend who goes by the penname of Walla. As you can see, he is a very sophisticated thinker. He is a trained chemist. Here below is his gloss on the issue of leadership. Enjoy.

A: 'You seem pensive, B.'

B: 'Age, old friend. Just age. And, perhaps, something else.'

A: 'What is that?'

B: 'Just thinking about leadership and how it would be over at your side three years down the line.'

A: 'Leadership covers many areas. Wide scope. Subject of much study. Take, for instance, political leadership. Some will say it ends in vision and charisma. Others, job-done without fanfare. Yet some others, master conductor.'

B: (looks quietly at A): 'You miss one. Inveterate manipulator. 

I've been reading something on someone. That someone went to a lot of trouble to quell its distribution. He thought he could do that with his vast resources. Forgot Amazon isn't just about Brazil.

When something is not quite right, antidotes will arrive.'

A: 'what's the title?'

B: 'The Polyester Prince. Two copies are here in Harvard.'

A: 'Is it interesting?'

B: 'Take this section:

" 'There are three Mr X,' one of his fellowmen, a writer, told me. 'One is unique, larger than life, a brand name. He is one of the most talked-about industrialists, and for the people, he has tremendous emotional and sentimental appeal. He is their ultimate man, and has inspired many emulators. The second Mr X is a schemer, a first-class liar, who regrets nothing and has no values in life. Then there is the third Mr X, who has a more sophisticated political brain, a dreamer and a visionary, almost napoleonic. People are always getting the three personalities mistaken.' " '

A: 'Maybe an intrinsic factor in real leadership is practicality. In the example you give, three personalities denote three characters forged to solve three different problems. The real Mr X, so to speak, may lie behind all three. Maybe he has another personality that is more personable.'

B: 'Entirely possible but for one fact.'

A: 'What could that possibly be?'

B: 'Say that hypothetical person confided that he sacrificed others so that some can come up but then found that those who came up only saw him as their savior without recognizing that many had been sacrificed for them, what more blamed them for endless things.'

A: 'Life may have choices, B, but those choices one can use at a particular time can be equally limited.

You know how it is with leaders, ceo's, high-flyers. They didn't get to be where they are by being sentimental. Guts of iron, brains of steel. That's why they can throw steely stares. Their tongues are nimble, their wits incandescent, their brains intel calculating machines. And despite seemingly refreshing exteriors, their hearts cold as liquefied nitrogen.'

B: 'And how many of those earth-shakers are still standing today, A? The edifices and empires they had built have all crumbled. The aura and ego they had created to insulate themselves against their own inner conscience and fourth personalities so that they can continue to play their games to win over others are now held in contempt. And you know why, A? It's because the world has changed. The old regimented and authoritarian methods and sly machinations have given way to other more's - more caring, more inclusive, more transparent, more integrity. The old more's of gimme now, might is right, ends justify means, these are kaput. The old hierarchies have dissolved. It's a flat world. All the honorifics stacked to pump self-importance can do nothing against the fact that the center of gravity has moved - from the power-mongers to the people. The people are now calling the tune. They're fed-up to the core. They have pierced the veil, seen the scam, reacted with total scorn. The writing's on the wall and the firing squad's reloading the next rounds.'

A: 'It wasn't like this long ago in my country. We're young but not that young. If personified, we're in fact middle-aged. Our first PM was reputed to be the happiest PM in the world. In the evenings, he would call for chit-chats with his other component party leaders. Casual but close. They used to have their discussions in that bungalow that still stands next to the Tugu. His leadership style was peer with all, not partial to some. Our second PM entered to face thorny problems. His leadership style was containment and "sustainment"; some will say it's jurassic carrot-n-stick. The third PM was quiet and careful. He wanted always to be fair and just. His decision-making process was slow but sure. The fourth PM took risks to seize opportunities that came with the times. When he started, many of those inside the corridor of power with him thought he was different; when they left, they had no kind words. The fifth PM was a peoples' reaction to the fourth. How else could one explain the overwhelming election results when his performance was an unknown? The people reacted to the fourth PM, and he reacted to the people. He gave them space to speak their mind and release all those pent-up feelings. Maybe he was advised wrongly but things started to go awry in other areas. To his credit, he held his tongue when his predecessor had piled and lashed at him. He had to, otherwise if he had taken action, their party would have imploded from what would be revealed. Now the sixth PM comes aboard with everyone knowing those remisses. What lessons can he learn from the first to the fifth?'

B: 'The answer to that comes from what leadership is really all about, A.

To IQ and EQ, you must now add LQ. Those star leaders with high leadership quotients can readily differentiate primary priorities from secondary concerns. They are also fast in identifying flawed assumptions. In complex exchanges, they can intuit underlying agendas. In politics, they are superb practitioners of bimodal management. They are adept at reconciling the needs of different stakeholders without sacrificing their judgments about what constitutes success measured against stated objectives.'

A: 'In my country, those qualities are of paramount importance.'

B: 'But, looking at what's available at the moment, not enough, if you may allow me to comment.'

A: 'Yes, we all know that. Legacy is a big issue in my country. We don't have a legacy for success factors of economic growth. We don't have a legacy for learning curves to avoid future mistakes. We don't have a legacy of the right people for the right job to avoid those legacies and other shortfalls. In fact, we're not sleepless in seattle; we're just clueless in putrajaya.'

B: 'Someone said the solution won't come from the same frame of mind that had framed the problem. When unstoppable force meets immovable object, you will need to think out of the box. The frame of mind must surmount the wall that blocks the view beyond. Otherwise, all bets are off that one will not go down in a hail of bullets. Furthermore, Lee-Enfield's, mind you.'

A: 'Give me some examples.'

B: 'Why, my drawing out the leadership styles of the past PMs of your country into an analytical series is already one, don't you think so? That way you can benchmark the whole lot against the changing characteristics of the tide they each faced in the evolving history of your nation.'

A: 'Ah-so. How about i test you with an abiding concern of many. Say, our NEP.'

B: 'I think its intent is noble but its application has been flawed or advantaged to some. You see, its success is predicated on three intertwining factors - governance integrity, continuous economic growth and fixed population or sample set. It seems none was promised, and tri-ther delivered.'

A: 'But some will still say that sixty percent only own twenty percent.'

B: 'Official census results aside as much real data from deep sources will say, put your thinking cap on for a second.'

A: 'You're saying that if we think out of the box and do a thought experiment, we will get results that say it's not the right argument to proffer in order to defend it?'

B: 'Indulge me. How did you arrive at that?'

A: 'My thought experiment goes like this. Let's say there's only one race in this country from day one until now. Then the distribution of wealth of the country today will still be sixty owning twenty, real figures aside.'

B: 'Why?'

A: 'Because the other forty percent of the same race will then be owning the eighty percent of the wealth by dint of their capability and hard work. That's how markets work, isn't it?'

B: 'You got it so it remains to ask what's the difference? Is it really all about race, and party? But i am also mindful about enthusiasm. One shouldn't be too quick off the mark to be enthusiastic about finding a neat solution that presents itself after much foggy-bogging. You see, i subscribe to the leveling effect in life. There are certain things we must do using our hearts as much our minds. My heart wants to see how to help whoever is down, regardless of race. If most of those are down coming from one race, then jump in and help them come up. They are also brothers and sisters. That's how we build our bank account of humanity. Credit humanity, debit selfishness. The devil is in the method, for the same principle must equally apply to the others, otherwise it's sheer hypocrisy.'

A: 'Let me think out of the box on that one. Since it's all predicated on growth, fairness and harmony, there must be another box which contains better answers than what we have been using.'

B: 'Well, i wish you luck and good fortune. What are the primary priorities over secondary concerns that you think your sixth PM faces today?'

A: 'I think he needs to win back trust. That will come from drastic reforms. Which will be embodied in terms of the people he needs to place as knights of his round table. And the programs emanating from it.'

B: (steely stare). 'Sigh, is that thinking out of the box, mein herr?'

A: 'Why do you think it's not?'

B: 'Why do you answer my question with a question?'

A: 'Touchy today, aren't we?'

B: 'Just putting on a fourth front, A, and testing your water.

There are things he should quickly do to break the ice that has grown into an iceberg which can sink a submarine. He knows what they are.'

A: 'I say, you've been keeping in touch with what's happening, haven't you?'

B: 'Just shooting breeze, A.'


de minimis 12 April 2009 at 00:00  

Bro Sak

Our bro walla remains one of the most interesting minds that we have had the pleasure to encounter. His mind is wired and chemically lubricated in a sublime structure that will be an enduring enigma. That such a mind pours forth a wise and vital dialogue only suggests one who thinks hard and deep and, feels very deeply the issues that challenges our country today. Thanks for sharing this dialogue (not monologue) of one.

Naif,  12 April 2009 at 00:51  

Yes it took a few readings to fully comprehend the article. I like this walla character. May he come up with more socratic dialogues pertaining to Malaysia's socio political landscape.

One word to describe walla: genius.

Anonymous,  12 April 2009 at 06:12  

Not for me. Too socratic and too long for my low IQ.

But I think it's a good way to keep the abusive one or two liners out. Cheers.

Anonymous,  12 April 2009 at 11:55  

It's a good read Sak. Thanks.

Hope you don't get abused for this one as well. I got a bit frightened by the exchanges yesterday and I wasn't even on the receiving end.

Walk D Talk 09 12 April 2009 at 12:06  


Ariff Sabri 12 April 2009 at 15:34  

06:12 and 11.55.
thank you very much. but never imagine for one moment i am afraid of the abuses. doing it inside your home after you extend invitation which angers me

Anonymous,  18 April 2009 at 10:56  

Omar Mustapha Ong sakai

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