New leadership paradigm
LEADERSHIP is one of the topics that has existed since humans started working with each other and like many other things evolved over centuries.
We study leadership in schools and colleges, experience it at home and work places, and often practise it too, yet different people have described it in many different ways.
Iqbal as an ideological founder of Pakistan, philosopher, modernist, reformist educationist, lawyer and religious and political thinker and activist is unmatched in his versatility and the breadth of his knowledge and vision.
Iqbal provided clear guidance on the attributes of a good leader.His concept of leadership is omnipresent in his poetic verses on motivation, success, leadership, inspiration, positivity, character, goals, life and self-help.
He has dilated in detail on how spiritual values, morality and selflessness affect the style of leadership and how a leader can take these qualities onto himself to inspire his followers.
While explaining leadership traits Iqbal used “Shaheen” The Eagle, to teach leadership skills to the youth, he used the metaphor of Shaheen mainly in reference to young Muslims, to symbolize the concept of constant struggle in order to contribute to the cause of serving humanity at large.
He contrasted the untiring pursuit of this goal with the life of the parasitic vulture, who survives on animal carcasses without the dignity of effort.
Iqbal encouraged the leaders to be like the old and majestic Eagle, flying high in the sky with his eyes fixated on not only his target but also the environ.
He must have a vast, clear and focused vision that takes into account all angles of the issue in hand.
Successful leaders are brave and fearless but not rash and unrealistic.A true leader is soft spoken, honest, upright, vibrant, creative minded and hardworking.
There is no dichotomy in his words and deeds and has impeccable integrity.Knowledge and wisdom are the hallmarks of a leader that protect him from despair, disappointment and negativity.
A genuine leader is always positive and hopeful for the future.For Iqbal a leader is caring, gracious, loving and humble.
He leads not with empty rhetoric but through personal example. He inspires and motivates people to follow and does not coarse, frighten or exploit them.
The leader has to have power and yet be forgiving.He achieves greatness, yet remains humble.
The one, who never stops improving himself and is a perfect blend of humility and greatness who lives his life as per Allah’s order.
Iqbal highlighted that the leader should be the man of principles, always determined, knows the art of being firm when required but otherwise soft like dew, leads a balanced life and becomes a role model for the entire nation.
While talking about the concept of Khudi, he explained how spiritual values, morality and selflessness affect the style of leadership and how a leader can take these qualities onto himself to inspire his followers and those under his command.
The preface of the book, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, points out that “The Qur’an is a book which emphasizes ‘deed’ rather than ‘idea’.
Likewise, Iqbal’s philosophy, rich as it is in ideas and concepts, is fundamentally action-oriented and reformist.
He showed the way of glory to whole Muslim Ummah and by his thoughts, ideology and poetry, Muslims of the subcontinent achieved their goal of an independent homeland, Pakistan.
It was then our duty to take the responsibility, be the leader that Iqbal has so passionately advocated and lead Pakistan to a strong and prosperous destiny.
Unfortunately today in Pakistan we are fast falling into the trap of resurgent cult personality politics.
Instead of being symbols of unity and strength of the nation, political leaders, to the horror of Iqbal, have become agents for proliferation of negative and spiteful personality cults.
They are dividing and compartmentalizing the country, exploiting existing political, ethnic and religious differences.
This trend must be seized in its tracks as it is threatening to push Pakistan towards anarchy and pandemonium.
Ironically, we Pakistanis take our freedom for granted, as is reflected in the way our leaders govern, destroying our social fabric, fermenting divisions, breeding hatred, misleading the youth, destroying education, encouraging incivility, coarseness, vulgarity and verbal abuse, patronizing impatience, intolerance for divergent view points and promoting physical violence against opponents.
We are today a far cry from the noble and powerful portrayal of the perfect leader. Similarly the young Pakistanis today are endangering themselves by a vicious mixture of trends, cults, fabricated untruths and lack of understanding and research.
With fast-paced technological advancements, hate infested sloganeering and alluring promises of instant transformation and affluence, the leaders of today are attracting and misleading the populace.
What is lacking in our discourse is the vital piece that links our young to their roots in the fabulous tradition of Islam that teaches peace and harmony with focus on moderation in every aspect of life through self-development, moral and ethical integrity.
In Pakistan we have seen a dramatic degeneration of the political and social space. A culture of narrow-mindedness, intolerance, bigotry, impatience and resorting to verbal and physical abuse, particularly in the political arena has reached perilous levels.
It is, therefore, essential to give our youths the knowledge and skills to understand, challenge and engage with democratic society including politics and civil society characterized by mutual respect and non-violence.
How far away we, as a nation and our leaders, have drifted from the concept of Pakistan nurtured by Iqbal and realized by the Quaid is mind numbing.
Our politicians and leaders need to reflect and do a deep introspection to see where we are leading the nation.
Is our destination the Pakistan of Iqbal or do we want to continue on this dangerous path of self-destruction and land in the dustbin of history.
If Iqbal was alive today his challenge would be to persuade many Pakistanis that Islam cannot be limited to politics which is disconnected from the religious and ethical principles of their faith.
His message is more relevant and important to contemporary Pakistanis, particularly the youth than ever before.
—The writer is former Ambassador, based in Islamabad.