The dilemma of Leadership

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, June 7—-June 13, 2008
By Andleeb Abbas
TOO many ‘leaders’ spoil a country. That is what the new political soap opera serial on the media is displaying. With every episode ending in the suspense question of ‘who will do what to whom’, the show has revealed some interesting aspects of the leadership styles of the major actors in this action-packed drama.Leadership by desperation: Adopted by Musharraf, this requires one to be shamelessly oblivious of the pressure in the buy-time, buy-people style. Silence can be interpreted more than just consent — a revelation made by the president’s latest political posture of disappearing from the limelight and playing the predictably desperate game of conflict and conspiracy.The philosophy of the president seems to be that if you cannot hoard power yourself, try to dilute the power of your opponents. The best way of doing so is by fragmenting the cohesion of the power brokers.In this case, considering the election results, it had to be the PPP or the PML-N. With a history of conciliation and reconciliation with the PPP, it was but natural to play on common interests and goals and make it look like a win-win for the two of them. In this context, the appointment of Rehman Malik as interior advisor and Salman Taseer as Punjab governor is proof that the PPP will tolerate him as long as it serves their interest.Thus Musharraf’s style of leadership believes in team-breaking rather than team-building.Leadership by default: The PPP philosophy is based on collaboration and cohabitation with all who would go along with ‘their’ agenda. The agenda, of course, is driven by Asif Zardari, PPP leader by default. Zardari, given an almost unimaginable opportunity of ruling the country by the untimely death of his wife, has made the most of it.He has a past riddled with controversy and corruption. Titled as Mr 10 Per Cent earlier on, he has faced several corruption cases.The deal struck between Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf was mainly based on the NRO which has over a period of time cancelled all cases against Zardari.So with Mr Musharraf it is a mutual corruption-condoning agreement which led to using the post-PCO judiciary for the dutiful waiving of all conditions which did not suit Messrs Musharraf and Zardari, whether it was the graduation condition for contesting elections or making the illegal PCO legal for the president.Zardari has a rather loud and obvious leadership posture. His melodramatic reading of Benazir Bhutto’s will was so exaggerated that most people thought it was more fiction than reality.His abrupt chumminess with the MQM was almost too breezy to be taken seriously.His mysterious departure to Dubai and London and holding of long parleys have given a lot of material to the media to keep viewers hanging on.However, all his high-sounding declarations have been found to be short on substance and consistency. These actions show his political immaturity, as he seems to have been trying to play too many cards at the same time; in the end it is his impatience to hog all what is suitable for him which will be his eventual undoing.Leaders who change their statements and stance chameleon style are bound to lose their credibility.Leadership by Emotion: Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, has been capitalising on anti-president and pro-chief justice public sentiments. The fact that he shares with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry a common history of taking on Musharraf and then being punished by him for it, is at the moment in his favour.He has sensed that the judges’ restoration issue has given him a kind of popularity that he would not have dreamt of when he came back to the country and any deviation from it will make him fall into the same category as Musharraf and Zardari.This is an ideal opportunity for him to differentiate himself from the lot. His interest in restoring the judges also rests on the hope that in return for this favour he may be able to get Musharraf’s third-time premiership restriction waived.However, a style based on personal vendetta rather than public interest is always vulnerable to reverting to the older pattern of failing to rise above selfish designs when it comes to using the same ground rules for one’s own performance.His real test of leadership will come if he has to take on the PPP as the latter becomes more and more inclined towards the PCO judiciary.At the moment, the protest by his party against the PPP’s politically compromising behaviour is muted.But as the intentions of the PPP become obvious, Mr Sharif will have to prove that his disengagement from the power centre was not just a political ruse to pacify the public, but an actual principled stance designed to prove that he will not compromise on commitments.Effective leaders need to possess the three ‘C’s, i.e. clarity, courage and commitment. Clarity of vision, of purpose, of stance, of actions is what sets the path for others to follow.Unfortunately, the game played by most of our leaders is to create confusion, ambiguity and chaos, where they leave the public guessing about their next move. This gives rise to uncertainty, gossip and speculation, eroding confidence in the future of the country.Another leadership requirement is the courage to uphold all that is true and to have no hesitation in sacrificing personal interests for the public good. Unfortunately, our leaders lack the moral courage to stand foreign and personal pressure and often give in to the temptation of going for a quick fix even if it means sacrificing the national interest.A leader true to his commitments is one who honours expectations and fulfils all claims made to the public. Commitment, as interpreted by our leaders, is temporary statement-mongering, where the memory of our leaders is so short that they are consistently denying, degrading and dismissing anything they had promised during their frenzied political campaigning.Without clarity, courage and commitment we will always have leaders going through the political revolving door, where they enter from one side and exit from the other, only to enter again.Unless the complete exit of all morally handicapped characters is ensured by the public, the drama of finding true leaders will continue to have a tragic ending.—Dawn


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