September 18, 2012

Serving to lead

This title seems like an oxymoron. One could retort to indicate that these are two different categories of behavior. There are the leaders and then there are the followers. It seems only too logical, and in our daily lives we see little to indicate that leaders are servers, rather they seem the served.

My daughter's school has a motto that exhorts "come to learn, leave to serve" which reminds of service being the goal of learning.  And my own school had one that said "look to the end" telling of the need to be focused in life's endeavors -- focus that opens doors to one's wishes. Yes, several of our learning institutions tell us of the value of service to society and being focused in our work. However, unfortunately, many such institutions may not quite adequately follow up with the values that go to build the character need to live such morality. The real world that we come out to, unless we are thoroughly imbued with the virtues of these values by the time we graduate, influences us quite easily to flow with the tide of our materialistic ethic that is sweeping our world.

We are born to be leaders actually - each one of us. We were meant to pursue purpose and be steadfast in our pursuit of physical survival.  And to do so required us to be always on the look-out for innovative ways to survive – to be a leader in taking care of every action in our lives. From birth to independent physical existence, we are nurtured to be so. We plan and implement our lives to survive everyday and week and month and so on. Our alertness is a God-given gift to make us natural leaders by the time we step out of the cave. Overtime however, we have, through our settling into communities and organizations, have given over this function to selected or elected leaders and have spawned our systems of bureaucracy – a chain of authority and power structures that have us mired.  We discover that what we have created to serve us has turned on us to subvert us. Take any organization or nation and we see this picture emerging. We have relinquished our God given power to guide and chart our lives to someone else – in the guise of whatever label. Consequently we have become resigned to others taking decisions for us and dictating our lives and we seem to be even enjoying the fact that we are bestowed with that comfort of not having to take any decisions, do anything by ourselves and be just taken care of. And this expectation has now become a right that we demand of our leaders, but which unfortunately, the deluded minds of most leaders would not easily give into – the result being our unending conflicts with public officials.

Unfortunately too, as our case is now, in our complacency we have even lost the capacity to discern good leaders from the bad. And so in our jaded indolence and selfish greed let those who promise to us the world in their campaign rhetoric have their way and we allow them to be elected. When the proverbial milk is spilt there is little room to cry. We get the leaders we deserve. And unless we become aware of what characterizes good leaders, history will continue to repeat itself. Our God given resilience to search out the good in our lives must be re-invoked and we seek to be leaders ourselves --- not be satisfied in being just followers. In democratic governance particularly, we the people are the leaders and the elected our servants. We must exercise this right of ours with the wisdom of a good leader which is founded on responsibility and accountability. We must be alive to the fact that we have freedom with the caveat of responsibility and not just freedom to do as we like. Ultimately, the true test of good leadership is one’s ability to serve, and the features that define a good leader are:  being established in higher values, able to communicate a vision effectively, be endowed with impeccable character that is above reproach, being dedicated to the welfare of the served, and being one not driven by self-interest.

May Maldives get such leaders! 


Anonymous said...

Our society is so incompetent in a way of laziness, we already are gave out number of best jobs to outsiders! Soon we may require to outsource the political positions too, we have already outsourced our national security and gateways to enter and exit from our little sovereign country. I pity my people now.

Abdul Sattar Yoosuf said...

Anonymous, I can feel with your forlorn statement. But there must be somethings to celebrate! There always are.