Allama Iqbal and the changing paradigm of leadership

Leadership is always considered as a driver to bring change in any society and discussed since humans started working with each other and like many other things it also evolved over the centuries. Today’s leaders act in a global, complex, uncertain and interconnected business environment. Among the challenges in this context is the need to reduce complexity and uncertainty for people and provide a desirable picture of the future, which is shared by the people they lead. Leaders need to have a sense of purpose and a guiding vision, which help bundle of individuals and generate ‘‘National energy’’ but the new society which is called information society, knowledge society or networked society is marked by four key structural changes reshaping leadership.

  • Rapid and far reaching technological changes especially the digitalization of information and communications technology. (ICTs)
  • Accelerated globalization having a shift toward knowledge as the central factor of production (i.e. from brawn to brains)
  • More distributed, less hierarchical organizational forms with greatly accelerated movement within and across the sectors.

So, in the highly dynamic environment, leadership innovation and adaptability are critical, especially the leader’s capacity to channel the right knowledge to the right people at the right time in the right place.

True leaders are always distinguished from non-leaders by their different combinations of skills, attitudes, knowledge and their professional and personal experiences. Leadership must be driven by unique attitudes appropriate for the distributed, digital age which includes flexibility and adaptability with wide intellectual curiosity and a hunger for new knowledge, always willing to see value in sharply different perspectives, and must be comfortable with uncertainly with a true passion for what they do. They look globally for solutions and challenges, and also hunger for constant learning and insist on constant learning from their collaborators and followers. Always maintain a more egalitarian and results oriented approach than earlier leaders needed. A true leader should have the capacity to build coalitions and forge communities of interest, to multi-task, to remain focused on one’s own priorities even while seeking common ground with leaders in other sectors. Substantive knowledge is especially important in the knowledge society, including knowledge of how the new technologies function.

Leaders must also know what they do not know, and know how to get that missing knowledge by mobilizing their own social networks. These new combinations of skills, attitudes and knowledge requires new patterns of experience, especially personal movement across different cultures where the emergent leader is forced to engage with people from different professional and demographic backgrounds. Through all these cross-border shifts, successful leaders are able to develop and sustain a moral compass to guide their behavior. Skills, attitudes, knowledge, experiences and ethics fit together in a mutually reinforcing ‘package’ for successful leader of present age.

Being Pakistani, we are so fortunate that our country leaders like Allama Iqbal have strong vision that catch the needs of today’s leadership. Allama Iqbal, one of the most influential poets/philosophers of Subcontinent has described Leadership in one of his poems. He named the poem

‘Mard-e-Musalman’ and is part of his work from Zarb-e-Kaleem, written in 1936 AD.

Interpreting a leader to be a Man with strong character following God’s orders. A leader who act as a representative of God on earth

As per Iqbal’s philosophy leader should have four main traits including:

  • Power
  • Forgiveness
  • Purity
  • Persuasiveness

The one, who achieves greatness, yet remains very humble. The one, who never stops improving himself and a Perfect blend of humility and greatness who lives his life as per Allah’s order.

Allama Iqbal highlight that the leader should be the man of principles, always determined, know the art of being firm as per conditions and be the person who led a balance life and become a role model for the entire nation. Soft like a dew but tough like a storm for the enemies.

Instead of crossing so many years philosophy of Iqbal is still alive which guides us and our leaders as a nation builder, as an inspiration, as a youngster, as a true human being, as a good Muslim and last but not the least as a true nation. His poetry is not only guiding us but represents true guiding principles for all world irrespective of their origin so, instead of following different leadership practices all across world so there is a dire need not only to incorporate Iqbal’s philosophy in our current practices but to create awareness among youngsters. Being the custodian of National Philosophy, Bahria University is working hard to revive the philosophy of Poet of the East that bring real change of our society.

The author is in Faculty Department of H&SS/ Bahria University Karachi

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