. .

What makes a leader?

By Sh. Y. Haroon
July 05 - 11,1999

Leadership 2000
For the record
Hamdard University
New face of corporate Pakistan

Today is the most important day for Mujahid, a management consultant at Marbola, a local management consultancy company. He is given the difficult task to identify and make a presentation on one of the most vital factors carving the future of business management today. The task is not easy. There are so many management issues and concepts like — corporate culture, organizational behavior, management information systems, information technology management, business development, marketing and finance, human resource management, change management — each discipline pivotal enough that it can not simply be ignored. After deep research he is able to identify the one and only influential factor shaping the future of all businesses belonging to any industry around the globe. As you must be guessing about what could be this factor of utmost importance so needed in the past, still needed in the present, and undeniable in future, what could it possibly be... as the presentation beg!ins...

Singe-headedness of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, courage of Kamal Ata Turk, influence of Mau Zee Tung, decisiveness of Sir Winston Churchill, objectivity of Abraham Lincoln, conformance of Gorge Washington, steadfastness of Nelson Mandela, sacrifice of Mother Teresa, benevolence Abdul Sattar Ehdhi, inspiration of Imran Khan, brilliance of Diego Maradona, vision of Bill Gates of Microsoft, savvy of Andy Grove of Intel, salesmanship of Michel Dell of Dell Computers — all these big and familiar names may differ in their place and time of existence, stature of greatness and achievement of excellence — yet have one trait very common among themselves, yes, the art of leadership!

The emergence of a global economy and changes in technology has given modern life new meanings. But no matter how new and important are the realms of information and technology, without people these changes and developments are meaningless. When it comes to people, it comes to leadership. As we are entering the next millennium to my analysis the most important factor in defining our future would be our ability to lead where information is only a tool.

Leadership is the most sought-after discipline of management in the history of human culmination and paradoxically the most controversial as well. Just look around us. The phenomenon of leadership encompasses our existence. Take any realm of society, any profession, any walk of life you will find a lot of examples of men and women controlling the helm of affairs. So, the question here is what exactly is leadership? Is it an art or is it a science? Is leadership by birth or can it be acquired? The debate is unending and most intriguing. Whatever it may be, the following are the most common ingredients of leadership found in unanimously among business leaders, political leaders, social leaders — basically which makes leader, a leader!

Charismatic personality

What accounts for that particular, indefinable electricity that exists between the leader and the led? What magnetism creates such phenomenal attraction between the leader and the followers? This miraculous bond of electricity is called "Charisma" which like a magnet attracts hordes of followers. This is the most fascinating quality of a leader which tantalizes the led. This charisma is the ability to inspire people to do the job better than before and to change them from ordinary to special beings even in crisis.

The simplest example would be of Imran Khan. Even critics agree that it was the charismatic personality of Imran Khan that Pakistan was able to win the Cricket World Cup' 92. Pakistani team lost very important matches but it was Irnran who had won the trust, sympathies, love, affection and respect of his teammates. He never let them loose hope. So everybody saw the result. We won the Cup! Imran was surely a charismatic captain. Even today his legacy continues. The queue of fast bowlers whom we see today like Waseem Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar all started their careers as fast bowlers because former Pakistani skipper, Imran Khan was the source of inspiration to all of them.

In short if you see that you are able to inspire, energize and galvanize your followers positively so they are able to perform better than before in the achievement of their goal even in crisis, you surely possess charisma.

Initiative with commitment

"Nothing in the world happens except at the initiative of a single person" as the wise sayings goes by. The ultimate aim of knowledge is action and leadership is all about taking the initiative with comrnitment.

We all say so many things, make so many claims that we are going to do this and that, but, how many of us actually act on what we say or what we claim. Very few of us indeed put things to action. We lack both initiative and commitment. Those who do surely have the germs of leadership! Leaders have the incredible ability to put things into practice in a suitable fashion.

The emergence of Pakistan is a prime example for the initiative the Muslims of India under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam. Though Alama Iqbal envisioned a birth of a state decades ago yet it was never enough. The Quaid translated that dream into reality, about which once the Indian newspapers where once labeling as "Mad Man's Dream", came true and Pakistan appeared on the map of the world on 14 August 1947!

Initiative is the part and parcel of leadership. Just think if Bill Gates wouldn't have taken the initiative to develop the first operating system, Steve Jobs delaying his idea of Macintosh, Ted Turner the founder of CNN (cable news network) had delayed his idea to make a cable company — today we will be hearing some other names giving us exactly the same services, of the companies who instead have taken the initiative.

Internet is another example, where Netscape took the lead and Microsoft missed the opportunity. What happened that even all the competitive measures taken by Microsoft to turn the tables round in its favour yet there are still more Netscape Communicator users in the world than that of Microsoft Internet Explorer. With all its might and supremacy in the personal computing environment Microsoft is still a runner up when things come to internet.

Risk taking, courage, passion and vision all lead to initiative. Initiative brings change and there is only one constant in this universe that is the change itself. Those who try to ride change, become change riders, initiators. Initiative has worked for individuals, companies and countries even. Can you figure out why USA today is the world leader?


Leadership is all about trust. Trust comes first and everything else later. Trust is the bond that integrates the leader with the lead. The essence for every human relationship is trust — when you have full faith in somebody, you share everything with him, you care for him, you listen to him, you are concerned about him — you trust him. As leadership is all about people the first thing the leader has to win is trust. Loyalty, obedience, credibility, submission, faithfulness, devotion and respect all these sublime human values are outcome of trust and to be trusted. Richard Nixon, President of USA in his famous book "Leaders" wrote, "Obedience is something a leader can command, but loyalty is something, indefinable something, that he is obliged to win". Therefore, a leader can command his men but their trust he definitely has to win.

In Quetta, attending one of the speeches of the Quaid, a person who did not understand English language said, "Whatever he is saying is right, it does not matter I understand it or not." Just notice the level of credibility and trust the Quaid enjoyed even in general public.

Leadership scholars are virtually unanimous in putting trustworthiness at the top of the list of qualities required by any leader. Trustworthiness is integrity in action. Pearl S. Buck, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature said, "Integrity is honesty carried through the fibers of the being and the whole mind, into thought as well as into action so that the person is complete in honesty, and trust is the essence of leadership."


As the world prepares to drive forward on the unfamiliar terrain that lies ahead, it becomes clear that we are going to require a new kind of organizational vehicle, some very different driving skills, and a whole new sense of direction — in short a new vision! Vision is sin-qua-non for leadership, it is the catalyst of change, the sole raison d'etre. Management gurus like Michael Hammer, Tom Peters, Michael Porter, and Charles Handy are unanimous that vision is the single most important trait possessed by the top management. Vision is the strategic pathway of achieving the desired set of objectives within a given time period. Today's leadership styles look for visionary leadership for top management

How you see the future? What changes will occur in future? How these changes are going to influence us? Where can we find the best solution to meet the future challenges? - Anyone who can answer all of these questions surely has a vision.

Bill Gates, the chief executive of Microsoft, answers similar questions specially focusing on Internet. Who would have imagined that with the muscle Microsoft has, a small Internet Company Netscape can be any threat to Microsoft, but it happened. As Internet users multiplied with phenomenal speed the browser is predicted as the future of "Operating Systems" a field Microsoft led. Bill Gates and Microsoft realize the potential and gave full focus to Internet. Today, Windows 98 is more of an Internet browser than simply an operating system. And Windows 2000 promises its users even better Internet compatibility. Bill Gates rightly envisioned that his company is going to loose its competitive advantage very quickly if Microsoft does not maneuvered quickly enough to counter Netscape and utilize the potential internet offers.

Vision is hope, it is continuous improvement, and it is the search for excellence. There would have been no Pakistan if Iqbal wouldn't have envisioned it, no telephone if Graham Bell wouldn't envisioned it, no America if Columbus wouldn't voyaged in search for Indian spices — in short the kernel of all creativity, imaginative thinking, the force behind all inventions, innovations and discoveries is the vision!

Interpersonal Skills

Leadership is all about dealing with human inspirations, sense of motivation, ethical values, high morals, personality conflicts — in short, dealing with human beings. Interpersonal skills is understanding human behaviors and understanding human actions. It is absolute necessary to have interpersonal skills to be effective in communication between human beings. Leaders are usually masters of human understanding. They understand the mood, the drama, the body language and the spirit of their people. And interpersonal skill requires intensive human interaction.

Napoleon knew the name of every solider he had in his army and always addressed them by his own name. By simply remembering their names he gave a very personal touch to the person he used to address.

Not only the leaders are able to understand their friends' mood but also the mood of their enemies.

When Sher-Shah Soori was invited to the royal dinner of Mughal Emperor of India, Baber, at the dinner table he took out his sword and cut a piece of apple with it. Baber immediately sensed that this man possessed a potential to threaten his empire so he ordered for Soori's arrest. On the other hand, Sher-Shah Soori guessed the intentions of Baber and escaped. Sher-Shah Soori defeated Hamayun, son of Baber. And Soori put the foundation of the glorious reign of Soori dynasty. The lesson we conclude is simple, both Baber and Sher Shah Soori, were Kings (leaders) and had a tremendous sense of understanding people and their potential intentions.

Most leadership scholars call this attribute "skill in dealing with people." A leader cannot motivate or persuade constituents or others effectively without having some sense of what is on their minds. So unless they are always forthcoming about what is on their minds (which is unrealistic to expect), the leader must try to discern what they're thinking and feeling. That is why this important attribute can be called as "sensitivity to people. Sensitivity to people also means that leaders are sensitive to their feelings. Leaders are polite considerate, understanding, and careful that what they say to someone is not dispiriting unless criticism is intended. If you think that you can recognize the hidden talents of your subordinates and unleash these talents, you surely have excellent interpersonal skills.


The leadership styles may differ, leader may belong to absolutely different realms of life or belong to different time period — these four traits are the part and parcel of leadership. In the 21st century where the world is dominated by information and technology, the need for dynamic leadership is even more severe. There are new opportunities and there are new threats which we face today. The future of our businesses, our lives, our world lies in hands of those who will lead in future. And if you want to the chosen one — leading the future — you must have the charisma, initiative and commitment, trust, vision and excellent interpersonal skills.