UNDERSTANDING MUSLIM'S PERSPECTIVE ON LEADERSHIP

DR. KHAWAJA AMJAD SAEED,
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
June 13 - 19, 2011

21st century is said to belong to Asia. Currently, Europe is in big financial problems. Several European Union countries have resorted to very heavy borrowing resulting into economic difficulties, if not collapse. Greece has suffered a lot. Ireland is in big trouble and European Union is struggling to offer some bailout packages. The struggle is on and one wonders how long it will take before European countries will come out of the woods.

Unemployment has already reached around 10 per cent in the USA. Their leadership is wondering what to do to pull USA out of the financial crisis. As against this backdrop, silver lining exists in Asia with high performance of Asian Tigers, great success achieved by Japan and recent sustainable growth of GDP of high order in China and India with other Asian countries also trying to perform well.

The paradigm is now changing and the landscape of Asia through their solid leadership, which is much better providing better results. This article presents a brief of Western Theories of leadership which now need to be revisited and the Divine guidance provided by God (occasionally referred to Allah) will be presented for the readers to explore new heights with outstanding dimension of leadership revealed to us by Allah through Holy Prophet (PBUH) based on guidance included in Al-Quran.

WESTERN LEADERSHIP THEORIES

S/NO THEORIES MAIN FEATURES
1 TRAIT THEORY

There is a comprehensive list of traits, which ought to be possessed by a leader. Four traits include physical, intellectual, personal, and social. Common consensus is on five traits namely; intelligence, social maturity, inner-motivation, achievement drive and human relation attitude.

2 BEHAVIORAL APPROACH

The emphasis is on the result of effective role behavior. The leader is expected to have three skills namely; technical, human and conceptual.

3 SITUATIONAL APPROACH

The emphasis is on the situation in which leadership is exercised. Basically, four factors are important namely; cultural environment, difference between individuals, difference between jobs and difference between organizations.

4 ELECTIVE APPROACH

This approach considers three variables namely; traits of leaders, situational variables, types of followers. The effort is to integrate all the above three variables to study a leadership pattern. Generally, three styles of leadership are operating namely, autocratic, participative, and paternalistic. Decision techniques include application of statistics, optimizing models, information models and simulation. Personal qualities of leaders for decision-making are influenced by experience, judgment, innovation, and quantitative techniques.

LEADERSHIP IN ISLAM: SELECTED DIMENSIONS

Study of leaders have several dimensions. These, broadly speaking have multi faceted aspects. Some significant ones have been selected for developing this paper from Al-Quran.

Eighteen dimensions have been identified with 24 citations from Al-Quran. These are reviewed with brief commentary now.

Dynamic and forward looking role from managerial angle has been spelled out by God in Al-Quran by giving candid emphasis in respect of the following:

AIM FOR THE LEADER

God encourages that a leader must have a clear-cut aim so that he spells out his vision and mission for the guidance of his followers. Inspiration in this respect has been drawn the following verse:

"And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly. That is the assumption of those who disbelieve, so woe to those who disbelieve from the Fire". (2)

LEADERS - MEN OF UNDERSTANDING

The quality of understanding of a leader is a prerequisite from God's viewpoint. Indeed, He has promised to give wisdom to such people. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding".

GLOBAL LEADERSHIP

God has emphasized that there should be a nation in the world who should invite people to undertake all such steps which are right and forbids them what are wrong. Accordingly, if this spirit is implemented by national leadership, success will follow.

In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"And let there by (arising) from you a nation inviting to (of that is) good, enjoying what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be successful".

Based on the above verse, it is clear that there is a Divine guidance for establishing organizational aspects for encouraging and persuading people across the board to implement all actions which are in the right direction and de-motivate people by forbidding them not to resort to wrong actions. A leader's role is significant in this dimension.

LEADERSHIP - MAINTAINING BALANCE

God has guided us to maintain a balance during our behavior as a leader. This ought to be reflected in decision-making roles by a leader. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance". "That you not transgress within the balance".

"And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance".

SHAPING LEADER'S BEHAVIOR

God has guided the one who fears from Him. According to many scholars, if this spirit is indoctrinated in the leader and subsequently reflected in the behavior of followers, the outcomes will be very positive namely self-control, no frauds, no corruption, no act of immorality, healthy life and rational behavior. Indeed, fear of God is a Panacea for several ills, which we find in the society. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"And remember the favor of Allah upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, "We hear and we obey", and fear Allah Indeed, Allah is knowing of that within the breasts".

ACCOUNTABILITY

Self-accountability has been encouraged in Islam. The foundation of this is a belief in Hereinafter. In several Quranic verses, God has stated that every action/deed which is performed by anyone (whether good or bad) is recorded and accounted for. Moreover, on the Day of Judgment, balance sheet in this respect will be transparently presented by God to everybody. God has stated that on the above Day of Judgment, mouth will be sealed, the hands will speak to God of whatever actions were taken in the past and the feet will stand testimony to what had been done in the life time by an individual.

In respect of the above two thoughts namely proper accounting and presentation of balance sheet, two relevant verses from Holy Quran are quoted below:

"So whoever does an atoms* weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atoms weight of evil will see it". (* or weight of small ant)

"That Day, we will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn". (8)

Another verse from Al-Quran in respect of guidance of self-accountability is quoted below:

"For each [religious following] is a [prayer] direction toward which it faces. Source to [all that is] good. Wherever you may be. Allah will bring you forth [for judgment] all together. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent".

Another verse from Al-Quran is also quoted below:

"To Allah is your return . He [ i.e. Allah ] knows what they conceal ...and what they reveal Indeed, He is knowing of that within the breasts... All is in a clear register".

LEADER'S ROLE FOR CHANGE

A leader is expected to serve as a catalyst for change. Rather than living with status-quo, improvements and innovation only follow if change is introduced. A leader must prepare the followers, in this respect, and seek guidance from Allah. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"O Indeed, Allah will not the change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves".

Based on above, leadership role in transformation will be the outcome.

LEADER'S ROLE: AVOIDING WASTAGE

One major cause of loss in business and industry is waste. There is a tremendous scope of eliminating and uprooting the causes of wastage, which can beef up bottom line of an enterprise. Wasteful practices are anti-productivity and reduce profits. There is a Divine guidance to leaders to ensure that a framework is developed whereby wastage is avoided. In this respect, two verses from Al-Quran are quoted below:

"And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, And do not spend wastefully."

"Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful".

Accordingly, the zero defect philosophy is borne out of above.

A CRITERION FOR TRUE LEADERSHIP

Allah likes leaders who are the most righteous ones. This is a singular criteria spelled out by Him in Al-Quran. Accordingly, the liking of Allah is not being extra rich or dirty rich who plunder wealth and accumulate it through wrongful methods. Quranic verse in this respect, is quoted below:

mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most Righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted".

Based on the above spirit, God promises to raise some above the others in their ranks as they emerge as outstanding leaders. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

And have raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service".

LEADERSHIP THROUGH CONSULTATION

Rather than behaving in dictatorial/authoritative style, Allah encourages the leaders to resort to consultation. Accordingly, consultative management is in accordance with the Islam. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And, when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].

LEADERS RELY ON ALLAH

Allah encourages lenient behavior rather than dealing followers with rudeness. He encourages people to rely upon Him. Therefore, the believers are encouraged to inculcate the spirit in them so that favor of Allah may be showered on them through His blessings. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And, when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]".

LEADERS ACHIEVING SUCCESS

Allah encourages leaders to obey Him and to obey his Messenger (Prophet Muhammad) (PBUH) and those in authority among you. However, in case of any disagreement over anything, He directs leaders to refer the matter to Allah and His Messenger by believing in Him and Day of Judgment. Accordingly, He promises the achievement of the best results. In this respect, relevant Quranic verse is quoted below:

you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And, if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, of you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result".

In another Quranic verse, He has directed leaders that, for achieving success in life, the prerequisite is that one should believe in Allah and fear Him and always seek the mean of requesting His favors and blessings. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

you who have believed, fear Allah and seek the means [of nearness] to Him and strive in His cause that you may succeed".

LEADERS FOR ANTI-HOARDING PRACTICES

Malpractices in business generally occur from hoarding of goods. Free interplay of demand and supply is not allowed to function properly. Consequently, there is social destabilization. Inflation is caused and social evils continue to grow. Allah has warned painful punishment for those who resort to hoarding of goods. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah - give them tidings of a painful punishment".

AUSTERITY FOR GUIDANCE OF LEADERS

Austerity management has been advocated by Allah. Conspicuous consumption is totally discouraged and leaders are directed to follow guidance on spending as per following Quranic verse:

And they ask you what they should spend. Say, "The excess [beyond needs].

LEADER AS A TRUSTEE

A leader is expected to behave like a trustee on behalf of beneficiaries and also inculcate this spirit amongst his followers. The malpractices of grabbing, plundering, looting others wealth/property, specially that of orphans, is a misdirected action and is forbidden by Divine advice contained in the following verse of Al-Quran:

"And do not approach the orphan's property except in a way that is best [i.e. intending improvement] until he reaches maturity. And, give full measure and weight in justice. We do not charge any soul except [with that within] its capacity. And when you speak [i.e. testify], be just, even if [if concerns] a near relative. And, the covenant of Allah fulfill. This has He instructed you that you may remember".

VERIFICATION OF INFORMATION BY LEADER

A leader is expected to verify the information before sharing it with his followers. This can lend credibility to his stature and pave the way for compliance. In this respect, verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned".

HONESTY AS A TRAIT FOR LEADER

Several traits have been stressed as an integral part for a leader. Amongst them, Allah has identified honesty as a singular trait to be possessed by leaders. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran is quoted below:

"And weigh with an even [i.e. honest] balance".

LEADER - BORN OUT OF COMMAND OF ALLAH

A leader is required to follow Command of Allah and be inspired by His guidance. In this respect, relevant verse from Al-Quran for compliance is quoted below:

"And We made them leaders guiding by Our Command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of Zakah; and they were worshippers of Us".

WAY FORWARD

While lot of literature exists on Western Theories of leadership, a humble effort has been made in this paper to present Divine guidance given before 1432 years governing the behavior, traits, approach, dimensions, roles etc. from God contained in the last Book Al-Quran revealed by Him. This paper can serve the spirit of Interfaith Dialogue so that the Western Scholars may get enlightened regarding the message of God and try to reflect on various ideas shared in this paper straight from the Holy Book, Al-Quran.

Accordingly, dialogue and debate can continue for improving the overall role of leaders in their decision-making styles for the betterment of followers to achieve high performance and help accomplish vision and mission of an enterprise.