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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2647

The Gift of Leadership - Lordship in disguise

Hemantha Abeywardena from London….

It may be cliché, but factually and statistically true; leaders are born, not made. By definition, someone who rule or guide others is a leader. The definition can be broadened in the right direction to elevate the leader to the next higher level, a supreme one, if he inspires his subjects to follow him towards a noble goal. On the other hand, a leader can downgrade his status to a disgustingly low level by asking his followers to gear themselves towards illusive goals along the path less travelled, which tantamount to collective suicide in the end.

The true mettle of a leader is displayed not on a bed of roses, but in the middle of a crisis. A few generations of Britons are still grateful to their war-time leader, Sir Winston Churchill, for just saying, not a series of monologues, but just four words, “We will never surrender.” It came from the mouth of a true leader when odds were highly against his optimism in defeating the Nazis. Churchill meant what he said at the time of saying and it did the trick: the morale of the public was maintained at the optimum level when it needed to be like that urgently.

A true leader is not in the habit of gauging the public mood by the statistics of opinion polls. Nor is he showing any appetite for playing to the gallery for cheap political scores. He is armed with a built-in moral compass which in turn places him on the bearings of duty, not those of despicable publicity stunts.

The followers of a true leader look up to him instinctively, especially when a danger is looming around. The attraction is almost magnetic and defies explanation; it may even overcome a few hurdles that get in the way in the form of religion or race by its sheer power, while being in full motion.

We say it is charisma that makes the individual unique, by referring to a number of traits, one of which normally is his personality, which is often mistaken as appearance. However, there is an inexplicable gap between personality and charisma; for instance, a well-built boxer doesn’t lack the former yet the traces of the latter may be in short supply.

Sometimes, we fail to spot true leaders, as they don’t make an effort to appear to be so. Occasionally, we mistakenly identify certain folks as leaders. For instance, when I was a little kid, in the absence of a clear-cut dictionary-definition, I may have branded a man with a pot-belly as someone with an impressive personality. Even grown-ups make mistakes in recognizing leaders who live up to their expectations.

President George Bush stood as a living monument to the charisma factor of a leader. Although he sometimes spoke English as if it was his second language, the Americans elected him twice as their leader. On the first occasion, he was miles ahead along this line, against his then rival, Al Gore, who later chose environment over politics.

Most of our modern leaders are surrounded by layers of bureaucrats and spin-doctors which in turn create a tendency to drive a wedge between a leader and the masses he is supposed to represent. Those who are obsessed with reading from script that is full of sound bites without any substance never live up to the expectations of his followers.

During the time of a crisis, a true leader stays calm while sticking to his guns until the mission is accomplished. In his heart, he knows he does the right thing, not the popular thing. His actions may not appeal to his followers in the short run, but in the long run, he may prove that he was right in the past. He may not vacillate in choosing his friends; nor will he kick out those who don’t agree with his as untouchable foes. The noble sense of forgiveness for the misdeeds committed by his rivals almost comes natural to a great leader; harbouring ill thoughts for a prolonged period of time does not purify one’s mind. There is no room in his psyche for being subjected to any form of intimidation when he is in the business of delivering his dues.

A great leader never sniffs the air to gauge the direction of wind as part of crucial decision making. Nor does he rely on the kind of outfit to impress the masses. Great Gandhiji in a loincloth led a nation to victory without violence.

We, the islanders, seem to be lucky to have courageous leaders at the hour of need. Nature seems to have favoured us with unique folks as a way of compensating our isolation from a landmass, who are simply unstoppable in reaching the noble goals set by a powerful conscience.

- Asian Tribune -

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