THE Quaid-e-Azam was one of the greatest leaders from South Asia who received universal acceptance and accolades for his indomitable spirit and unparalleled leadership qualities. He had his very own, unique, distinct and signature style of leadership that is now studied by historians, leadership gurus, and experts around the world. It was a leadership style that resulted in the creation of a nation-state. It captured the imagination of Muslims across the subcontinent, and dwarfed personalities that were giants in their own right.
While the historians, leadership gurus, and experts worldwide try to analyse Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s leadership style, we find it good enough to pay lip service to it every now and then. Have we learnt anything ourselves? More critically, perhaps, have the young among us paid enough attention to the Quaid and his leadership attributes? Talking of the national youth, the population aged less than 35 years comprises a healthy 60 per cent, or about 110-140 million people. This is what we call the youth bulge, and often take pride in being a ‘young’ nation with a future to look forward to. Do we have a plan to effectively use this energy-charged human resource? The answer, as is the case with most other critical questions, is a sad, almost tragic, no. Nothing of significance, for sure.
Talking with young professionals in the corporate sector about the Quaid and his ideals, one often ends up with what at best can be called a combination of surprise and hope. The ‘surprise’ part relates to attempts by some who try to justify that those ‘ideals and virtues’ are outdated and not applicable to the modern scenario since, in their words, they would have failed had they tried to follow that path. The ‘hope’ part relates to one’s courage to believe that thoughts and actions of the young would not get more dismal than they already are.
The Quaid was a rock of Gibraltar, with no susceptibility to the temptation of power, pelf or acquisition of wealth. With the passing away of the generation of freedom fighters, the nascent country was left to deal with not just political and economic woes, but also the decline in societal standards.
Those striving to make it big in the corporate sector would do well to at least try to follow the success template that the Quaid used all his life.
To summarise the traits of the Quaid’s leadership style, one has to limit oneself to the cardinal elements that defined him as a leader. These included unwavering integrity, honesty of purpose, skills and competence, single-minded focus, patience, unflinching commitment, faith in his mission, and the ability to achieve and maintain the discipline of the highest order.
These are character traits. What we see around the corporate world today, especially among the young professionals, are personality traits, not character traits. The former includes confidence, communication skills, fluency, stubbornness camouflaged as perseverance, unfounded ambition, sense of dressing, etc. The irony is that with these kinds of traits, there is little margin of attaining the level of success that the Quaid achieved. Sadly, form has taken over substance. Everlasting legacies are a product of character and vision.
Some aspects of the Quaid’s leadership persona that the young professionals need to share and adopt are discussed below:
SELF-BELIEF: The first step in undertaking a task towards completion is one’s own belief in it. Quaid always had this quality ingrained in him. Knowing what you want for yourself is the first layer of having a successful business settled down. While the political forces of India were still rumbling in a jungle of ideas, Jinnah knew that the demand for a separate nation was the only way forward to receive any kind of concessions from the British and the Congress alike.
Today’s corporate leaders pursue a task not necessarily because they believe in it, but because they are bound to follow the race to be the ‘number one’; whatever it might mean. In doing so, the outcome remains lacklustre. Keeping in line with the Quaid’s teachings, self-belief is a natural instinct. Professionally, all our goals become achievable if the pursuit for the same is backed by a self-belief that what we are doing is right and we can achieve it if we dedicate ourselves to something we truly believe in.
In doing so, conviction is an automatic outcome and takes on board many others who keep to the fences waiting to follow. It was the Quaid’s self-belief that a new country can be created and this changed the tracks of destiny for many as Pakistan came into being.
ECONOMIC FORESIGHT: Quaid’s farsightedness was unmatchable in all aspects of life. The contrast can be seen in today’s Islamic banking industry where our young corporate leaders are pressed to innovate new Shariah-compliant products, but unfortunately end up having to do with mere replicas of conventional products. Quaid was far-sighted with excellent economic and banking sense. He knew that economic deprivation is the worst ailment that can embroil nations’ masses into difficult terrains. Therefore, he always stressed the need for a balanced economic system.
Long before we started talking about Islamic banking and, indeed, of a Muslims welfare state, the Quaid had sown the seeds in his first speech at the State Bank of Pakistan’s inauguration on July 1, 1948, when he said: “I shall watch with keenness the work of your research organisation in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideas of social and economic life. The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many of us, it appears that only a miracle can save it from the disaster that is not facing the world. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating happy and contented people.
“We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind.”
CRISP AND CONCISE: People take ages to write one section on law, let alone writing a whole new constitution. For most of our leaders today, it might take a century. The Quaid was clear-headed, crisp and concise in communication; his 14-point charter being the most concise piece of reforms within a constitution that has no match in history.
All the points are reader-friendly and easily understood. This shows that he was connected to his people and, therefore, could write on the most complex subjects in very easy terms to bring in absolute clarity.
Our leaders in the corporate sector and in parliament need to follow the simple principle that what is for the masses to follow has to be put in the simplest of terms. This can only be done once we have comprehensive and thorough command over the subject.
RESILIENT AND NEGOTIABLE: This is a quality which, if emulated by all corporate leaders, will leave nothing incomplete. As the Quaid used to say; “I do not believe in taking a right decision — I take a decision and make it right”.
Whilst many veterans of the freedom movement accomplished much less in years by beating around the bush with practically hackneyed ideals, Jinnah was able to shoot straight at the bull’s eye with relevant, smart and historically tested social objectives that enabled him to achieve much more success in the same, if not shorter, time span. The young in the corporate sector can take their cue, and produce poignant beats for their workflow.
HUMANE AND TRUTHFUL: This aspect of his life made him a real ‘Quaid’. Young leaders in the modern world fall victim to jargons and clichés, like the ‘survival of the fittest’. If we were to learn from Quaid’s teachings, our slogan would be ‘enablement of all to survive and coexist’. Just as Jinnah’s subject matter always drew its credibility from facts and the practical implications resulting from them, the millennials in the corporate sector can fuel up their arguments with the truth and nothing but.
WILLINGNESS TO LEARN: While willingness to learn and to absorb pertains to soft skills, which, according to famous researches, tend to make up more than 80 per cent of a person’s success, the remaining 20 per cent comes from theoretical and philosophical knowledge perhaps, without which the rest of the 80 per cent, no matter its proportion, may become redundant. Therefore, it is indispensable for a successful man to be well-read. In this regard, Jinnah’s rich knowledge bank — from Shakespearean literature to social philosophy and thought — needs no introduction.
POSTURE AND ATTIRE: While Jinnah never let his ego be hurt by personal criticism, he knew that an appealing way of getting your way in a room was to have a sharp image. Thus, he was always smartly dressed. The young in the corporate sector can do themselves a lot of good by doing the same.
The opposition is always scrutinising your personality to find any weaknesses within you, other than the subject matter of the discussion. By being smartly dressed, a person can lay down a convincing and solid foundation that instantly averts intimidation.
The youthful population has failed miserably in adopting and adhering to the many brilliant qualities, traits and characteristics of the beloved Quaid. The elders cannot shirk their complicity, either by participation or by maintaining silence in this regard, but, regardless of the reasons, it is the youth that has to take care of itself and of the country.
Corruption, deceit and misuse of public money are not only rampant, but sadly are not even abhorred. What was considered unacceptable has become the hallmark of gaining respect in society. The more corrupt one is, the greater is the sphere of influence. In doing so, there is glamour; no remorse. The misuse of public office held is undertaken and shown glaringly on screens day in and day out because the misuse has become the sine qua non of the power at one’s command. It has acquired the status of general acceptability.
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s leadership legacy is easy to talk about, but very difficult to live by it as it demands sacrifice … the sacrifice of now and self for a collective future … a future based on dreams that a leader envisions for all.
The young professionals today need to reflect upon, understand and adopt the Quaid’s leadership traits by developing an impeccable character that is never compromised whatever the cost. Anything less than that will be a perfect recipe for a run-of-the-mill life even if you have more money to show for it.
Sustainable success is a product of exemplary discipline and absolute passion. There is so much to emulate for youth from the life and legend of Jinnah. The youth needs to appreciate what flows out as success is a natural outcome of an impeccable character and not any shortcuts. However, the youth also needs to appreciate that success comes after going through the mill, and not overnight. Success is a result of an evolutionary approach, and not a revolution.
The writer is a banker and a freelance contributor.