yes prime minister 

Pursue, then, the right course, as thou hast been bidden (by God), together with all who, with thee, have turned unto Him; and let none of you behave in an overweening manner: for, verily, He sees all that you do.

HUD (112)



History is a great leveller of politics as far as the assessment of a nation’s leaders is concerned. For this there can be no immediate KPIs or benchmarks to quantify the efficiency and effectiveness of the leadership. Or even subjective, qualitative judgements on a leader by the most learned citizens of the land – or foreign journalists for that matter.

The true measurement of a leader’s capabilities can only be fairly made against the perspective of the nation’s history; in relation to its multifarious socio-cultural, political and economic developments and when juxtaposed against the continuously evolving needs and demands of the people.

It is no truism that a leader inherits the context of his leadership and is eventually defined by it. His leadership attributes will be tested against the ongoing concerns of the nation, that is the people that constitute it. Even with the most dynamic of personal qualities and the most innovative of visions, a leader’s successes (or failures) will only be in direct correlation to the mood of the citizenry and how receptive they are to him.

It is also no truism that media and communication technology has accelerated to such an extent that the dissemination of information has become more extensive and intensive than the human mind can select and absorb at any one time. The modern leader has to answer to everything – facts and figures; arguments and argumentations; views and opinions; rumour and slander; even half-truths and lies – to ensure his credibility.

His mind, heart and soul are open books for all to read, and the leader in turn must be able to penetrate the deepest recesses of the national psyche to know what is expected of him.

Looking through the voluminous selection of writings on leadership, one can easily identify taxonomies of leadership attributes and their manifestations in spiritual, corporate, civil, community and government organisations. It is often enough said that a good leader must have integrity, inspire trust, show capability and demonstrate resilience in his conduct and behaviour. An inspiring leader must be visionary, innovative and creative in his ideas and approach. A dynamic leader must have the courage to rise to the occasion and above his people in the most trying of times. In other words he must be decisive and consistent but, at the same time, he must be prepared to learn and if necessary modify his approach to make it more relevant. A respected leader must earn the people’s trust by going to the ground and understanding their problems first hand.

But out of all this motivational maze, what has caught my attention is THE 21 MOST POWERFUL MINUTES IN A LEADER’S DAY (John C Maxwell, 2000). Based on the leadership principles exercised by biblical characters like Joseph, David and Moses and some of his more modern colleagues in the spiritual fraternity, Maxwell identifies the 21 Laws of Leadership to be applied in our daily lives.

Of course not all of us will be called upon to lead at whatever level but by internalising these principles we will be able to learn or sharpen leadership skills that will help us to grow in our personal, professional and spiritual life. Through knowing other people’s experiences we can attain a level of leadership abilities that best serves us in our own lives.

In emphasising the importance of integrity and consistency of character in determining a credible leader Maxwell quotes from Matthew 12:33-35,

… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his
heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.

What this means is that a credible leader is a man of his word. He sticks to his principles. When a leader stands firm on his convictions or executes his vision for his followers faithfully and concertedly, he will inspire confidence and respect for his leadership.

A leadership attribute which is not highlighted enough is teachability – “effective leaders are teachable – their eyes and ears are always open to learn more, and they embrace change as a catalyst for growth and improvement.”(Maxwell, p 162) By connecting with the people he leads, a leader establishes a relationship with them and is thus able to sympathise and empathise with them in a more genuine way. Maxwell calls this the equaliser or leveller in leadership. By being sincere, open and vulnerable the leader inspires trust, hope and encouragement. He learns from his people.

A crucial aspect of this networking is the inner circle of highly talented people that a leader nurtures and empowers, whom he can depend on to translate his vision and extend his influence. These must be people who are mirrors of himself in character and drive, people who have the competence and energy to perform with excellence, and who have the responsibility and loyalty to ensure his job is well done.

There’s no doubt that leadership at any level is a huge responsibility. The leadership of a nation is a calling and deserves nothing short of a spiritual commitment. Challenges and problems are as multifarious as the people that make up the nation.

Our country is seeing the beginnings of a new leadership under Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Abdul Razak, the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia. He is heading the government at a time when there is a new awareness of old concepts like democracy, equality, justice, rule of law and integrity. For too long these concepts have either existed at an ethereal, abstract level which were ill understood or if understood, were not transparent enough in their manifestations.

The gates of transparency opened by his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi are ajar and there’s no way of stopping the information flow to a citizenry who are much better educated and politically engaged. Local and global developments on all fronts which are accessible immediately on the new media have made them better informed. Universal benchmarks in justice and human rights and whatever else is considered relevant to the proper growth of societies and civilisations are impacting Malaysians as they have never done before. Changes and challenges worldwide are volatile and sometimes explosive.

It becomes all the more important that the leadership of the Malaysian nation is guided by a set of levelling principles that will see it through these trying times. But then – when has the leadership of a nation and of a people not been challenging?

As with his predecessors, only history will tell whether Dato’ Seri Najib has dealt with these challenges fairly and wisely and to the best of his ability!


3 Responses to “”

  1. May 13, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    UMNO/BN/Mahathir shd have read and digested this when they/he were busy leading the nation. but they/he was so unteachable werent/wasnt they/he? what a mess up they/he created. lets watch najib …..n hope for the best…

    Great write up!

  2. May 13, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Halimah I chkd. It causes me no risks but it doesnt link to my blog home page. I think when you type out the blog address into the add teh blog name space of wordpress u have to make sure u type the whole address starting from http://www.cherryonacake.blogspot.com

    I notice that ur other links have the same problem too…I tried clicking on them and they dont link to the respective blogs either.

    you can try clicking on ur link on my blog and hten click on my(or others) link on ur blog to see what I mean.

    If u have blogger I can easily send u the instructions but im nt familiar wth wordpress. 🙂

  3. May 16, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Politicians aside, the civil service is also known to squander $$. Poor financial planning ends up in year-end Christmas shopping!!

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