Home

ISLAMIC MEDICAL EDUCATION RESOURCES 04

0606-LEADERSHIP: BASIC CHARACTERISTICS, ATTRIBUTES, and FUNCTIONS

Lecture to 5th year medical students at the Kulliyah of Medicine International Islamic University, Kuantan, Malaysia on 15th June 2006 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule MB ChB(MUK), MPH (Harvard), DrPH (Harvard) Professor of Epidemiology and Islamic Medicine, Institute of Medicine Universiti Brunei Darussalam omarkasule@yahoo.com

1.0 BASIC CHARACTERISTICS

1.1 LEADERSHIP

Leadership is influencing people to do certain things or to move in a certain direction. Leadership can be learned. Good leaders persuade and do not rely on command, fear, or authority. They serve and do not dominate. They use leadership power to improve and make a change. They pull and do not push. They empower followers by coaching and delegation. Good leaders rely on personal power (character, expertise, charisma, and personal relations) more than positional power (formal authority, decisions, rewards, punishments, information, and organizational resources). Leadership credibility is based on competence, character, self-confidence, activity and drive, boldness and assertiveness. Leadership is a necessity and its absence means chaos. Good leadership leads to success; bad leadership leads to frustration and failure. One of the harbingers of doom is to place leadership authority in the wrong hands.

 

1.2 LEADERS

Leadership is exercised by almost everybody. Its effectiveness is increased by formal training or job experience. Its success depends on follower consent. Leaders face problems of loneliness, taking responsibility for failures, follower problems (disloyalty, poor values, dissent), external threats, and lack of privacy. A leader as a human has strengths and weaknesses. Leaders can be autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. They can be transactional, transformational, or charismatic. They can be task oriented or people-oriented. The appropriate style of leadership is determined by the situation on the ground. Some situations require combinations of leadership styles. Management and leadership skills and functions are different but are found in an individual in varying proportions. Leadership is about effectiveness, intuition, long-term vision, change, challenging the status quo, innovation, development, originality, and motivation of others. Management is about rational problem-solving, efficiency, process and mechanics, stability, harmony, status quo, short-term view, following and not innovating.

 

1.3 FOLLOWERS

Followers are described as lazy or hardworking, taking or shunning responsibility, 'yes people' following whatever is moving, survivors avoiding trouble, alienated and do not caring, and obedient or rebellious. Followers differ in intelligence, education, experience, honesty, respect for leaders, and gratitude. Followers are part of leadership situation, they play an important function in a leadership situation, and are not passive spectators. Books of history ignore follower. Followers close to the leader can guide or misguide him. The duties of the followers to the leader are obedience, respect, advice and correction, feedback, and loyalty. Leader must rely on the followers and make them know they are trusted and are valued. A good leader discourages false praise by followers and development of a personality cult.

 

1.4 FUNCTIONS & ACTIVITIES OF LEADERS

A leader may play one of the following roles/functions: clarification of vision, goals, and objectives; making decisions and solving problems; strategic and tactical planning; training; coordinating and integration; representation the organization; managing and resolving conflicts; motivation of followers; assigning tasks; maintaining positive and smooth working relationships; participation and not being aloof; evaluation of self and of followers; forming groups, coaching them and delegating responsibility to them; and communication (the most important function of leadership).

 

1.5 FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP

A leader fails due to several often inter-related causes: refusal to admit mistakes; feeling indispensable; dictatorship; fear for position and not developing replacements; disloyalty to superiors, peers, followers and the organization; lack of creativity; lack of common sense; lack of human skills; failure to produce results; following the crowd and not leading; condoning or tolerating incompetence; failure to recognize and reward good work, and hatred by the followers. A leader is hated for impersonal behavior, not listening to followers, self importance, wrong decisions, claiming credit for followers' work, blaming followers for his mistakes, secretiveness, withholding information, not protecting followers from external attacks and criticizing them in public, not consulting followers, and over-working followers, being arrogant and feeling indispensable, putting people down, mistrust and disloyalty, inaccessibility, poor human relations, and following the crowd. A leader hated by followers should resign in the interests of the organization.

 

2.0 LEADERS: ATTRIBUTES and SKILLS

2.1 ATTRIBUTES OF LEADERS

Most leadership personal attributes and skills (conceptual, practical, and human) can be learned. Personal attributes are character and personality. Conceptual skills are intellectual functions (analytic, rational, and intuitive) needed for planning, coordination and integration of activities. Practical skills are needed for technical performance. Human skills are needed to understand and motivate followers. Allah gives authority to whomever He wants among many qualified for leadership. Since not everybody can become a leader, everybody must be prepared to be a good follower. The best leaders have no ambition to lead, they lead when called upon but will equally be happy as followers. Effective leaders monitor and learn from the environment, benefit from opportunities, and avoid dangers. They time actions and interventions for maximum impact and advantage. They have positive attitudes (derived from right ideas) and moral values (derived from tauhid, khilafat, and ‘adl). Optimism and good behavior reflect a positive attitude. Pessimism, racism, and prejudice reflect negative attitudes. Leaders differ from non-leaders in drive, motivation, honesty, integrity, self-confidence, emotional stability, and intelligence. Drive includes desire for achievement, high ambition, high energy levels, tenacity and initiative. Successful leaders are motivation to lead, to take charge, to make a change, to improve, to influence, and to exercise power for achieving goals. A leader must have a strong personality, mental and physical stamina, and aptitude to take responsibility and to be accountable. Strength of personality is not violence, roughness or stubbornness. It is strength of character, sticking to moral values and attitudes, avoiding the immoral even if expedient and attractive. A leader must be brave so that the followers are firm and reassured in a crisis or danger. He must be objective and not confuse personal and organizational interests. He focuses on the organization, credits his work to the organization, does not overestimate his importance as an individual, and discourages development of a personality cult. He must have a healthy mixture of confidence (for the organization) and humility (for himself). He must have a dignified physical appearance without extravagance. He must accept and learn from previous mistakes, live a simple life away from extravagance, and not distinguish himself from the followers.  He must be hinest even in small matters, have financial integrity and transparency, and avoid any appearance of impropriety.

 

2.2 CONCEPTUAL SKILLS OF LEADERS

The conceptual skills are vision, setting goals, prudence, knowledge, and commitment. Leaders see far, have a broad view, are ummatic and not parochial. They see local issues from a holistic ummatic context but they use local solutions for local problems. They accept diversity, get consensus on strategic issues, set goals, avoid speculation, and balance risk with caution. They acquire basic knowledge but rely on others for specialized knowledge. They are committed to the organization (vision and values) and the followers. They fulfil promises and are committed to carrying out decisions. They are flexible in changing strategy and tactics when necessary but they remain committed to the permanent values of the organisation. Part of the leader’s commitment is to lead for no personal gain or ambition seeking leadership.

 

2.3 PRACTICAL SKILLS of LEADERS

The main practical skills of leaders are communication, decision making, planning and execution, team leadership, motivation, conflict resolution, and maintaining relations. Communication conveys vision and plans to the followers. Leadership fails if communication fails. Failure to make correct decisions on time or solving problems timely leads to leadership failure. Managerial functions are planning, setting goals & objectives, and evaluation. Leaders form and lead work groups. They coordinate their work and allocate tasks.

 

2.4 HUMAN SKILLS of LEADERS

Good leaders show concern, respect, and consideration for followers. They understand those below them as unique individuals to de dealt with in an individualized way. They have a firm belief in people. They have compassion and empathy. They have high consideration for others. They have no pride and are like their followers not seeking to be different from or superior to them. They are lenient and forgiving. They treat their followers well. They protect the followers from both physical and emotional hurt. They represent followers and their interests in front of others.

 

3.0 DISEASES OF LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS

3.1 BACKGROUND OF LEADERSHIP DISEASES

Leaders and followers have diseases. The diseases could co-exist alongside good attributes. Some bad leaders are actually psychologically sick: sadists, megalomaniacs, jealous, immature, or psychopathic personalities. Some have deviant values.

 

3.2 DISEASES OF LEADERS IN THE QUR’AN and SUNNAT

The Qur’an has told stories of bad leaders from which we learn a lot about leadership diseases. Examples of bad leaders are Fir’aun, Nimrod, Dhu al Nuwaas, and others.

 

3.3 DISEASES THAT MANIFEST IN THE PERSON

Disease related to the personality of the leader are pride and vanity, petty-mindedness, uncompensated weaknesses, ignorance, and lack of creativity.

 

3.4 DISEASES THAT MANIFEST IN DEALING WITH FOLLOWERS

Diseases that manifest in dealing with followers include seeking excessive veneration, oppression and injustice, manipulation, dishonesty, seeking false reputation, and abandoning followers

 

3.5 DISEASES OF FOLLOWERS:

Diseases of followers include hypocrisy, insincerity, bad advice for leaders, disloyalty, and flattery.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. June 2006