Reading newspapers fuels my thoughts and perusing pictures catches my eye! My first question then is WHY? Why can’t our leaders be ‘real leaders’ like most of them in every other part of the world? Memory takes me back to a particular picture of the then President Obama and Laotian President Vorachit inspecting a guard of honour holding their own umbrellas. Yes, there were no sycophants or military guards rushing to hold their umbrellas; no, they were holding their own! One look at the picture and you instinctively said “there goes a man!”If this happened in Sri Lanka, there would have been dozens fighting for the chance to hold those umbrellas. Savvy executives know the part; they don’t just ‘play’ the part, instead they exude an intrinsic presence and aura of leadership.
Leaders act without formal positions
Leadership in a fractured world today is a complex issue. Traditional leadership like ours relies on prominence - look at me! Dominance – listen to me! Follow me, wait on me! These don’t work anymore. Our leaders must realise that true leaders act without formal positions; they mobilise diverse factions in facing realities; participate in interdependent problem-solving and contribute to innovative solutions with focus and speed.
Owning up to one’s mistakes
True leaders must not be waited on or expect people to wait on them. They should neither be afraid to admit their mistakes nor to cross boundaries. They should transcend boundaries and build bridges. True leadership is not a job, it is not a title; it is not even descriptive; it is simply ingrained in YOU! It is what you telegraph to others about your abilities. It is not whether you hit the numbers or deliver the goods, it is whether you signal to the world you are leadership material; that you have what it takes and that you are ready for the next big challenge.
Building consensus through participation
The late and great Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. You must be the change you want to see in the world. Always aim at complete harmony of thought, word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. Hate the sin, love the sinner. A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it. Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” How can the people of this country look for peace and reconciliation when leaders themselves are not strong; when they are too weak to forgive, like our marvelous president? True leaders must be coercive, demanding immediate compliance and mobilising their people toward their vision. They should be capable of creating bonds and harmony, not vilifying but by building consensus through participation; setting the pace by being the change they want to be for the country, guiding and helping the people to alter the course of our present sad status to a better tomorrow for our country. Our leaders should look toward ironing out differences arising out of national priorities and working in mutually-responsible ways for the betterment of the country.
Economic downturn and extravagance
Today, we have to only look at our newspapers to realise the destitution our country is in. Newspaper headlines and stories are not just horrific but mind-boggling. There is so much contention among the different party members themselves, such an incredible amount of accusations being flung around whether it is drug dealing accusations, party politics; the sorry state of the economy, the equally high prices that we, as working people, are expected to pay. Posh shopping malls are being opened all over and the astronomical prices in these places are far beyond what an average wage earner can afford to pay. A long cotton dress is priced at Rs. 5,500 while a silk one is ONLY 9,500. People can hardly afford to eat, never mind spending a fortune on clothes. Looking at it realistically, it is a cause and effect situation – people have to pay astronomical rents for a shop or a small eatery in these luxury malls, so how can they afford to pay unless they jack up the prices of the goods they market in order to pay these astronomical rents? Most of the time, you see people just wandering around looking; either to see or be seen. The food courts are equally expensive, so other than wandering around in the luxury of air-conditioned comfort, there is nothing to buy.
Apart from the above drama, we have to also contend with TRUE LIFE DRAMA – our president, ministers and legal eagles are so concerned over DRUG LORDS, MURDERERS AND PEOPLE TRAFFICKING IN PROSTITUTION AND OTHER CRIMES, who have been caught that they are sending lawyers and asking our Consulate in Dubai to intercede on their behalf. When that poor young maid Rizana was caught and put in jail for accidentally dropping a baby, no one bothered, no one cared. Even the Dubai authorities promised to release her but she was beheaded instead. The price of HUMANITY IS MONEY – MONEY IS CERTAINLY TALKING IN THE CURRENT MADUSH CASE.
The poor struggling to make ends meet
If, as our president says, 16-17% of Sri Lankans remain undernourished, who do we have to blame for it? Gladly, however, this percentage is not correct, but again we ask, who do we have to blame? Who is interested in the welfare of the common man; the poor man struggling to make ends meet? We are told that the poor estate worker is to be given a princely sum of Rs.50 with daily wages. I guess these people have to touch their heads to the ground, smile and be happy with this merciful increment! Is it any wonder then that the suicide rate in our country is increasing by the day? Another terrible happening is the accident rate; almost parallel to that of the suicide rate. It was certainly a relief to note in one newspaper that fines are to be increased in the case of accidents. Someone has got a conscience.
We can only hope that one day our leaders will acknowledge that true humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself but thinking more of others; of making yourself a leader worth following!