In order to determine who possesses the relevant characteristics to become a great political leader of our country readers are welcomed to unbiasedly fill the following chart and requested to make your own assessment
“Listening is appreciating others and it is the best way to build trust”. We all need to be recognised in some way. The easiest way to recognise someone is by listening to he or she and accepting the individual the way he/she is. A good political leader is able to see the world through the eyes of others. Listening helps us to understand different opinions and see the big picture.
This also helps us in leading people with different personalities and strengths towards achieving a common goal. Peter Drucker said, “ Listening is the most important skill a leader can master. It is the basis of many other leadership skills. However, it is a tough skill to master as it requires us to be more present, attentive, engaged, patient and flexible.
Listening means you are taking their perspective into account and truly considering what they have to say. If you are not a good listener, you will never be a good leader. What we lacked in our country in the past and especially today is that our leaders don’t like to listen, and the worst part is that the leader thinks “he is ok and others are not ok.”
With this pessimism, the leader slowly, but surely drags the citizens and the country towards a state of disarray. No longer are people in any country prepared to accept and respect a leader of that nature who does not listen and respect opinions of others. That type of leader will never be able to achieve prosperity as expected by the public. A leader should be able to prove himself by actions, not by arguments. Within this framework of reference, people of our country are eager to have a good leader who is a great listener.
"In this context Premadasa hasn’t lost the public confidence in him, but he is yet to prove it through his actions; may be in the future"
I, with great sense of responsibility, would like to cut the turf to the already aggrieved nation of Sri Lanka in instituting present opposition leader of the house Sajith Premadasa as the ‘greatest listener’, ever produced in recent times to be the national leader. He possesses numerous leadership traits despite the wrong perception created by selfish political vagabonds to bury the truth. Intellectuals and patriotic citizens have a responsibility to present the reality and the truth to the mislead public and create awareness among them.
Lombardi (2001) said: “Self-knowledge is the basis for character and character is the root of integrity and integrity provides the foundation for leadership.” This statement highlights the importance of knowledge, character, and integrity to become a good leader. He further goes on to state that leadership is the ability to direct people and more importantly to have those people to follow in that direction.
Top 5 Qualities of a Good Political Leader
Deciding which candidate to vote into office is simply a matter of party affiliation for many people. Others, however, cast their votes based on specific characteristics they look for in their candidate of choice. So what are the qualities or characteristics good political leader should possess? Here are the top 5 characteristics of some of the world’s most successful political leaders.
Being honest can sometimes be difficult because it makes individuals vulnerable. It reveals who we really are and discloses our mistakes; which gives others the opportunity to criticise or reject us openly. Honesty develops character and builds credibility and trust which form the foundation to evoke confidence and respect from those around you and in the case of political leaders, teammates and constituents. No one can question the Honesty of Premadasa as he has maintained an explicit good name during his political carrier to date. He is one among a handful of politicians in our country who has no allegations of corruption and malpractices against him and is free of court cases. This provides convincing evidence to prove his absolute honesty.
Compassion is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something to alleviate that suffering. While many see compassion as a weakness, true compassion is a characteristic that converts knowledge to wisdom. Good political leaders use compassion to see the needs of those he or she leads and to determine the course of action that would be of the greatest benefit to all those involved.
Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa was renowned as a ‘friend of the poor.’ Sajith Premadasa has inherited this imperial quality from his father and possesses an intrinsic sense to cater to the poor. He has proved it by action and provided over 65,000 houses to low income families and initiated 2500 villages when he was the minister in charge of housing and ‘Samurdhi’. This is a classic example of true compassion.
"Former President Ranasinghe Premadasa was renowned as a ‘friend of the poor.’ Sajith Premadasa has inherited this imperial quality from his father"
The word integrity is defined as ‘the adherence to moral and ethical principles; the soundness of moral character.’ It is a synonym for honesty and uprightness and is a vital characteristic for those in political leadership. Political leaders who possess integrity can be trusted because they never veer from inner values; even when it might benefit them to do so. A leader must have the trust of followers. The culprits and the uneducated have no place in Sajith’s group and it’s a clear indication of a moral character of a great leader. Positions and responsibilities are offered on merit to qualified personnel in the particular discipline and not based on friendship and relationships. This is the only way a country can be developed.This requires the highest standard of integrity.
Having confidence in a political leader is about having faith or belief that he or she will act in a right, proper, or effective way. A good political leader needs to be both confident in himself or herself as well as possess the ability to lead. Leaders who possess this quality inspire others, drawing on a level of trust which sparks the motivation to get others on board and get the job done. Confidence is the key tool to measure the success rate of people. Even to award the PhD the confidence level of the candidate and the subject is considered. To enter a child into a school, buy a vehicle or purchase any item confidence level is considered.
Confidence level in political leadership is an utmost important quality and if this is lost regaining it is unlikely. In this context Premadasa hasn’t lost the public confidence in him, but he is yet to prove it through his actions; may be in the future. Since independence and specifically, after 1977, all the political leaders failed at winning the confidence of the public mainly due to them being insincere and dishonest.
Flexibility for a political leader is about understanding the give and take aspects of politics, and the ability to find the common ground. Good politicians listen carefully to all angles presented and make sure not only to hear selected arguments that are presented. They’ll make sure to do what it takes to ensure that all parties involved reach a consensus. This characteristic allows political leaders to recognise setbacks and criticism and to learn from them and move forward. If any political leader cannot take criticism it amounts to a huge weakness and also suggests the person lacks political knowledge, education, character and confidence. It also underscores a reluctance on his part to accept his own mistakes, not being prepared to listen, learn and also respect other’s opinions. Such a person might be suffering from an inferiority complex. It is a mixture of physical abuse, mental abuse and even emotional abuse that contributes towards an inferiority complex. Fortunately, Premadasa does not belong to this category and has shown enough flexibility to qualify as a national leader.
"Sajith is one among a handful of politicians in our country who has no allegations of corruption and malpractices against him and is free of court cases"
Great Political Leaders
Great political leaders have all of these qualities and more. Each leader aspires to respect different views, analyse problems and identify the best solutions; with such people decision making is not based on loyalty to a political party, but is rather based on what is good and right and in the best interest of the nation.
Priorities of a political leader
The first priority of a political leader should be to serve one’s country and not just oneself. Despite the fact that politics can be competitive and at times dirty, a good leader should align his activities with what is best for the country; strictly committing to “country before self”. Hence, a political leader should be able to make unpopular decisions if necessary in the best interest of the nation. To state differently, a leader must be patriotic.
Secondly, a leader should know experts in specific fields and who can be trusted. Most importantly a leader should know when it is better to trust an expert and when it is necessary to do one’s own investigations. A leader should have the right skills to take appropriate and timely decisions based on good judgment. A leader must act unbiased.
Thirdly, a political leader should know the strengths and more importantly the weaknesses of democracy. Yet one should respect and listen to his followers in leading them and promote shared responsibility and team-work.
Fourthly, a political leader should possess commonsense and be knowledgeable about history, not only of one’s own country, but also of other important countries. A leader should have not only a basic knowledge of past events and should know much more than an average citizen. He should be aware of global politics and analyse how they will affect his own country.
Finally, a political leader should have a team comprising highly qualified professionals as advisors; not friends and relatives. The same ruling will apply when awarding higher and national responsibilities. He must always think of common good and not personal benefit.
PROFILE OF SAJITH PREMADASA
Premadasa is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, the President of Sri Lanka (1989 – 1993). He was educated at Royal College, Colombo and Mill Hill School before entering London School of Economics. He was doing his postgraduate studies at the University of Maryland when his father was assassinated in 1993. He returned to Sri Lanka and entered politics, representing the Hambantota District, having joined the United National Party. He was elected to parliament in 2000 and was appointed Deputy Minister of Health in 2001, serving until 2004.
He was appointed as Deputy Leader of the United National Party in 2011 and was appointed as Cabinet Minister of Housing and Samurdhi in President Sirisena’s National Government in 2015. He contested the 2019 Presidential Elections in November 2019 as the Presidential candidate from United National Front, in which he polled the second highest number of votes. In December 2019 he was appointed as the Leader of the Opposition and a member of the Constitutional Council (Sri Lanka). On 30 January 2020, he was selected as the leader (hence Prime Ministerial candidate) of a new UNP lead alliance.
Early life and education
Premadasa was schooled at St.Thomas Preparatory College and Royal College. He sat for his Ordinary (O/L) and Advance Level (A/L) examination at Mill Hill School, London. Premadasa won the A/L prize for politics and business studies and besides being appointed a prefect, also played for the First XI cricket team for four years; captaining the side in 1986. A graduate of the London School of Economics (LSE) and of the University of London, his degrees cover the areas of economics, politics and international relations. He received an education that served him in good stead; largely when he launched himself as a politician at the grassroots level. He interned in the Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Larry Pressler, a Republican from South Dakota. Premadasa met many other influential senators, including John McCain and former presidential candidate John Kerry. Whilst completing his master’s degree in the United States he had to return to Sri Lanka following his father’s death.
Early political career
Premadasa entered Sri Lankan politics after the assassination of his father in 1993. Having joined his father’s party, the United National Party, he was appointed district organiser of the UNP for Hambantota District in 1994. There he launched several projects for poverty alleviation and housing development. He initiated the youth movement Tharuna Saviya; the People Development Foundation Jana Suwaya for poverty alleviation in Hambantota; and the Sasunata Aruna to aid Buddhist temples and Sunday schools in line with the 2600 Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi celebrations.
It was from the Hambantota district that he contested the 2000 General Election and entered parliament; gaining 83 percent of the UNP preferential votes. He won 82 percent of the preferential votes in the 2001 general election, 84 percent in the 2004 General Election, 89 percent in 2010 General Election and 86% in 2015 General Election.
Party leadership and Leader of the opposition
During four General Elections in a row Premadasa won the highest percentage of preferential votes out of all United National Party candidates, which was just under 90 per cent of United National Party votes in the Hambantota Electoral District. Premadasa was elected as the deputy leader of the United National Party in 2011 and then removed from the position in 2013. However he was reappointed on 24 September 2014. On December 5, 2019 he was nominated as the Leader of the Opposition on January 3, 2020.
SELECTING THE MOST SUITED POLITICAL LEADER
While successful leaders may exhibit all these leadership characteristics to varying degrees, all good leaders leverage at least some — or most — of these characteristics. Together, they make up the backbone of leadership across leader levels including political arena. A Leader possessing honesty together with many of the above leadership qualities is the secret for success in many developed countries. Without these skills, having true leadership is unthinkable.
Now, one can make your self-assessment to select the most qualified political leadership of our country. Finally the candidate who scores the highest number of points should logically be better than the others.
“The good news, to relieve all this gloom, is that a democracy is inherently self-correcting. Here, the people are sovereign. Incept political leaders can be replaced. Foolish policies can be changed. Disastrous mistakes can be reversed.” –Theodore C. Sorensen
(Major General Dr. Boniface Perera RWP,RSP,USP,Ndu,Psc,DPM,PhD) is presently working as an international researcher and an international writer. He was the former Security Forces Commander Eastern Province and Wanni region. Comments and criticisms are welcome and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)