COMMENT: Pakistan’s leadership dilemma —Tammy Swofford - Friday, April 22, 2011

Leadership, on a most basic level, examines the condition of the human flock residing within the boundaries of the state. True leadership is armed with workable plans, the ability to leverage capabilities, and the appropriate level of influence to sway decision making capable peers into action 

Christian von Ehrenfels is considered one of the primary architects and founders of modern structural ‘gestalt psychology’. His son, Dr Umar Ehrenfels, believed individual philosophies created chaotic societies. In my files is a quote attributed to G A Parwez: “Islam is not a religion. It is a code of life, a system of living. Islam is about the nation of a community. It presupposes the existence of a state.” This is a classic and succinct definition of the Arabic word deen and somewhat shadows the thought of Dr Ehrenfels. Within my own studies of Islam, there has been rapid movement away from Islam as a religion toward Islam as governance. But it was in 2009 that my writing began to identify Islam as a gestalt. The definition provides the necessary framework for my research.

Gestalt: a physical, biological, psychological, or symbolic configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.

As a member of the Christian faith, my life is fairly simple and uncomplicated. It is the law of love that prevails. Islam is different. Islam has more rules than Solomon had wives and an abundance of nuances in application of principles within Muslim-majority nations. Whilst understanding the sentiment of Dr Ehrenfels regarding the beauty of a solid societal stance as a boundary against chaos, reality is always a bit messier and in actuality more challenging and enjoyable. What plays out nicely in the head and within the halls of academia provides for the cocoon-like environment that is dear to the heart of lofty thinkers. They are not the risk-takers but the dreamers in society. The rest of us must hit the streets gripped with a sense of purpose but also a vast reserve of humour, which understands the human condition.

Society does require basic rules as secure scaffolding for communal survival. But strong leadership notes the individual philosophies that play out in communities, harvests the best of the thoughts, and brings consensus to the mass, which produces their agreeability to the rule of law.

Power can be held in the hands of fools. The Roman Emperor Nero was a fool supported by the state structure until his political sins reached an intolerable level. He surpassed the dynastic allowances for stupidity and death appeared as the blade of a dagger, which Nero thrust into his own throat in cowardly fashion. Thankfully, all such fools eventually meet their deserved fate albeit not before causing tremendous distress for their citizens. Authority can issue from delegation or appointment. It can also issue from the will of the people as expressed with a vote at the polls. But influence, coupled with personal integrity, seems the scarcest of gifts within many of the Muslim-majority regions today. The politics of power is the order of the day. Where is the leadership that inspires?

Dr Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, PhD, is a close professional colleague with whom I frequently discuss my concerns for the Muslim community. This week he sent along a chapter from The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal, which related to our current discussion. A leadership issue played out with the following counsel, “....and measure the people by the weakest among them. Remember that among them are the old men, the youth, the weak and the deprived” (The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Translated from the 8th Edition by Isma’il Ragi al-Faruqi, New Crescent Publishing Co, page 460).

Leadership, on a most basic level, examines the condition of the human flock residing within the boundaries of the state. Citizens are the strength of the state but they are also the vulnerability of the state when not receiving proper care. True leadership is armed with workable plans, the ability to leverage capabilities, and the appropriate level of influence to sway decision making capable peers into action. Leadership is not expressed in numerical fashion by the number of meetings attended. In the United States we have attempted to move away from the dreaded ‘death by meeting’ model of business. Leadership moves in exponential fashion, which networks, coordinates, leverages and manages all available assets and talent pools for the good of the state. True leaders develop contingency plans, workable algorithms, coordinate mutual aid compacts between agencies and make command decisions in minutes, not hours or days. These capabilities lie with leaders who think in pre-emptive manner regarding anything and everything that may potentially assail the nation and harm the citizen.

In a sense, the ultimate influential leader also presents as the ultimate predator. He is predatory in establishing his social network, predatory regarding policy and predatory toward his personal habits when character deficiencies are noted. The best leaders do not present as golden-throated nightingales. They have the look and the feel of a panther. They move in a silent manner surveying the landscape and none dare to doubt the nature of their power should they choose to use it. True leaders do not have the look of seduction. They inspire that slight tingle of awe and fear. Their bearing and manner of living offer up the ‘best friend and worst enemy’ paradigm. Love, respect and fear are companionable and do not necessarily work at cross-purposes when residing in the frame of a mature leader.

Power alone ultimately exhibits with an iron fist. Delegated authority moves in limited linear fashion unless it is the authority invested in the head of state. But true leadership influence is propagated in an exponential manner. When the grip is firm and the eye clear, influence is the gift of God given to the sons of men. Pakistan presents the complexity of the Islamic gestalt with the added burden of tensions between the sects, the shared border with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran, and the inherent responsibilities of a nuclear state. Influential leadership will steer Pakistan’s future course. May the best of leadership make their way to the front of the line.

The writer is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves. She is a Nurse Corps officer who resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has written articles and book reviews for the Marine Corps Gazette, and Op-Ed commentary for the Dallas Morning News

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