Maswood Alam Khan
Our leadership aptitude, for instance, determines whether or not our kids do their homework, and how well they fare in their schools; how soundly we negotiate a deal; how effectively we communicate with people we do business with; how we develop mutually supportive and sustaining relationships, how much energy we can muster to motivate ourselves to take action to live our productive and purposeful lives and, most importantly, how a leader can navigate his or her people to attain peace, progress and prosperity for the entire nation. Leadership is what helps us move people, including ourselves, into action.
John Maxwell in his book “Leadership: Promises for Every Day” wrote: “Family and friends need leaders who model purpose-driven lives. Children need leaders who help them reach their potential. Churches need leaders who chart the course and equip the saints. Businesses need leaders who will build great places to work while making a profit. Communities need leaders who create a better place to live.”
Leaders are still there in the families and friends. Parents are still playing their leadership roles in helping their children reach their potentials. Leaders are still there in churches, mosques and temples to guide the God-fearing people. But, leaders in the business world—from micro level to macro level—and leaders in societies—from the community levels to the state levels—are there not to create businesses based on ethics and not to create a better place for people to live in peace, but to exploit the poor for making profit for the rich few and to create a place for themselves to generate personal power and fortunes at the expense of the weak and the poor.
People elect their representatives. But the elected representatives find themselves helpless in the games of politics of the invisible powers, at home and abroad.
Could the revolution in Tahrir Square be successful without foreign intervention? In Egypt, after all the tumults of a revolution, nobody knows yet where the real leadership is being exercised. It is not yet certain whether Egyptian military will ultimately relinquish its authority and let the civilians choose their elected leaders to run the country democratically. It all depends on the invisible leadership outside the Egyptian boundary what the shape of Egyptian dispensation would ultimately be like: a true democracy or a military autocracy with a veneer of democracy.
In Syria, the revolutionaries are not as fortunate as those in Egypt and Libya. The Syrian revolutionaries may declare their occupancy of whole Syria but may never liberate the country from the clutch of rulers who are blessed by the invisible leadership outside the Syrian boundary.
In Bangladesh, like in a country veneered with democracy, leadership has become dubious, too. Bangladeshis believed that the chief of the last caretaker government was a civilian. Alas! They found out that the actual leadership was in fact in the invisible hands of some people wearing non-civilian uniforms. Some analysts even believe the actual leadership was rather in the hands of some invisible powers beyond the boundary of Bangladesh.
The quality of leadership at all levels, from the levels of family and friends to that of religion and state, has deteriorated so much that the present-day world’s number one crisis concerns leadership. And leadership crisis is at its worst particularly in two vital areas where lie the main sources of power and greed: business and politics.
People have been so frustrated with their leaders that they are desperate to find a substitution for the conventional leadership, giving way to a new phenomenon of ‘leaderless leadership’ on the strength of social unity fuelled by social networking, thanks to internet that seems poised to give birth to a kind of virtual and ethereal leadership.
There was a time when people were encouraged by visible leaders to serve and things at those times in the distant past would definitely turn from good to better to best. But, time has changed and gone are those days when the societies were led by leaders like Abraham Lincoln. Those leaders were aware of their influences on their followers. Their leadership was a service not only to their own nation, their leadership qualities were also golden examples for the whole mankind.
People all over the world are of late tired in their quest for finding their right leaders. They are now trying to take the leadership into their own hands, dreaming for a just society under virtual leadership. Directed against economic and social inequality, the Occupy Wall Street, OWS in short, thus emerged as a leaderless resistance movement with people of varied political backgrounds, irrespective of colours, genders, and nationalities. Inspired by the Tahrir Square movement that had overthrown Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak the “Occupy Wall Street” movement began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park. By now the occupy movement has spread in hundreds of communities, cities and countries all over the world.
The participants in the OWS movement have one thing in common: They are the unsuccessful 99 per cent — the poor, and they are determined no longer to tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1.0 per cent exploiters — the rich. It refers to the concentration of wealth among the top 1.0 per cent of income earners compared to the other 99 per cent. They have been using the Arab Spring tactic to achieve their ends through non-violence. Their peaceful movement, they claim, empowers real people to create real change from the bottom up. They want to see a revolution in the concept of distribution of wealth; they want to see a general assembly in every backyard, on every street corner because they don’t need Wall Street and they don’t need politicians to build a better society. By October 2011, there were about 2,300 occupied zones around 2,000 cities worldwide. Has OWS succeeded? No.
Occupiers got together to reclaim social justice and fairness by empowering themselves as united protesters. Fine! But their messages were unclear and not heard aloud. They are literally protesters who are protesting because they are angry, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut agenda to make any concrete changes in the present economic system, except for mere protesting inequality. Their messages didn’t resonate with a significant portion of our society, due to lack of coherence or limited capability of individuals to form their collective rationality. Plus, there was no martyr in the occupy movement. Nothing keeps a movement alive and energises like martyrs. Martyrs get the fence sitters off the fence and in the streets. So, OSW seems to have fizzled out.
We no more live in the same world that saw many movements succeed in the past. Ours is a world of invisible leadership. When a bunch of angry protesters were sleeping in tents on the streets of New York the world’s most powerful business men and politicians were working in ivory towers and going home to their mansions. The news media were also nonchalant to OSW.
The OSW protesters needed to eat and to eat they needed to have food, and to have food they needed to have money, and to have money they needed an income, to have an income they needed a job. Eventually the numbers of jobless protesters dropped and the movement lost its momentum. After all, only the invisible leaders they were fighting against could provide them with the jobs they needed to continue the movement. They are in the vicious circle where they need help from the same people who feed them before slowly killing them.
Who will make the OSW activists understand that there cannot be any follower, when everybody is a leader? And when there is no follower, there cannot be any organised mass movement? And in the absence of a concrete leadership the so-called leaderless “occupy movement” of the unlucky “ninety-nine” per cent against the lucky “one” is bound to enter history as a political joke when the 99 per cent are in fact puppets to dance to the tune of the invisible powers.
Democracy thus turns into mobocracy. With mobocracy in place invisible leaderships again emerge from both within and outside. In fact, the invisible leaders of superpowers or of emerging superpowers wait eagerly for the moment when people of a country become leaderless or are led by a spineless leader. That is the moment when the power swoops in to materialise its hegemonic plan.