Demystifying Leadership

Tausifur Rahman | May 28, 2019

Who is a leader?

Not a long time ago, during my college years, I imagined leaders as the super-human beings blessed with the eloquence of diction and an enviable oratory skill that evokes infinite passion and inspires the generation. I firmly believed that born leaders are flamboyant, they exude confidence and emanate positive energy during the dark and difficult juncture of time, they command reverence from their friends and foes alike, they have big dreams and clarity of directions to navigate through the unchartered territory towards their envisioned new world. Not surprisingly, during my salad days I adored the likes of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr, Che Guevera, Nelson Mandela and Jawahar Lal Nehru and many more for varied reasons. As the life unfolded, my understanding of the leadership behaviour got enlightened and evolved thanks to the timeless books and priceless stories of others’ experiences. My own interactions with the people of various walks of life hugely influenced the process of necessary evolution.

The recipe for a leader?

A lot of research has been done on the leadership qualities, umpteen number of research papers have been published and huge sums of money are being spent every year by the organizations in training the employees to become future leaders. There is no agreed standard definition of leadership and its prerequisites, eminent personalities and noteworthy scholars have defined leadership and its attributes in their own unique way even though a lot remains common.

John Maxwell, author of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership “defines leadership as “influence, nothing more, nothing less”. He goes on to say: “He who thinks he leads but has no-one following him, is simply taking a walk.”

I wondered if “Influence” alone the elixir of leadership is, a bit befuddled and unsure I sifted through the stack of information before I discovered this beautiful couplet from the doyen of Urdu poetry and philosopher Allama Iqbal that transformed my view about the basic tenets of leadership.

“Nigah buland, sukhan dilnawaz, jan pursoz   yahi hai rakhat-e-safar mir-e-karwan ke liye”

(A lofty vision; a voice which touches the heart, a consciousness suffused with compassion, these are the only real requirements for the leader of the caravan)

Allama Iqbal described vision as the essence of the leadership. He further asserted that compassion and ability to converse with politeness and humility are intrinsic attributes of a great leader. The mentioned leadership traits specially the compassion and humility are unheralded and have been glossed over by many management gurus and philosophers. Compassion and humility are not signs of weakness, It rather strengthens the resolve to accomplish the objectives without craving for the credit of the same.

My belief in this brilliant definition got further strengthened and complimented by the arguments of Jim Collins in his best seller “Good to Great”. He explained and emphasized the importance of the compelling modesty of the Level 5 corporate leaders (based on the leadership style) who act with quiet and calm determination to make the corporate organisation successful. He further elaborates in the book that “level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will”.


In the modern corporate world of instantaneous gratification, impactful sound bites, quick results and innate desire to be visible and wowed by one and all, these subtle leadership qualities are definitely inconspicuous in the mundane business transactions and interactions.

For business managers, meeting immediate goals is sacrosanct and everything else is invariably sacrificed at the altar of “delivery targets” .

“Corporate trainings” and “study of the leadership thoughts and principles” preached and pronounced by the management gurus help individuals in understanding the leadership qualities, however development and implementation would not be feasible without conducive and encouraging work culture.

I wish and hope that organizations would promote the culture of practicing the leadership qualities envisioned and enunciated by Allama Iqbal and Jim Collins, by aligning the same with the Core values of the Organizations as the essential and enduring tenets.