The Leadership Paradox

Mohamedarif Suleman – Nairobi, Kenya

Since time immemorial, the prospect of serving the community for any individual, let alone leading it, has been a subject of great aversion. Needless to say that the kick that comes with the association of a member with leadership is enormous.

It may not be a strange phenomenon to readers – most of us have heard and seen people who rationalize superbly how prudent it is for them to keep their distance from community. Yet, without leaders, amongst whom we have a great number of shining examples from the annals of history, the community would be stuck in its being as an organizational entity. So, what is the problem?

As youths pass through the stage of adolescence, they witness (quite openly these days) how cutthroat the exchange of words is in a general meeting. The recent debacle between the AF and WF were classical examples of how frustrated leaders can themselves become of the punitive treatment meted out to them or their constituents by members of another. In this case, it did appear that both parties were aggrieved and this may not be the right place to adjudicate the issue, not when harmony has taken center-stage once again. But suffice it to say that such incidences do promote the feeling that leadership or community service is not all that rosy after all.

Hard liners or community stalwarts will always remind the youths to base their expectation of reward from the Almighty (SWT) and not from the people they lead or serve. This is a service to Allah, they say, and as such does not accommodate feeble hearts or emotional persons. In answer, the new generation, while confessing that their own lives do not allow them to enter into any further commitments that would in any case yield bitterness between disagreeing parties, inevitably it is human to expect if not reward, at least an iota of appreciation.

Some people come to leadership with robust zeal, but fade away with mounting pressure from “dissidents” tp go the other way. Veterans will once again preach that “you can never make everyone happy”, and in response, one could yet again rebuke as to where does one draw the line.

To make matters worse, certain members having come to the chair, it is contended, form close groupings amongst the king makers and philanthropists that does not allow any active role from young and fresh ideas. How many times does it happen that certain leaders make up their minds outside the confines of their Managing Committees? But if someone were to look at the issue from their own perspective, it would appear sane and responsible after all. This is because, it is firmly believed that any member who ascends to the position of leadership does so out of his personal and surrounding capacity to decide for and on behalf of the community.

But looking at it all from the youthful eyes of a teenager, it all appears like one big facade. And so they live their young hood with adversity and animosity towards the role of their leaders, if not the leaders themselves. They wish there were more room for participative politics rather than competitive and authoritative ones. In their bid to conserve the future generations’ faith in them, many leaders have been known to make special commitments to the youths to show that they too matter. But what does that amount to? Both are right and none is wrong. The paradox is born, bred and lived each day of our lives and it may only be a stroke of sheer coincidence that we (Indian Khojas) were conceived out of a good natured rebellion and that became a part and parcel of our long-term thinking – whichever side you are on, that is!

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