A Simple Thought – Friday, 2nd July 2021

Leaders by default

The almost capricious system of classification of strata in a society, has inadvertently led humankind to ruin.  Whereas the Holy Prophet (SAW)’s complete mission was founded on the idea of meritocracy, which was indeed inherited by the Aimah (AS), modern-day societies’ convoluted idea of what leaders should look like or what leadership is all about, has resulted into societies that are highly subjugated, uneven and are gradually misplacing other separate concepts of respect, honour and dignity.

I remember attending and then running leadership classes in which we spoke of how leaders must first prepare themselves for the position, how they must reflect their decisions to the actions they themselves perform. But when I look at leadership lessons today, I am almost charmed, as anyone else would be, of seeing how the focus of the training is on inspiring others, telling others how to live and feel and to be grandiose in one’s predisposition.  It is not entirely clear what the origins of such curricula are, nor can this small space warrant a discussion on the subject, but it is no longer unusual to see what modern-day leaders think their real job entails.  

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we must as well be very clear that we are not always referring to political or organisational leaders.  Contemporary society has introduced a new kind of leadership and that is sometimes referred to as social leadership.  With most influential messages now coming from outside one’s home or family, given the overwhelming and omnipotent presence of social media influencers and brand ambassadors around us, accepting the reality that social leaders too must take the burden of the same leadership criteria  as the others, since they have self assumed these roles, is just only fair.  For not only do such men and women carry the necessary clout to impact a whole generation’s life, but they also may just make or break lives.

The problem in including this category of leaders is that their mere positioning as societal leaders, is by default, based on a game of popularity and fame.  This could simply be because they are, by nature, audacious, and fearless of speaking their minds out.  To some cultures, this could be a red flag, but for the dominant culture in existence today, this is a much needed source of support and inspiration.  Unfortunately, in this lot while some may be copy-paste leaders, i.e. those who plagiarise material, idea and thought, in casting themselves in this all-important role, others may genuinely care about inspiring others and do possess the prerequisite knowledge.  Whichever way you look at things, socio-economic success is the only yardstick with which such individuals and their pursuits succeed.  For it is that class of people, who are generally desired by the rest, craved and also role-modelled by the others.  Again, nothing wrong in that, nor is it anything new, apart from the media of the internet today.

So if everything is well and good, then these new thought leaders must generate positive publicity with the intention of improving and guiding the lives of those who may need it, not to impress and overrate their own most amazing personalities.  But even as we pose such a difficult caveat, we all very well know how that is so very atypical of a rising youth’s mind.  It looks like this is a sticky situation afterall.  In truth, it is not just young people who face this dilemma, even the older ones are seen tagging along celebrities and public figures whose own practice is nowehere near what they are paying lip service to.

Perhaps there is a need to go back to basics and examine how sincerity in social leadership is a more lasting service than the fanfare associated with one’s own glamour, which in the best case scenario can do nothing much more than germinate the seeds of envy in society, of discontent and of failure.  To all my friends out there who feel they can make a difference through speech or social media presence, the secret sauce is sincerity not suave personalities.  If you indeed feel you want to change the world, then you must also be prepared to live the life you are preaching, or demonstrate the ability to withstand adversities with the bullet points you are distributing.  If we fail to introspect this time round, we may as well end up in a place where leaders are always by default from a classy section of society who, having inherited or attained everything, will make speeches and sermons that reflect success stories that never happened to them in the first place.

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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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