Leading with authority and the future of effective leadership

Rafiq Jan

An old saying that “your authority comes with the position” still rules the roost in business as well as in our lives and relationships. If one has the authority, they can start implementation of their ideas as soon as they want. However, mere wisdom and will can’t change the fate of nations if the leaders do not have any authority.

Following is what I extracted from my empirical knowledge and lifetime of interaction with diverse corporate cultures as well as the impacts of various leadership styles. It helped me define a stark difference between “Leading and Envisioning Change”

With absolute authority, your ideas and actions bear fruits immediately. Whereas, without authority, no matter how accurate your calculations are and how savvy your ideas may be, your wisdom alone would not be enough to convince others about your high-stake decisions. The risks involved in implementing changes are byproducts of bold decisions and Level 5 (authentic) leaders believe they can’t afford to remain bystanders in testing times, and they aren’t afraid to assert the absolute authority to ensure the targets are met to achieve the objectives.

We, too, in the aviation industry, are facing a highly competitive future in which only those who dare to embrace vital change will survive. Such changes will exact what is called a paradoxical combination of: “deep personal humility, killer instinct, and a professional will”.

Steve Jobs was an ambitious entrepreneur who led Apple through tumultuous times to bring it to the world’s number one position in stock values and the most sought-after place to work for. It was his extremely assertive and dominative leadership that appeared tough for his design engineers, but ultimately created the products which drastically changed the way the world connects. His domineering personality created the miracles in the smartphone technology that otherwise would seem impossible in the coming decades. His popular quote, “stay hungry…stay foolish” became the guiding star for many aspiring entrepreneurs and thought leaders. It was his manipulation and effective use of the authority that worked the way he desired to achieve his targets.

Pakistani PM Imran khan, undoubtedly a charismatic leader, had an innate passion for transformation and reforms but being on the opposition benches for almost 20 years couldn’t achieve anything until recently when he won the top post of the country. Since then, despite strong opposition from his adversaries, he has aptly taken the bull by its horns to implement what he has long been dreaming of. He has not been much successful but given the lack of “absolute authority,” however, he seems hopeful to see the day of his dreams.

Malaysian PM Dr. Mahathir Muhammad, an old guard of the Asian political dynasty, built Malaysia from budding state to a towering South-east Asian economy and one of the most welcoming nations in the world. His absence in between two elections threw Malaysia into an abyss of financial crises but his historic comeback at the age of 93 indicated his country needed his wisdom and “authoritative administration” for a much needed and decisive turnaround.

Nelson Mandela fought for equal human rights and abrogation of caste, creed and color discrimination which had been prevalent in South Africa since his childhood. Despite high ambitions and great wisdom as the only populist black leader, his voice was subdued for being an abject minority in a white supremacist land. But his tireless journey of perseverance and courageous fight broke the jinx of apartheid in South Africa when he was sworn in as president of his country. His resolute and seminal leadership conquered the hearts of his enemies when he declared pardon and forgiveness for all and urged everyone to work toward the development of the country.

Vladimir Putin after taking the reins of Russia in 2012, showed a great deal of assertiveness and authority in pursuit of his vision to put his country back into a formidable position. He had been harshly criticized domestically as an autocrat who loved to rule by an absolute authority but given appalling economic and diplomatic conditions that Russia reached after losing its stature as the USSR, one can argue that his commanding and forceful demeanor was what the country direly needed.

These examples also somewhat justify the use of absolute authority by assertive leaders in a country or an organization that had suffered due to inept and incapable leadership at the helm of power. My 35 long years spent in Gulf Arabian countries taught me this lesson at last:

 “Democracy is a great tool of fooling the masses by showing them carrots in colorful pictures but, keeping them hungry so that they will never settle for anything else but the carrots they believe will be theirs one day”.

In today’s world, where authentic leaders are short in supply, we need those who are emotionally strong, believe in disruptive innovation, and capable of defying all the norms of conventional styles to demonstrate their own style of Eccentric Leadership for fueling the much-needed turnarounds.

So, the question remains, does Pakistan need more effective leaders than managers to lead with absolute authority to reshape the future this country?

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