During my younger years, I often struggled and for a good reason to find the real meaning of a true leader. I read so many books on leadership and found that the concept even varied from book to book. Now that I am older and wiser, I want to share what leadership essentially is all about in a simpler way to the believers of our Lord Almighty. I would just like to refer to Surah Yusuf to extract the qualities of a true leader for you to ponder on and perhaps to change in your ways and views on leadership. The following are the true qualities of a leader:
1. To be chaste and free from evil lusts and desires: This carries the broad meaning of lusts and desires: it covers our lusts and desires of the flesh, wordly posessions, and evil deeds.
2. To show forbearance and patience when angry: This to me is one of the most difficult physical aspects for a leader to emulate. It requires constant practice and reminder in one’s mind.
3. To have confidence in one’s own abilities while placing utmost trust with God: I believe that we should always place our trust with God on all endeavors in our daily walk with God. At times, this can be rather difficult when we use our intellect to rule over our subconscious mind.
4. To show leniency and to be firm: I believe the spirit of forgiving is essential in order to be lenient. At the same time, a true leader must also be firm. A wrong is still a wrong and cannot be interpreted in any other way. Wavering from this principle is bad leadership.
5. To have good memory, a clear conscience, to be knowledgeable as well as have a love for knowledge: I have spoken to many leaders of my time before and many acknowledged these qualities. I remember my own teenaged daughter coming to me one day and saying she wished to have all the knowledge in the world - an impossible feat, but that desire to pursue knowledge is the very spirit every leader should possess.
6. To forgive when one is in a position to exercise retribution: God forgives us when we seek His forgiveness diligently and with sincerity. It is our desire to be forgiven by God. I wonder why sometimes it is difficult for us to forgive others. This should not be the case when all parties are sincere.
7. To be humble: This is one of the finest qualities in a deserving leader. Besides trusting in God, I find this to be most lacking in a believing leader.
8. To be a good planner: A good leader has to plan his actions, and thereafter action his plans. A good plan isn’t just for leading a troop in war, or a ship in sail, or a company in business, but also a family in the return path to Allah.
9. To be eloquent in speech: This quality ensures plans and ideas are communicated effectively, clearly and succintly without verbosity, and in such a way that the message is accepted well.
10. To honour others: This has always been key in a Muslim’s life, as a vicegerent to God. One is expected to maintain good relationships with one’s neighbor, guests, friends, and relatives. Not only does a ship captain that makes enemies by not honouring others subject his vessel to attacks, but also, risk losing the loyalty of those he leads.
Leadership has been one of the biggest parts of my life. At work, we are expected to be a professional leader. At home, we are expected to be a leader for our spouse and children as well. Whenever we fail to fulfill some of these responsibilities, we need to look back and understand that God’s main command for a successful Muslim in this life is to enjoin good and forbid evil.
Looking back on the challenges in life and the people whom I have met, young and old alike, I particularly remember a favorite opening sentence by our greatest Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “Indeed, all praise is for Allah; we praise Him and seek His help. Verily, He whom Allah guides, none can misguide, and he whom Allah leads astray none can guide”. I always seek solace in this sentence whenever I feel that I cannot accept things which I humanly cannot change in others. With this sentence, I am given inner peace and renewed strength to continue with my mission in life. Amen