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The Kind Of Leaders Pakistan Needs

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Understanding others’ psychology is an important part of leadership. In order to lead people, one needs not have sprung from among the masses. Most of our current leaders, and in fact great leaders elsewhere, hailed from the moneyed class, writes Aamer Sarfraz.

With most parties declaring 2020 an election year, the public, the players, and the selectors may soon start thinking about the next leader in this time of tremendous turmoil. Since we have a history of making repeated mistakes in this quest, we need to carefully reflect what kind of individual could lead us through these turbulent times? What are the qualities that a truly great Pakistani leader needs to possess?

Many have written about leadership; therefore, we do not need to reinvent the wheel in our search for a great leader. Andrew Roberts recommends in his remarkable work that we revisit the qualities of great leaders of the past, and apply those on the available lot for a positive outcome. In May 1953, Churchill had said, “Study history. Study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft”.

Many great leaders in history were workaholics – Jinnah and Churchill immediately come to mind. Both of them rarely found time to relax or pay attention to their private lives. The ability to concentrate was one of the keys to their character; it was not always obvious, but they never thought of anything else but the job in hand. Jinnah is also known to have worked through his minor and major illnesses; read all the newspapers, and answered all the letters written to him.

A good memory is essential for great leaders. Jinnah and Bhutto had photographic memories. They could spend hours committing documents and speeches (and practiced them to perfection) to the memory, and always insisted on excellent secretaries (and filing systems). For a filing system, however, none could do better than Napoleon, who used his chief of staff to ensure that even in a carriage they were able to place geographically every unit in his army and send and receive messages as aides-de-camps rode up to the windows, grasped orders, and rode off again to deliver them.

No one in our current lot has better executive skills than Asad Umar.

A great leader’s ability to plan is as important as his adaptability because things often do not go according to plan. He should be able to appreciate the political and economic landscape over which he is to govern. Roosevelt wanted to bring the U.S. into World War II earlier but he had promised the Americans ‘your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,’ in order to retain the White House.

A leader is able to smell the precise moment when it would be possible to change the public sentiment. Lincoln was a master at this as he had a natural gift of sensing what the Union would be able to accept politically and when, which makes him second to none in the American pantheon.

High energy is another common attribute among great leaders, which can take many forms. Jinnah and Bhutto had tremendous energy and their working days were packed to the rafters. Churchill was also energetic, but he often did not get out of bed until noon — although he had been working on his papers since early morning.

From there on, a great leader possesses the magic art of infusing his own spirit into others. They are able to make soldiers and civilians believe that they are part of a purpose that matters more than even their continued existence on the planet. He may or may not be your cup of tea, but a certain Khadim-e-Aala cannot stop smiling at the moment.

Great leaders need to be lucky as well as brilliant. Before he appointed anyone to the marshalate, Napoleon also wanted to know whether his generals were lucky. Except relationships, whatever Imran Khan has touched, has turned into gold. Bilawal and Maryam could really use some of that magic touch.


The role of chance and contingency in history is worthy of an entire book in itself and undermines the Whig, Marxist, and Determinist theories of history in which mankind’s progress through time are set on any definable tramlines.

Having steady nerves in a crisis cannot be underestimated. In October 1944, Patton defined leadership as a capacity for “telling somebody who thinks he is beaten that he is not beaten.” Although Stalin had something approaching a mental breakdown when he heard about Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941; by mid-October, his nerves had steadied enough for him to stay and fight it out. Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands crisis and Churchill throughout World War II showed complete self-control. Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s calm under two crises situations with Hindustan was admired by friends and enemies alike.

Understanding others’ psychology is an important part of leadership. In order to lead people, one needs not have sprung from among the masses. Most of our current leaders, and in fact great leaders elsewhere, hailed from the moneyed class – Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Churchill, Roosevelts, and John F. Kennedy to name a few. However, they all had a strong sense of what motivated people who hailed from backgrounds far further down the social scale. A capacity to empathize is far more important than one’s social background. Churchill was born in a palace, was the grandson of a duke, and went to top schools in the country, but he could speak directly to the needs of what he called the cottage home.

Sometimes, having all leadership qualities is still not enough. Napoleon had a staggering number of these qualities: charisma, great memory, meticulous planning, good luck, steady nerves, ability to encourage people, control the news cycle, adapt to modern tactical concepts, and utter ruthlessness when necessary.

Above all, he was single-minded in spotting the moment when he could exploit a numerical advantage at the decisive point on the battlefield. Despite all these, Napoleon still made the terrible error of choosing the wrong direction by which to take his army out of Russia. However generous the sprites and fairies are when they gather around the great leader’s cradle, there always seems to be a malicious black swan nearby to spoil the party.


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