8 Leadership Lessons From Imam Ali’s Powerful Letter To His Governor
On the martyrdom anniversary of Ali (A.S), the fourth Islamic caliph, we recall the key takeaways from the caliph’s famous letter to his aide Malik al Ashtar which he wrote when he appointed Ashtar as the governor of Egypt. It has been preserved as Letter 53 of Nahjul Balagha and is considered to be one of the most eloquent pieces of literature. In the letter, he gave his newly-appointed governor quite a few pieces of advice about the leadership qualities a good ruler should posses.
Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, referenced Hazrat Ali’s letter in a statement on the fiftieth anniversary of the declaration of Human Rights. It is also suggested that this letter could solve the world’s problems in its turmoil today and that it should resonate with any human with a conscience. Following are the 8 major lessons in leadership from the letter.
Hazrat Ali advises Ashtar that the most basic learning to be able to be a good human is to be humble. To recognise that as a human, one has only so much strength. To not think of oneself as better than the other, as Imam Ali says. “To be grounded in your demeanor and not be boastful is one of the best qualities a person can have.”
2- Equality among human beings regardless of faith
Humans can often be very judgmental in their opinion of the others but the caliph reminded his governor to forgive and forget and be kind towards the rules.
He writes, “Remember, Maalik, that amongst your subjects there are two kinds of people: your brothers in faith, and your equals in humanity. Do not behave with them like a barbarian, and do not appropriate to yourself that which belongs to them.”
3- Do not have negative people on your team
It’s always better to cut off from people who only want to see you in a compromised position. Some times people only have malice in their hearts for their fellow humans and Hazrat Ali advised to stay away from this kind. It also makes it harder for other people to exist and thrive in a toxic environment.
4- Do not discontinue the good practices of your predecessors after you assume charge
Rules and customs are made and implemented after a lot of trials and errors, but if they’re fulfilling the purpose of the job, there’s no reason to change that. It is tempting indeed to bring a new set of laws when you have the power to do so, but the Imam advised to have faith in traditional wisdom. Why stop something that is already a result of centuries of wisdom?
5- The importance of teamwork
When a person is in a leading position, they should always be mindful of those who work on a lower level. Every job is important and to keep every worker happy will ensure that. Hence, the Caliph says that to recognise the importance to every worker attached to your team is essential to how you progress as a whole.
6- Appreciate the hard work of your team
To put your heart and sweat into a project and have someone else take all the credit for your hard work is truly one of the most painful things. Imam Ali said that a leader is he who knows how to compliment his workers and team members. He also recognises the need for competent salaries to people because they deserve it.
7- Avoid favouritism
Nepotism is the most common pillar of Pakistani society now, but as a Muslim leader, Ali has advised to not favour the ones that you’re related to or have personal gains attached to. People should only be appointed for jobs that they are good at, if someone is not deserving, they should not be put in a place of power.
8- Encourage constructive criticism
As a leader, or even a person surrounded by people, one should always be open the constructive criticism. By being a good listener, one gets to learn about the different perspectives on life and this is how you grow. Ali also preached the openness of heart and being humble, because to be able to accept your mistakes and correct them, progresses you towards success.