On the auspicious occassion of Ghadeer, we wish you Almighty’s blessings and are privileged to share 14 values of Leadership extracted from the greatest Leader in history after the Holy Prophet (S.A.W).
1.Even if you are a leader, you are just a servant of God
Although the leader of a vast empire, Imam Ali reminds everyone that there is no power except God and that he is nothing but the servant of God. Imam Ali is often the master of bringing people back down to earth and he does so in a subtle way here by reminding himself of his position. This is God’s chosen leader on earth yet he is humbling himself before his Lord. Even later in the letter, Imam Ali reiterates this and says not to consider yourself too powerful, because there is a bigger Power above you. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of an international company, remember your Lord and this will humble you.
2. Know your audience
When you enter a new environment, it is imperative you are aware of what you are following. People may be skeptical towards you because you are going to be another let-down or, alternatively, you will not live up to the greatness of the previous person. Imam Ali is reminding us not to take the people’s skepticism to heart. Instead, it should motivate you to be better than what was before you.
3. We are all humans that make mistakes; be forgiving
Imam Ali takes off the lenses that separates people based on religion. If we aren’t linked through religion, we are linked through humanness. When one realises this, it is then we can treat each other with respect and mercy. Regardless of what worldview you belong to, you will make mistakes. Imam Ali says to be a forgiving person because we all want God to be forgiving towards us in light of our mistakes. We must mirror the attributes of God to our human capability.
4. Remove negative people from your circle
We all know people whose sole purpose on the earth seems to be to criticise people and expose their faults. These people should not be near you. As a leader you, you are the safety net of the people who work for you. Your job is to make sure they flourish in a positive environment and if they have any shortcomings, you keep them in house. Having people in your circle that exposes the faults to others weakens your team and creates an environment of mistrust.
5. Remove the hatred
This ties into Imam Ali’s earlier idea of seeing everyone as a human. Once we do that, we can get rid of hatred that causes barriers between people. That is not enough though. Imam says to completely cut off from people and causes that are allowing hatred to occur. In the contemporary world, hatred exists due to several things; religion, race, culture, country etc. These things should not cause hate and if they are, quash them.
6. Equality and justice are not the same thing
When first reading this, one may be outraged and think Imam Ali is saying not to treat people equally. Well, let us think about this. Imam is telling us that if you treat those who do good and those who do bad the same way, it will leave you without a moral standard. The good will be discouraged from doing further good when they see that those who do bad are getting the same treatment. The bad will not be reprimanded and will continue to act immoral. Yes, all are equal in rights but the stance between moral and immoral must be clear in how you react to each type of person. This is justice.
7. If it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it
It is tempting to come in all guns blazing and impose what you want to. It is like when a football manager is appointed at a new club and completely changes the philosophy straight away. This usually ends badly. Imam Ali says not to do this. Why stop something that is working and is keeping the people happy and united?
8. Everyone is a small cog in a big machine
When leading a group of people or an organisation, everyone has a role to play from those at the top to those doing the hands-on jobs. Imam Ali says all these roles are important and if one is devalued, the whole body is devalued. This is a clear indication of team-ethic that the Imam is promoting and ensuring everyone is working together.
9. Always give people the credit they deserve
We have all experienced a situation where someone else gets the credit for the work you have done. Some people are able to get over this as they don’t work for praise or credit. However, Imam Ali says a leader should not be someone who is stingy in praising and rewarding the people that work for them. It is such a good feeling when your boss gives you credit for something you done or, conversely, ignores your hard work. Interestingly, he later states in the letter to make sure you pay people well for doing important jobs because they deserve it.
10. Never treat people favourably due to relationship with you
One of the worst things in the society is people getting favourable treatment due to their relationship with powerful people. Islamic history is full of this as well as in contemporary society. Imam Ali, the voice of human justice, warns against nepotism and cronyism. Appoint people well qualified to do the job, not because they are your friend or relation. This is a true test of someone in a position of leadership since not giving favours to your close ones may turn their opinion of you into a negative one. Yet, Imam says you must uphold justice regardless. Remember Imam Ali’s reaction when his brother Aqeel asked him for extra money from the treasury? This is a consistent trait he holds.
11. Listen to constructive criticism
As humans, we all love to hear our praises be sung. However, the most successful leaders want to know how to improve. Imam Ali emphasises this but look at the beauty of how he also describes what environment to do this in. When people air their grievances to you, make them feel as comfortable as possible and remove any obstacles that will stop them from not expressing their true feelings. This will also humble you as a leader.
12. Show your face
Being an invisible leader creates an environment of mistrust. People will ask questions as to what is going on behind closed doors and question how things are being run. How demeaning is it when your boss doesn’t even know your name? Keep an open-door policy; mingling with the people you lead will ensure that you are aware of what is going on as well as them seeing you as a human being and one of them.
13. Communicate clearly
Whether you are sending an email or speaking verbally, be clear in what you say. Islam has a strong tradition of writing things down into contracts with witnesses and Imam Ali continues in this spirit. This is so there is no chance of confusion should an issue arise at a later time. Ensure you speak in a way in which everyone understands. Eloquence is one thing but confusing jargon to impress people is another.
14. Be organised
Give everything a time-slot and be diligent. Being organised is one of the best skills you can have; it will give you a work-life balance, less stress and ensure you get each job done properly. As a leader, if you are organised, the people you lead will mirror this and show more trust in you.
May the Almighty enable us to embody these values.
Africa Federation CBG Team