What comes to your mind when we talk about leadership? Or more specifically, what qualities do you relate with a good leader?
Well, for most of us, leadership is all about dominance and authority which, to be honest, is a really bad stereotype for an effective leader. In this article, we bring forth our views on the topic and present five characteristics of successful leadership as presented in the Islamic texts, which are listed below.
ليس العمى عمى البصر، وإنما العمى عمى البصيرة
“Blindness is not for the one who cannot see but rather for the one who has no vision/purpose” (Ibn Katheer)
Leadership inevitably begins with a purpose to achieve something, because, otherwise, there would be no reason to lead in the first place.
Therefore, to be an effective leader, you need to dream big about something and then commit to it with certainty. And, that higher aspiration or purpose, although not visible to the physical eye, has to be clearly perceived by the heart, your intellect.
So, a leader envisions what others don’t see. And, it is only through the sheer charisma of his commitment to that purpose, that he is able to convince others to follow him.
المؤمن القوي خير وأحب إلى الله من المؤمن الضعيف
“A believer who is strong is better and dearer to Allah than the weak believer” (Sahih Muslim)
An efficient leader will always keep self-improvement his number one priority. He will always be eager to learn new skills while also enhancing his present ones along the way.
However, there is only an extent to which it can come in handy, and there will always remain an element of incompleteness in this regard. So, you need to be aware of your shortcomings in this aspect and thus set realistic goals which can be achieved over a period of time.
Since you are limited by your physical capacities, you will necessarily face plenty of challenges along the way. And, the only means of getting through those difficult challenges is to remain optimistic and maintain a problem-solving attitude at all times. Fretting obsessively over how things would pan out is a recipe for disaster as highlighted by the great Islamic scholar, Imam Al-Shafi,
سُئل الشافعي كيف يكون سوء الظن بالله؟ قال : الوسوسة والخوف الدائم من وقوع مصيبة
“Al-Shaafa’i was asked how people develop mistrust about Allaah? He said: obsessive and constant fear of the occurrence of calamity“
Train yourself to expect good out of every situation even if it seems far-fetched. It is easier said than done but with a bit of wisdom, it is possible.
Your wisdom will ensure that your optimism does not lead you to delusion. It will help you develop deeper insight into your own abilities and also the gravity of the challenges at hand. It will help you in acknowledging your limitations, prioritizing what can be achieved, and what needs to be left alone for now. It will guide you in the application of prior learnings to present situations, and further polish your decision making in the process.
But still, wisdom does not completely shield you from making mistakes. It alone cannot give you the level of contentment or satisfaction that you desire, which brings us to our final characteristic of a successful leader, and that is Tawakkul or Reliance on Allah (SWT).
اِحْرِصْ عَلَى مَا يَنْفَعُكَ, وَاسْتَعِنْ بِاَللَّهِ
“Be keen on what benefits you and seek help from Allah” (Sahih Muslim)
No one can reach contentment and satisfaction without Tawakkul, reliance on Allah (SWT).
Successful leaders know that even though they have given their cent-percent to their dream, certain elements will always remain out of their control, and to top that, there are bound to be human-errors as well. Thus they put their trust in the supernatural and therefore rely on Allah (SWT) to take care of their efforts and make up for the loose ends in their strategy and execution.
This is the most important quality of leadership, and it is beautifully expressed in the following prayer in which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, after utilizing all his physical resource, invokes Allah (SWT) in the following words.
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يتعوذ من جهد البلاء، ودرك الشقاء، وسوء القضاء، وشماتة الأعداء
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Take refuge with Allah from the difficulties of severe calamities, from having an evil end and a bad fate and from the malicious joy of your enemies.” (Sahih Bukhari)