The evolution of charismatic leadership introduced by Max Weber (1947) transformed and changed the world. When Weber meant charismatic leadership he was talking of somebody with an ability to stand out from the crowd, who inspired and invigorated the mass through unique visions and exhilarated them to share their values and needs.
But soon this form of ‘revolutionary leadership’ was driven out by bureaucratic or traditional powers. Ever since, building the right kind of leadership has always stood as an intricate task. The task has been a grueling one in case of Nepal too!
So, how to fill up this leadership vacuum? And what can be done to create a new leadership base in Nepal that can really guide the nation towards the right course? Or do we already have that leadership base emerging, if so, how do we connect to them and retain them?
The need for rethinking leadership
The extant leadership in Nepal has been gaining much criticism as it has failed miserably in guiding the nation at a delicate time of transition. The weakness of the leadership has not just pushed the development process backwards, but it has rather invited various external actors to be involved in the so-called social and political ‘engineering’ process (one primary area being drafting of the new constitution) of the country.
For the past many years, what we have been witnessing is nothing else than our politicians bickering about political power and pushing the nation towards hopelessness. They have in fact let us down time and again, the persisting legitimacy crisis and authority gap which is an outcome of ineffective leadership has ultimately created a void in our social, political and economic sphere. Moreover as the efforts for writing the new constitution through consensus process hit the wall frequently, and as we fall into crisis (the recent being the massive earthquake on 25th April) the pang of not having the leaders of statesman stature turns out to be acute for the Nepalese.
Who are the leaders?
“Charm and grace are all that is needed to influence people and make a difference
Self-belief is a fundamental need of leaders.”
Leadership is much more than certain characteristics. Leadership is grounded on relationship, how we as leaders build our relations with other individuals and communities at large. So who could be the leaders? Well, everyone of us! Each of us has an ability to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others in a substantial way. Each one of us who form the base of society can also be its leaders. Leadership is a completely individual phenomenon. Therefore it is entirely up to us whether we want to be the leaders or the followers and – if we wish to lead – how we do that, how can we be the change makers.
Rays of hope – strengthening the self directed mass
Various groups of self directed individuals and youth-led organizations during the post-earthquake period demonstrated in many ways through their laudable deeds that the next generation of youth are more than capable of leadership. This new force of the self directed mass connected the hard-hit communities with relief materials and rendered support through all possible ways. The need of the hour now is to have a nationwide network of such self-motivated youths committed to some core values for social justice and nation building.
Professionalization of the newly emerged grassroot leadership is one of the most essential tasks that lies ahead of us. Providing the new leadership with necessary skills and training will help them to think differently from the competition developed by the market and away from the hierarchy imposed by the state and work for the betterment of the nation. The strategies that grassroots leaders use to manage risk are often ignored by the governments and other development partners. A better understanding, acknowledgement and sustenance of the skills and techniques such as the ‘autonomous adaptation’ and ‘social innovations’ that are usually adopted by the grassroots leaders at the local level is essential .
To make this strong leadership base of alternative leaders, the next challenge and probably the biggest of all is to revive our institutions one by one that have been destroyed or weakened by years of political interference and stalemate.
When applying at least one of these techniques, the active citizenry mass will fill in the persisting social, political and economic void. With appropriate mentoring and appreciation these youth who are helping Nepal to rise can definitely lead the country and could be a solution to our leadership quagmire. And yes, the quality of leadership is important, more than the charisma. Understanding the need of today and planning accordingly for tomorrow can help in building a new Nepal.