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Wednesday 13 April 2011

Leadership Quality vs. Quality Leadership

We can all agree that some people are more equipped to lead than others. Good leaders are the ones that can convince masses to follow them and possess knowledge and vision to lead their followers to satisfactory outcomes. In an ideal environment where people are free to choose their leader and potential leaders are free to canvas their cases, one might think that the choice of the masses is as good as it gets. But then such ideal environments do not occur naturally. On the other extreme there are situations where leaders are not elected but selected by others on behalf of the masses e.g. Team leader or director of a corporation, head prefect of a school, captain of a cricket team etc. In these situations, selectors, assuming they are unbiased, follow a certain criteria to assess what is called the leadership quality of a prospective leader. It is true that we may be able to define some such qualities of person that could be generally applied to any situation. But no matter how we define them, these qualities are relative to one’s Chinthanaya. In other words, leadership qualities defined in one Chinthanaya cannot be used to find a quality leader in a different Chinthanaya. This is not hard to fathom, however the situation is more complicated when the leader has to achieve success in a situation that is not created within his (and his followers) own Chinthanaya. This is typically what we as a nation of non Judeo-Christian culture has to face most of the time. The situations in which we try to achieve success, whether it is in business, school or in sport are inventions of the Judeo-Christian culture. But the prospective leaders have been brought up in the Sinhala Buddhist culture (they need not be Sinhala or Buddhist per se). So when it comes to selecting a leader what usually happens is that selectors opt for one or the other definition, resulting in a leader that fits either the Sinhala Buddhist definition of leadership quality or that of the Judeo-Christian.

No person will fit both the definitions and neither alone will bring success. Such leaders will either fail to win the trust of their underlings or will not possess the knowledge of the path to success or both.

The ideal leader is the one that fits the Sinhala Buddhist Chinthanaya definition of a leader who has an extraordinary talent to absorb the Judeo-Christian situation to his won culture without imitating it. These ones are hard to find.

by Janaka Wansapura