All posts by Mukhtar Muhammad

Mukhtar Muhammad is author of the critically acclaimed Genesis of New American Leadership: A Muslim Commentary...the first socio-political and religious commentary on the tenets of effective leadership based on the principles of Islam, the commentary of contemporary religious scholars and American management philosophy. The recipient of numerous academic, professional, and military achievement awards, the former enlisted & commissioned naval officer is the product of a visionary leadership that recognizes the "Muslim American dream" is deeply rooted in the American Dream of not only "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but also "one nation under G-d indivisible with liberty and justice for all." The company vice president, national speaker and management consultant holds bachelors and masters degrees in four business concentrations including systems management, marketing, business management and human resources development and has served at the highest levels of leadership for the American Muslim Community.

Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era – Part 1

I was in Atlanta over the Memorial Day Weekend and had the pleasure of visiting with family and friends.  I also had a chance to visit briefly with friends at the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam including Imams Mansoor and Suleiman and several more members of the Community there. I always have a wonderful time when I visit Atlanta and I thank the believers there for always being warm and welcoming. To my family and other friends in Metro Atlanta, thanks for a wonderful visit. I pray all of you also had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday weekend.

This week, I wanted to jump right in with our discussion on a matter I consider very important in characterizing a couple of categories of leadership.  I thought about starting this week’s discussion with a definition of leadership. But I think it’s more useful to discuss what this thing called leadership is by talking about it in a specific context, rather than giving a definition that may be more academic in nature and not really connected to the people it serves–well, there’s a sort of definition there; that is leadership is a servant to the people. But there are obviously different types of leadership besides just good and bad.

Since the loss of our leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed (raa) in 2008, we have been forced to envision the future without his personal presence. In this regard, I want to thank Imam Faheem Shuaibe for his document “Understanding The Way Forward In The Community of Imam W. D. Mohammed” and his accompanying commentary to help us envision the future.

Without doubt, one of the Imam’s primary leadership goals was to help us evolve from an initially critical and fundamental, yet immature charismatic or personality-based leadership to an institutional leadership based on a system (of government and respect for the group intellect). For ease of discussion, we’re going to use the term personality-based leadership or PBL to include the term charismatic leadership.  And we’ll use ISTL for institutional leadership.

Note some of the “general” characteristics of PBL and ISTL

PBL (Personality Based Leadership) ISTL (Institutional Leadership)
*Vested in a single individual. *Vested in a system of leadership.
*Assigned by a single source. *Selected by a group electoral or documented selection process.
*Possesses specific knowledge/ability not held by others. *Individual not seen as irreplaceable.
*Often related to the prior leader. *Typically unrelated by blood to past leader.
*Of relatively short duration (normal life span). *Perpetual representational leadership.
*Indefinite term of office. *Definite term of office/ratification scheduled.
*Usually passes away in office. *Death less consequential.
*Death causes a major, fundamental reassessment of organization; potential cause of conflict/disagreement. *Succession usually marked by smoothly ordered transition.
*Leadership role seen as “Messianic.” *Leadership role seen as administrative.
*Less emphasis on constitutional governance (rules, policies, standards loosely defined and in continual flux). *Constitutional governance ingrained (documented standards).

Now there are some exceptions or hybrids of PBL & ISTL, most notably seen in instances of tribal and clan leadership, family dynasties and kingdoms. Yet even hybrids evolve into a system of leadership that albeit remains confined within a certain lineage. And of course, there are situations in which a particularly gifted leader can influence or imprint institutional leadership with his or her personality.  In fact, it is expected over a period of time that an ISTL system of leadership should be positively influenced by the successive personalities of the most effective leaders who have been at the helm of an organization. I also submit that from time to time, a charismatic leader emerges, at least in terms of social movements, to evolve the institution and as it were, reconnect the “institution” back to the very first charismatic leader. That’s not an original idea from me.

I can’t think of a more charismatic, personality-based leadership than the Last Prophet Muhammed (s) sent to all humanity; today his leadership is institutionalized. Yet in fact, the very nature of Prophethood is founded upon personality leadership. One of the biggest mistakes that some religious scholars and non-scholars make is to assume that the level of personality-based leadership inherent in the Plane of the Prophets is meant to remain as a governing model…just with another personality assuming the office of leadership. Hence, we get the misguided notion from some of a super Caliph over one world ummah. The very nature of personality-based leadership is centralization and the nature of institutional leadership is decentralization. Like our Imam said, “G-d made Prophet Muhammed (s) as a light to all the world and in him is the excellent model. As Believers, we are supposed to be witnesses with our behavior . . . the Prophet is not here in one body, but in one billion minds and each of us should have the Prophet in our hearts.” (GONAL, p. 99). Hence personality-based leadership is destined to be institutionalized in the group intellect.

To be continued (you needn’t wait for me to finish this post if you have thoughts you wish to share now).

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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Welcome to the Genesis of New American Leadership Blog

“For man to be prepared for [global excellence] he has to be universal in his heart, in his thinking, and in his aspirations…He has to include everybody in his dreams—not only in his works, but also in his dreams. Allah (SWT) included everybody in the dream (future) for Muslims. He said, You are one community brought out for the good of all people.”
—Imam Dr. W. Deen Mohammed (ra)

As-Salaamu-Alaikum (Peace be with you). Thank you for sharing in this Blog.

In the following paragraphs, I’ll share the specific purpose and goals of this weblog. Let me begin first by saying the concluding statement from my work, Genesis of New American LeadershipA Muslim Commentary is a quote from the Noble Qur’an; namely: “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones to attain felicity.” (“Sura Al-i’-Imran, Ayat 104). Just before that verse appear the words “Left open for further thought and research…” from the esteemed Dr. William Worral Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic. I found the Dr.’s words aptly captured how I felt when I placed the final period on the manuscript. I felt more like I had opened a door, rather than closed the final chapter.

Dr. Mayo’s words have long pressed upon my conscience; his words were forcing me to think about how to engage the group intellect, to open the door wider and embark upon this journey along the path of leadership. Perhaps the first question that arises is, “is leadership a journey or destination?” We don’t have to answer the question now.

Fortunately, new tools of communication have emerged since publishing the manuscript…most notably for our purposes, the blog, which greatly aids in continuing where Genesis of New American Leadership left off. For this blog, Genesis is a point of departure and the blog will be for us a vehicle to continue on that journey that began when the ink dried and the pages were lifted on A Muslim Commentary. Like my original work, the blog will depend on the group intellect to help inform, debate, reason and arrive at conclusions on a topic that has become for the whole world now, either an issue of contention or one of collaboration. From the recent protests against Russia’s Vladamir Putin, to the so-called Arab Uprising, to the homegrown 99% Occupy Movement, leadership is on the front burner.

While leadership is the centerpiece of this Blog, I hope to offer a forum for discussion and shared advice on issues of stewardship & governance, shuraa, operations management, strategic planning, and many other related topics that institutions have grappled with over the years. I am personally aware of a yearning around the country for more discourse on the operational side of non-profit management. Due to my current schedule, I have not had the time to travel to institutions as I have in the past. I pray that by this Blog I can help more institutions who have asked for my assistance.

Through this miracle of technology that G-d has blessed us with, we can now leverage our effort by collapsing the time and distance barriers and G-d Willing, we can facilitate something I mentioned in the very beginning of Genesis: Find case studies on how masajid conceived and implemented innovative solutions to internal governmental problems or solutions for improving their local community and share such knowledge and experience for the mutual benefit of the whole community …to share experiences  for the purpose of helping other masajid tackle management issues in their area.

As it was applicable for Genesis, the following is true for this Blog: “as we strive to become the most beneficial contributors to American society and the world, let us search within the model of the Prophet’s (S) character and wisdom and the example of those who supported him…let us use comparative study and the current management technology as our Islamic predecessors have done to seek the best solutions for our circumstances today.” I invite you to come with me and others on this journey to continue discovering the best principles and how to apply those principles to the task of achieving the mission and realizing the vision through effective systems management.

This journey will be for both Muslims and non-Muslims and for anyone concerned with how to get something done to the best level of excellence, particularly when it involves more than a single person. Yes, I just implied that leadership is needed even when I am doing a task alone. My better self shall have to lead me and keep me focused, and far away as possible from distraction and procrastination. Indeed the only difference between the self and the group is the size and composition of the intellect. The dynamics and complexity of the intellect changes with the size and composition of the group. But the complexity is there even with the individual’s id and ego, as students of western psychology might phrase it. We’ll talk about that later too. Like the individual, the group can be focused, efficient and goal oriented, or it can be terribly misguided.

The most important purpose of this blog shall be to enhance our thinking and ability in order that we may do something. Leadership for me is not theory, it is a practical matter of application. Furthermore, the “something” that personally drives me to learn more and more about leadership is a mission that I and many others were tasked with decades ago…it is to Remake the World–a proclamation and charge given to the American Muslim Community by the late Imam W. Deen Mohammed (may G-d grant him the highest station in Paradise).  So we have our points of departure. We have a road map. We have a grand vision. Now all we need is you and me. Come along on this journey of the group intellect to continue this Genesis of New American Leadership.

Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar Muhammad
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