Tag Archives: Messianic

Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era – Part 2

Part 2 of the Series Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era…

There is also another very important organization in which personality-based leadership is not an immature form of leadership, but is rather the prescribed form of leadership and that organization is the family. I mention this last exception for a very important reason. The family is the first institutional form of government; upon it rests all other forms of government. In the early stages of civilization, groups formed for the mutual protection and aid of families. The first leadership stage of this communal obligation is the clan and it consists of various leaders of families.  Soon those clans find it beneficial to have agreements or arrangements with other clans and they may form a larger clan that often times are blended through marriage ties. That’s also why in certain parts of the “undeveloped” world, we see government organized into what is characterized as tribal or clan arrangements.

So family either through blood or marriage became the basic unit upon which early government was formed and it is still so today. Except that today, in the developed world, the family serves as the incubator through which each of us learns about and experiences leadership and governance, rather than the family or extended family relations being the actual governing structure. Now, this is another topic, but one that should cause us serious concern: What happens to a society that fails to protect and preserve the most basic institution of leadership? And can a society’s most complex system of leadership succeed if the most basic unit of leadership, the family, fails?

Anyway, I stated earlier that PBL is considered an immature form of leadership? Why is PBL considered immature and therefore undesirable in more complex settings? The answer to that question is why the fourth Caliph, Hadrat Ali (ra) was not the first caliph and also why Al-Islam’s system of succession of leadership is not one based on blood lineage.

There’s another question I’d like you to consider at this point as we delve into this week’s conversation: Can a charismatic, personality-based leadership (and particularly messianic one) really transition supporters, followers, helpers, etc. to “effective” institutional leadership while the charismatic, messianic-based leader is still alive?

“…Individual responsibility precedes group responsibility. Individual [self] government prepares us for community government. And as soon as more than myself is involved then I have to work to develop the bigger form of government and leadership; I have to yield my smaller [self] idea and support the institutionalization of leadership in the group. At the group level, the complexity of social relations and responsibilities, individual and group rights, and just allocation of resources fundamentally demand a structured process of decision making. There is a hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) says that “If three of you depart on a journey, then select a leader.” In Al-Islam, the fundamental responsibility for leadership lies in the body politic of the Ummah, with the governor and the governed.

When the system of organization fails to adapt to the realities of the group complexity, organizational dysfunction results. We often refer colloquially to such dysfunction as “Mom and Pop” operations. In this context, the coined phrase “Mom and Pop” signifies a level of decision making and organization that has not evolved and consequently prevents the establishment and utilization of the enormous potential inherent in the group. Allah (SWT) appointed mom and pop to be the leaders in the individual family unit—it works well and we would love to see more mom and pop operations within our family units. But when numerous families form a community, a different and greater potential forms and thus the system of socialization, rights, decision making and accountability must evolve not only to meet the demands of such complexity, but to redefine and enlarge the scope of what can be achieved. Allah (SWT) then gives us a different leadership structure.” (GONAL, The Prophet, the Imam and Leadership, p. 75.)

The Case of Washington, Mandela & Arafat.

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,

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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,

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