Tag Archives: organizational evolution

Protecting your Community’s DNA from Foreign Incursion

“We have indeed created man in the best of molds. Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low. Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a reward unfailing.”The Glorious Qur’an, At-Tin: 95

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In Congress, July 4, 1776, The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

Organizations face risks each day and while there are tools to minimize the consequences of risks such as self, commercial insurance and board of director liability insurance, there are actually only two ways of dealing with risk:

1. Manage risks; or
2. Eliminate risks.

Knowing the difference between the two approaches is a function of competent leadership.

Usually, when the topic of risks arises, we usually think accident or injury or some act has placed the institution at risk for litigation. Regardless of the circumstance, most consequences from risks can be managed or effectively eliminated with forethought. Forethought is a hall mark of competent leadership and it doesn’t have to be 20/20 to be very effective in keeping the organization out of hot water.

Today, we’re going to briefly discuss a certain type of risk that slowly attacks the very identity of your organization—the risk of foreign influence. When I say foreign influence, I am referring to a sort of gradual incursion of very different values, interpretation, and culture that is fundamentally different from the organization’s current values, beliefs and culture. The term foreign as used in this article refers to the virtual virus-like approach of taking over an organization’s basic leadership structures to recreate an organization that would be unrecognizable by its current founders or supporters.

Of course, over time, every organization like an individual, changes or evolves based on the times, the issues, the group intellect, new technologies, etc. Normal organizational evolution is not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about changing the very DNA of an organization such that it no longer resembles an institution established upon fundamentally accepted principles and values of the current body of members that support that institution.

Let’s use an example. Our country has changed considerably since its founding. But, its governing constitution and other supporting documents and established institutions have been ingrained with certain elements that retain the principles of being a democratic republic. Now as individual human beings, we don’t always live up to our or others’ expectations. It should not be expected that any group comprised of fallible individuals will always be perfect in upholding the best standard.

However, that’s why the organization as an entity must always have an unchanging compass with respect to its values and aspirations. Moreover, those ideal values and aspirations should be ingrained in the organization’s governing documents to hold the individuals over a perpetual period of time accountable to the ideal standard or state of operations.

Think of your governing documents and the supporting operating guidelines and institutions established to undergird your government as vaccinations against foreign incursion of ideas fundamentally antithetical to what your organization stands for.

Leaders can eliminate and manage the risks of foreign incursion through its everyday practices, institutions and governing documents. Ironically, institutions that have strong safeguards in their documents can have more open environments that welcome contributions and interaction from a diverse group intellect. Think about our own country for a moment.

We have a history of being open to the world and such openness has attracted some of the best and brightest of the global intellect and their contributions have made our country a better place. We’re not afraid to let thinking people in. But, to lead this country as President of the United States, you have to be born here, Hawaii included (smile). Point is, manage the risk of foreign incursion by eliminating the possibility of foreign thinking and ideas leading your institution down a completely unwanted path, but don’t on the basis of fear, eliminate the benefits of the group intellect present already in your institution or city for fear of a takeover. In the end, foreign thinking is not a geographical reference. Foreign thinking represents any ideology that goes against your fundamental constitutional and community aspirations, values, and beliefs. To protect your community’s DNA in perpetuity, you have to put pen to paper and ingrain the standards in writing (including leadership restraints). Review your governing documents.

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

Sincerely & respectfully,

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P.S. Ramadhan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadhan)…May these special days be a healing and portent of peace to all the lands.

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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