Looking for “Instrumental Leadership.”

In seventies, when I took to writing, I often described the then leadership as charismatic. I was not the only person in the crowd that attributed this word to these leaders. There were scores of others that believed the popular leadership that was in the vanguard in the state after 1953 wielded special powers that enabled them to influence the people, attract their attention and admiration. There were scribes    tethered to the establishment or pinned to the corridors of power for benefits that did not recognize their impact the public mind. Those scribes were, by and large, denounced as blinkered.

These leaders had won many adulatory and flattering titles from their supporters and admirers   and many a scribes in their admiration these leaders  also    swam with their followers. The word charisma was so indiscriminately and frequently used for these leaders that by mid seventies it had become as worn out as a ‘much- played’ football   that loses its sheen.   The then leadership was really a great crowd puller. Some of them had as good magical powers as that of Roberts Browning’s Pied Piper. They were able ‘by means of some secret charm’ in drawing with equal enthusiasm    sheepishly innocent from   hamlets in deep forests and the sharp from small alleys in the cities and towns for adding to their political clout. And even after death the teeming hundreds of thousand followed them to their graves.
Now for the past many years I have stopped using this ten syllable word for any of the leaders, even those known for their steadfastness but looking back, this word haunts me like a ghost even today. Should, I have used the word as an attribute for the leadership that led the people’s movements after the end of the feudal rule. Having used this word as a characteristic of our leadership for many years today, I put myself in the dock to be questioned, by David A Nadler and Michael L Tushman, two American social scientists.  The duo in their book, “Beyond the Charismatic Leader”, state that charisma refers to special quality that enables the leader to mobilize and sustain activity within the organization through specific personal actions combined with perceived personal characteristics.’ Did our leadership fit in to their definition and the definition of many others?

The demagogues cannot be called as charismatic. The collaborators cannot be bracketed with the leadership know for political fidelity and commitment. A great speech maker or a television personality cannot be called as charismatic. Then what makes a charismatic leader. Three basic traits have been identified for charismatic leadership, ‘envisioning’, ‘energizing’ and ‘enabling’. Envisioning ‘involves the creation of a picture of the future, or of a desired future’ state with which people can identify and which can generate excitement.’ It needs to be challenging, meaningful and worthy of pursuit.  The vision should develop a commitment in the people. It should set a goal for the people that they can rally, and a way for people to feel successful. It should fortify people’s belief in their goals and help in inculcating consistent behavior in them.

A charismatic leader energizes the people, motivates them to act through their personal commitment to the cause they espouse for and establish personal contacts. ‘They express confidence in their own ability to succeed. They find and use success to celebrate progress towards the vision’. The third component ‘enabling, I see as most important in our situations. ‘The leader psychologically helps people act to perform in the face of challenging goals.’ People need ‘emotional assistance in accomplishing their goals. This could be achieved by the charismatic leadership by expressing   confidence in people’s ability to perform effectively and to meet challenges.

Questioning myself in line with these qualifications   about the leaders I called as charismatic, I fail in   answering in terms of yes or no. If any of our leaders could be called charismatic in real sense, I cannot answer this question without looking in their struggle and achievements thereof.  

There might have been many leaders in the subcontinent that could be called  charismatic but I see two leaders Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah that fit within the definition of charismatic. Jawaharlal had a vision for India much before the British sailed across the Indian Ocean, lock, stock and barrel. To put his nation on a very strong pedestal in the words of Tariq Ali, “he made use of every speech in the Parliament to educate his own party as well as the opposition.’ “When Jawaharlal became Prime Minister he had already discussed the future economy of the country at length with J.R.D. Tata and G.D. Birla. The two were in complete agreement with Nehru by 1938.’So is true about Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he was not only   conjured a nation state by the force of his indomitable will but had  a vision for his country much before it became a reality. His vision for the new country permeates through all his speeches he made after the adoption of the Lahore resolution and it found its bolder manifestation in the famous September 11 speech. What makes these leaders charismatic was energizing their people and enabling them to materialize their vision.

Kashmir leadership, when it embarked upon the path of struggle in 1931, it had drafted manifesto for their struggle against feudal rulers six years earlier in the 17 point    memorandum presented to the Lord Reading. With the ticking of the time their vision for Kashmir   got blurred and as years passed on it became further hazier and it was this hazy vision that ultimately germinated one after another uncertainty in the state. And people got caught up in a whirl pool of uncertainties wherein they continue to live to this day. The post- 1953 struggle led by the Front leaders also lacked all the three elements that needed for charismatic leadership to see their struggle a success. They would not have called their twenty two years life of  incarcerations, trials and tribulations as ‘waywardness’ and justified their political fiasco of 1975 as the only option available. This failure was the other called by famous lawyer-writer. A. G. Noorani at his book launch ceremony  as ‘fundamental error of laws, an accord ‘worst than useless ‘that has been ‘harmful to Kashmiris rights and interests’. The Accord ‘has neither legal efficacy nor moral worth.’  

This 1975 failure had many   lessons for the leadership that was catapulted to the centre stage of Kashmir politics in 1993. The ideologues and the leadership in nineties attributed the 1975 Accord to    ‘one party and one leader concept’ and mooted the idea of collective leadership and forum politics. Instead of launching one formidable organization the leadership mooted the idea of setting up a conglomerate party to spear head their political struggle. In the history of political struggles that have succeeded to the aspiration of people there is hardly an instance that these having been led by a motley leadership with divergent political ideologies and varied ambitions.  This forum politics seen in right perspective fragmented into bits and pieces under   weight of its own contradictions. And every fragment pursued its own agenda according to whims and fancies of their leaders ending up in desperation and frustration. I don’t want to make a harsher statement that an epitaph has already been written erected on “collective leadership” and “forum politics” but    by all imagination it seems withering away.

The situation in the region does suggest that this is passing phase of Kashmir politics but the question arises that if the historical forces throw up a formidable organization and leadership that would steer the state out of the uncertainties it has been suffering for many years.

The state would need what David and Tushaman call an ‘instrumental leadership. This leadership is more than charismatic and it needs to understand structuring and controlling of the organizations.

(Feedback at zahidgm@greaterkashmir.com)