Successful leadership depends on a successful following; if the followers fail to follow, no leader can play a successful role. The chapter Al-Nisa’ (Women) of the Quran sets forth this principle:
By your Lord, they will not be true believers until they seek your arbitration in their disputes and find within themselves no doubt about what you decide and accept it wholeheartedly. (4:65)
This Quranic verse relates to religious leadership, but the same principle is likewise applicable to the case of secular leadership. Secular leadership and religious leadership are different in their goals, but the method of both is one and the same.
Men and women are born with differences. Everyone is Mr. Different or Ms. Different, and this being so, it is not always possible to convince everyone of the correctness of the leader’s decisions. It is but natural that if some members of the group are in agreement with his decisions some other members may disagree with them. This kind of difference is a natural phenomenon which occurs in both secular groups and religious groups.
Then how to establish unity? Unity is a must for a leader to be successful. Without unity among his followers a leader cannot play an effective role. In such a situation the only formula that is applicable is—follow your leader, be it willingly or unwillingly. This is the only practical way to achieve unity: this is the sole basis for the success of the leader.
The true leader is born and not made. His principal quality is his decision-making ability. In this he is aided by his foresight, unwavering determination and his capacity for organization. Another major virtue is his lack of any desire for personal glorification. He is a man of vision, a man of integrity with no private agenda. All these qualities make for a successful leader. Any such leader will have a good reputation among his people.
But these qualities in themselves are not sufficient to ensure a successful leadership. Successful leadership depends fifty per cent upon the leader and fifty per cent upon his followers. Without a combination of the two, no leader can function successfully in either the secular or the religious sphere.
A successful leader needs material power, but power by itself does not guarantee the success of a leader. People must be aware of the benefits of unity and the pitfalls of disunity. They must bear in mind the maxim: United we stand, divided we fall.
One difference between a successful leader and an unsuccessful leader is that the former knows his followers as well as he knows himself, while the latter is one who knows himself but has no knowledge of his followers. Without having a good understanding of his followers, no leader can prove to be successful.
It is said that a successful leader is one who is also a successful pleader. Often there are occasions when you have to induce people to follow you, but there are also sometimes circumstances in which it is better to follow others. It is an appreciation of this fact that contributes to the success of the leader.
-Maulana Wahiduddin Khan