Leadership trust and credibility index!

  • We need leaders who can inspire their followers and detractors equally, who enjoy trust of their followers and are imbued with unimpeachable value of service before self

By Dr Zafar I. Qureshi

In Pakistan, there is a seemingly leadership trust and credibility gap. At the popular level, people are confused as who to follow and who not to follow. There are allegations from one group of leaders and there are equally strong counter allegations from the other group. One group is harping on financial corruption of the leaders in the other group. Morality issues are thrown from the other side of the political spectrum. A particular brand of political leadership is targeting political leaders in the other camps.

A particular group uses its diatribe against one party ignoring the corruption in other institutions very conveniently. This singling of one party shows the personal animosity of the leader of the accusing party. This is a rather sad reflection on our political leadership. When put together such a situation leads to trust and credibility gaps in our political leadership.

There is hardly any institution in our national life that escapes allegation. of corruption of sorts. Take for instance the judiciary and its apex body. The judges of the Supreme Court that were part of the Panama Papers case investigation are a subject of analyses at the technical and at the popular levels. The establishment is also under question for a perceived (un)known role that it might or might not have played from behind the scenes in the Panama case.

As such aside from the political arena, leadership in other institutions also suffers from trust deficit and credibility issues. In the backdrop of the present leadership trust and credibility gap, it seems desirable to evolve a framework to not only assess the degree of this gap but to also develop leadership that would win the hearts and minds of the populace. Hopefully, the development of such a framework will help gauge the maturity of our leaders in institutional whether political or others.

With the help of this index, we may be able to identify leaders who will enjoy trust and credibility and, in turn, will promote good governance practices in their institutions, the sine qua non of a functionally stable, pro-development, corruption free, morally strong and matured society. While there is abundant literature on leadership which is replete with all kinds of definitions, theories and frameworks.

For instance, in the common parlance terms such as ethical leadership, inspirational leadership, transformational leadership, transactional leadership and servant leadership are used to define and profile leadership in today’s institutions. While useful in their own right, however, in our own context we need a more comprehensive framework to assess the maturity of the leaders.

In this article, therefore, I shall attempt to present some fundamental variables of constructing an index to gauge the maturity of the leaders which may also help ascertain the trust and credibility of the leaders. This may help, as stated above, in creating a functionally stable and intellectually matured society.

Before I get into discussing the maturity index of the leadership, the reader might find it of interest to know how the leadership of the US had been defined and profiled. Recently, I read in an article in The Economist weekly a profiling of Donald Trump’s leadership. His (Trump) leadership was categorised as politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit. Reading this article, I thought that if one were to construct a leadership maturity index probably these three parametres might be of help in gauging the maturity index of our own leaders. But this will be a rather narrow way of defining leadership. Why?

Since our leadership landscape has many shades and forms coming from business, feudal and sports backgrounds, and our next elections are round the corner, it might be useful to construct a more comprehensive leadership maturity index for people to assess who to follow and who not to follow. What, then, follows provides some food for thought for an enlightened debate on this index.

Constructing a leadership maturity index poses many challenges. The first challenge, of course, relates to the degree of comprehensiveness, second to number of variables to include and finally which variables are more pertinent in the present context of the leadership maturity in terms of trust and credibility to be effective. I say effective since in my vocabulary there are no good leaders – they are either effective or ineffective.

Given these challenges let us try to identify some key variables to construct leadership maturity index. Here are the key variables from which to choose the index.

  1. The ability of a leader to craft a vision for the future
  2. The ability to inspire the followers
  3. The ability to motivate the followers
  4. The ability to promote meritocracy in the working of institutions
  5. The ability to promote rule of law in national policies
  6. The ability to practice transparency in all transactions
  7. The ability to champion and implement institutional reforms
  8. The degree of trust and trust deficit with the followers
  9. The demonstrated ability of serve to others
  10. The ability to avoid conflict of interest
  11. The ability to develop a top team of talented individuals
  12. The ability to empower others to act on the vision
  13. The ability to deal with adversaries with respect
  14. The ability to control emotions and temper
  15. The ability to deal with crises with courage
  16. The ability to turn a ‘NO’ into a ‘YES’
  17. The ability to tell and to seek the truth in all decisions
  18. To ability to follow an impeccable personal character

The foregoing 18 variables to assess leadership maturity can be clubbed into four categories viz, leadership skills, championing reforms, building talented team, building and earning trust, resilience during crises and impeccable personal character. Sadly, if we were to measure our leaders against the maturity index mentioned above on a scale of 1 to 5, it would seem that almost all of them will fall short of securing a 4. As such our people don’t have very many choices to pick their leaders from. Even those who claim that they might be the role models in reality they also fall short of securing a higher number.

REASONS: First, our leaders don’t come through a rigorous leadership training to harness their leadership skills. Second, those elected as public representatives don’t acquire any training either. Third, their decision-making skills are also inadequate. Fourth, once in position of the leadership they fail to develop their second-in-command. Fifth, they fail to manage their temper and also fail to tolerate competing narratives in national policy formulation. Sixth, once in power they centralise instead of delegating powers. Seventh, while character counts in a leader, our leaders are perceived to be deficient in personal character. However, at the polar level, these terms are used mostly without any objective operation definitions of these adjectives.

Our leadership landscape in view of the above analysis suffers from major deficit trust and credibility gaps. Consequently, we find our leaders more interested in pulling each-others’ legs instead of focusing on developing a common consensus-based agenda by using parliament as a platform. Although personal character is difficult to measure in absolute terms, it would be desirable if personal conflict of interest, transparency in all public and official transactions, and being a law abiding leader in the public domain are used as a yardstick for gauging personal character.

Today, more than ever before, we need leaders who can inspire their followers and detractors equally, who enjoy trust of their followers and are imbued with the unimpeachable value of service before self. We want leadership to emerge from our youth for which national leadership programmes especially for future leaders ought to be established. This is of utmost importance for young parliamentarians who have to lead our country in the next decade or so and who will be able to generate deep love for Pakistan in our youth. The youth who through their dedication and commitment will be able to transform Pakistan into a prosperous, healthier and better country.

The writer is BOG chairman at the Nur International University and can be reached at [email protected]