What our community needs is a new breed
of great leaders to apply scientific and rational approaches
January 24, 2005
The key to successful leadership today is influence,
not authority. -- Kenneth Hartley Blanchard (b. 1939), American
The Persian community in exile
bears visible scars of division shaped by cultural experiences
of a generation that has witnessed
the breakdown of social order and structure in the old country.
These cultural experiences have contributed to an emerging leadership
crisis in a polarized environment. Every social gathering is a
potential venue for emotionally driven debates on past and current
world affairs, while heated discussions are often based on subjective
opinions, distorted facts, and inaccurate assertions.
Judging by the number of weblogs, editorials and commentaries,
the diaspora remains passionate and concerned about Iran's
political future. Nevertheless, one cannot pursue noble objectives
in life with passion alone. What our community needs is a new breed
of great leaders to apply scientific and rational approaches towards
presenting new innovative ideas and healing scars of internal divisions.
In his article "Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility
and Fierce Resolve" (Harvard Business Review, January
2001), Jim Collins identifies key factors that
help institutions make the transition from being mediocre to great.
Collins points at 'Level 5 Leadership' as the most
important component in the transition from good to great. He defines 'Level
5 Leaders' as executives who build "enduring greatness
through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional
At the community level, great leaders set an example in personal
humility and possess self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy
characters. They inspire standards and a culture of discipline,
instead of pure charisma, to motivate others. Great leaders nurture
freedom and responsibility and sacrifice personal gains for the
greater good. They take responsibility for failures and refrain
from using others or the luck factors as escape goats. Through
their unwavering commitment to long term results, they deliver
on promises without hypes, spins, excuses and exaggerations.
One must admit that contemporary leaders in the Persian community,
both at the macro (national) and micro (local) level, lack characteristics
associated with great leaders. There are few credible personalities
whom we can trust. Hence, our community suffers from a leadership
At the macro (national) level, the cult of personality surrounding
ruling and opposition leaders in exile has further complicated
the political conundrum. Evidently, there is a correlation between
cultural attitudes and 'cult of personality' as a phenomenon.
Iranians tend to create or demonize 'heroes' and 'anti-heroes',
rather than contribute to the evolution of ideas and principles.
Whatever the explanation, it is necessary to initiate a public
education and awareness campaign on negative impacts of 'hero
worship' and 'cult of personality'.
It is imperative to replace gossips, rhetoric and speculations
with substantive discussions and innovative ideas to build a pluralistic
democratic society. Such discussions need to be led by political
scientists, economists, sociologists and scholars who are willing
to build consensus based on a scientific framework. To arrive at
this stage, we need to first nurture a new generation of great
leaders at the micro (community) level.
Recognizing the fundamental need for regime change in Iran, it
is imperative to identify the next generation of great leaders
at a young age, nurture their talents and provide them with open
access to educational and career opportunities. To this end, the
current generation of leaders needs to embrace change and retire
with grace. This particularly applies to the leadership level of
political opposition in exile.
Great leaders of tomorrow face the daunting task of regaining
social trust and exercising influence, rather than authority, to
address social issues both at the macro and the micro level. Ultimately,
great leadership drives from the application of science and reason
towards communal consensus.
Behshad Hastibakhsh, 34, is an award winning Political Scientist
by training, Marketing & Public Relations Specialist
by experience, and published Writer with passion. Behshad
leads a professional career in the high-tech business sector and
maintains vast interests in global politics. Visit his