The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. — Kenneth Hartley Blanchard (b. 1939), American writer
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 will” .
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 crisis.
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 site, Behshadh.com.