Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era – Part 2

[Part 2 of the Series Transition from Charismatic Personality-Based Leadership: The End of a Messianic Era…]

There is also another very important organization in which personality-based leadership is not an immature form of leadership, but is rather the prescribed form of leadership and that organization is the family. I mention this last exception for a very important reason. The family is the first institutional form of government; upon it rests all other forms of government. In the early stages of civilization, groups formed for the mutual protection and aid of families. The first leadership stage of this communal obligation is the clan and it consists of various leaders of families.  Soon those clans find it beneficial to have agreements or arrangements with other clans and they may form a larger clan that often times are blended through marriage ties. That’s also why in certain parts of the “undeveloped” world, we see government organized into what is characterized as tribal or clan arrangements.

So family either through blood or marriage became the basic unit upon which early government was formed and it is still so today. Except that today, in the developed world, the family serves as the incubator through which each of us learns about and experiences leadership and governance, rather than the family or extended family relations being the actual governing structure. Now, this is another topic, but one that should cause us serious concern: What happens to a society that fails to protect and preserve the most basic institution of leadership? And can a society’s most complex system of leadership succeed if the most basic unit of leadership, the family, fails?

Anyway, I stated earlier that PBL is considered an immature form of leadership. Why is PBL considered immature and therefore undesirable in more complex settings? The answer to that question is why the fourth Caliph, Hadrat Ali (ra) was not the first caliph and also why Al-Islam’s system of succession of leadership is not one based on blood lineage.

There’s another question I’d like you to consider at this point as we delve into this week’s conversation: Can a charismatic, personality-based leadership (and particularly messianic one) really transition supporters, followers, helpers, etc. to “effective” institutional leadership while the charismatic, messianic-based leader is still alive?

“…Individual responsibility precedes group responsibility. Individual [self] government prepares us for community government. And as soon as more than myself is involved then I have to work to develop the bigger form of government and leadership; I have to yield my smaller [self] idea and support the institutionalization of leadership in the group. At the group level, the complexity of social relations and responsibilities, individual and group rights, and just allocation of resources fundamentally demand a structured process of decision making. There is a hadith in which the Prophet (SAW) says that “If three of you depart on a journey, then select a leader.” In Al-Islam, the fundamental responsibility for leadership lies in the body politic of the Ummah, with the governor and the governed.

When the system of organization fails to adapt to the realities of the group complexity, organizational dysfunction results. We often refer colloquially to such dysfunction as “Mom and Pop” operations. In this context, the coined phrase “Mom and Pop” signifies a level of decision making and organization that has not evolved and consequently prevents the establishment and utilization of the enormous potential inherent in the group. Allah (SWT) appointed mom and pop to be the leaders in the individual family unit—it works well and we would love to see more mom and pop operations within our family units. But when numerous families form a community, a different and greater potential forms and thus the system of socialization, rights, decision making and accountability must evolve not only to meet the demands of such complexity, but to redefine and enlarge the scope of what can be achieved. Allah (SWT) then gives us a different leadership structure.” (GONAL, The Prophet, the Imam and Leadership, p. 75.)

The Case of Washington, Mandela & Arafat.

–To be continued.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,



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