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HOW will the leader act when faced with a crisis in his country? Will he turn the crisis into an opportunity for reform and complete the building process, or will he yield to the threat, which will lead to the downfall of the state?
Many leaders do ask themselves this question; hence some of them managed to etch their names in history when they were faced with challenges, whereas others have been forgotten because of their inability to comprehend the nature of their mission.
There are many characters that nations remember at great junctures, and the way they acted to save their country.
For example, Americans remember a few among the total of 46 presidents of the United States, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt.
Among the great leaders who are still remembered in history are Muhammad Ali Pasha – the builder of the modern Egyptian renaissance, King Abdulaziz bin Saud – the unifier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah – the founder of modern Kuwait who challenged all difficult regional and local circumstances politically and economically, and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who unified the United Arab Emirates.
These people had the desire to build countries that are capable of continuity and development. They were able to overcome all difficulties with limited capabilities, and worked wisely to walk in minefields for the salvation of their country. Because of this, they became milestones in political history.
They did not work alone, as they sought the assistance of experts and loyal advisers. They did not choose anyone who was considered as a factor in the destruction of the state, according to Niccolo Machiavelli in his book “The Prince” at the beginning of the 16th century.
Instead, they chose the ones who possessed integrity, because they are the image of the ruler in the nation through which they are evaluated. If they are sincere, the leader is considered as one of the wise because he was able to determine the capabilities of his trustees, preserve their loyalty, and direct them to serve the country.
As evidence of this, Machiavelli cites Antonio da Venafro, the minister of Pandolfo Petrucci, Prince of Siena, at the time, who considered him a wise prince for choosing Antonio as his minister.
In this regard, the Italian thinker wrote,
“Men are three different minds. The first understands matters without anyone’s help. The second understands them when someone else explains to them. The third does not understand matters alone or when someone explains them to him. The third type of mind is useless, which is why many hypocrites surround him to become his internal army, flaunt his wisdom even if he is the biggest fool, and defend him in front of the people desperately”.
Such people pave the way for the fall of their countries, because they seek to provoke strife and unrest in order to prove to the ruler that they are facing a great conspiracy. On the other hand, great and wise leaders can distinguish between bad and good deeds, and they correct the first and exhort the second.
Above all, the ruler must know his minister. If he finds him self-seeking in all his actions more than the interest of the leader, which is the state’s interest, then such a minister is not worthy and cannot be relied upon.
Machiavelli’s definition of the qualities of an ideal ruler include the willingness to imitate the conduct of great rulers – contemporaneous or previous ones, the ability to show the need for government for the welfare of the people, leadership in the art of war for the survival of the state, prudence to seek advice when necessary, and most importantly, capability to build and maintain the state.
Sometimes the leader needs cruelty to confront those who seek to weaken his rule either directly or indirectly. For this reason, he remains keen to seek the assistance of loyal, expert advisors who work to achieve his desire to build and advance society.
The leaders who lost their thrones started with being hostile to their people, after they hired inexperienced and hypocritical people who worked to isolate the ruler from his natural surroundings, i.e., his society.
No sane person wishes to fall, except for the one who does not value advice and honesty. The only valid defense methods depend on the capabilities of the ruler and his righteous advisors who seek to gather the people around him, secure the welfare of the nation and protect it from the enemies both inside and outside at the same time.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times