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THE Chinese philosopher Laozi once said – The best leader is the one who understands people’s feelings and demands, and they hardly feel his presence. He is the one who speaks little. And when his work is finished and his purpose is achieved, they will all say, “We did it ourselves”.
In this regard, Laozi’s words mean to build mutual trust between the ruler and his people.
It is true that every ruler has his own style of running his state, irrespective of whether it is democratic, monarchical or parliamentary. However, the lesson remains in the formulation of orders. It is an art that the official needs to master, as nothing captures minds more than the kindness of the phrase.
Once upon a time, the king of an ancient kingdom issued an order to prohibit women from adorning themselves with gold and jewelry.
The reaction of the mass was startling, and they refused to obey the order, and protested in defiance.
Confronted by this situation, the king was confused about what to do in order to quell the sparks of sedition that he had created with his own hands. He ordered a meeting with the advisors and the pillars of government. During the meeting, one of them suggested rescinding the decision “in the public interest.”
Another said, “No… Rescinding is an indication of weakness and fear. We must show our strength.”
The group was divided between supporters and opposers. At that time, the king summoned the wise man of the city, and the latter was presented with the problem facing the king.
He told the king that people will not obey him if he thinks about what he wants, and not what the people want.
The king asked him, “What is to be done? Should I rescind then?”
The wise man said: “No, but issue another order explaining why adorning with gold and jewelry is not necessary for women, because they do not need such a thing, as their natural beauty is enough, and adorning with jewelries is for the ugly ones.”
The king acted on the advice of the wise man and issued the decision. Within just a few hours, the women gave up adornment. Each one of them began to look at herself as beautiful, and realized they did not need adornment and jewelry.
The next day, the wise man told the king, “People obeyed you when you thought with their minds, and you understood their interests through the window of their feelings.”
The king did not back down from his decision, but the shrewd wise man changed his direction, thereby quelling a massive opposition that almost opened the gates of hell to the government and the state, divided the people and would have led to unbearable consequences.
Therefore, the lesson from the story is that having incompetent advisors is the most dangerous for a ruler, especially if they put their interests before the affairs of the state and use their powers to maximize their role. Successful administration requires the art of choosing efficient aides and assistance, and also knowing how people think and what they want, which is what the Chinese Philosopher said 2,600 years ago.
There are many countries that fall into the trap of advisors and officials who do not possess prudence in implementing the decision, and formulate the matter according to what they see and not what serves the government and the state.
This is due to the fact that the success of a state based on cheating cannot continue. A cheater manages his failure by obscuring the message of the government, and does not see the goals that serve the leader who has a clear and specific message in his mind, and a vision for the future.
In fact, he does not realize how to reach the end point, and so he uses helpers who work to prepare the right ground to reach the goal.
There is a saying by Napoleon Bonaparte – “We do not rule people unless we show them the future; a leader trades with hope.”
That is why Allah says in the Qur’an – “And their matter is consultation among them…” And the Messenger Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said – “The advisor is entrusted.”
The lesson, as the ancient ones said, is – “A successful leader is the one who balances the culture of leadership and its principles with the general mood of his followers.”
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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