بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say:
“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler of the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his household and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and children and is responsible for her flock. The slave is the shepherd of his master’s wealth and is responsible for it. Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock.”
[Narrated by al-Bukhaari (853) and Muslim (1829).]
If you are a shepherd of your flock whether that’s you being a CEO of your corporate business, a Project Engineer in your company, a Da’ee in an organization, a teacher at the community children’s nursery, a khateeb of your local area, a mother or somebody’s best friend (who is struggling in their life): your role is to bring the best out of people if you’ve been blessed with guidance from Allah SWT. You have to be a role model for those under your care, inspire them, motivate them.
It is Allah SWT who positions people in different roles regardless of whether they themselves feel capable or not of those very roles. A woman who may not know much about motherhood becomes a mother and all of a sudden she’s responsible for another human being’s life in this world and the HereAfter. Allah SWT gives her a position of ‘leadership’. Now she’s in-charge and will be till the Day of Judgement. And as she nurtures her child, if she seeks His Help, He SWT guides her and teaches her how to raise them even though she didn’t know anything about it in the past.
Likewise, you may be given a position of leadership in your workplace, Dawah organization, social circles, a cause or within family. It’s nothing to be proud of because you will be held accountable for your interactions with them. It’s very easy to tell people what to do. However, it’s extremely difficult to make people under your care perform as they must.
Humans are very interesting beings. You have to fulfill their basic needs first and then expect them to fulfill their tasks that you have in mind for them as a leader. As a person in-charge (or someone who has finally decided to assume responsibility) , you have to make sure they are not too overburdened and at the same time, their tasks are not that too simple that they get bored. You have to understand how they think and what their circumstances are. Not one person is the same and of course all of us have different things we’re struggling with. As a result, there are a few things I believe a leader must keep in mind inshaa’Allah according to my limited experience.
A leader must:
- build rapport with those under his care and the community at large. Not the dominating kind but a very friendly atmosphere in which those who are under his care are able to come talk to him without any inhibitions. Don’t be too worried about being ‘respected’ because honor is in the hands of Allah SWT and He gives it to you if you are deserving of it.
- build trust as they build rapport. He must have a good reputation and must be known of integrity in his character. Of course everyone makes mistakes, that’s not the point here. A leader can make mistakes too but a person with integrity will come forth, admit it and work for reformation.
- be caring and must strive to take care of needs of people under his care or at least be aware of them. If somebody is struggling with low self-esteem, you must as a leader focus all your attention on building it. Almost everyone I’ve met has some sort of low self-esteem issue and it surfaces in different forms. It makes some people quiet and withdrawn while others become out-spoken and rude. It affects their productivity and mental well-being of those around so you must target it even if you feel it’s a little challenging. So as soon as you recognize the struggle they’re going through, take them to a side, talk to them directly without making them feel that you’re treading their private affairs because some people don’t like to talk about their personal lives. For e.g., instead of saying that, ‘I heard you are going through a divorce. What happened?’…you could say, ‘We all are going through some tests and struggles and I can understand you must be going through as well. Is there a way I can help you and not overburden you with current responsibilities?’ Most likely soon after that people do opt to open up. Even if they don’t completely, they will see you in a different light which will make them come to you when they need to talk.
- create a psychologically-safe environment within his domain so that people don’t feel threatened by each other’s differences. He can create activities which foster mutual love among people and get rid of the rough patches. Also, as he does that, everyone will learn how to work as a team (a group, as a family) instead of thinking individually. It increases motivation and people feel that they belong. Don’t we all know the beautiful example of how Prophet Mohammed salahu ‘alayhi wasalam built bonds of brotherhood among the Ansaar and Muhaajir?
- give responsibility when the people under his care feel capable of fulfillfing that task. You must mentor them without being condescending and as soon as that’s done, give them free rein under continuous supervision so that they can apply what they learn without you being controlling. How will they learn if you continue to do everything for them? Sometimes people under your care may be hesitant to accept tasks even though you know that they can do it by the Help of Allah SWT. Be patient but don’t ‘mother’ them for long. For example, if there’s a person you know for sure is capable of giving a talk by the virtue of their knowledge and you’ve tried everything (from building self-esteem to taking care of their concerns) then plan to put them on a spot. But before you do that, you must have already created a safe and friendly environment in which everyone is encouraging of the other. So if the person you wish to put on the spot falters, others around him boost his confidence and encourage him and not demean him inshaa’Allah. This way the intended person will learn about his hidden capability to speak and recognize that it’s not as bad as he thinks it was. Also, he will realize that if he makes a mistake, people are more understanding and patient so he doesn’t need to strive to look 100% confident all the time. It’s all about self-image which will be altered positively so that in future they are not hesitant anymore inshaa’Allah.
- give a pep talk. This is something hardly anyone does or keeps in mind. You would think people don’t listen or don’t care about that nice little email you sent ages ago but people do care. Just because you don’t get any feedback doesn’t mean they don’t. A pep talk must be given before giving a difficult task in which people are reminded of the benefit of the work (the rewards), and in which they are reminded of their capabilities. We all need reminders and this must be something no leader should ever forget.
- praise others personally when they do a good job. For e.g., don’t send out one email to all thanking them for their hardwork. Those who demand special thanks, give it to them in a special way without over-doing it.
- learn how to phrase his constructive feedback. There are many books which can help a leader with that. It’s a very vast topic and that is not the aim of this post. One key thing everyone should remember is that your job is not just to convey. It is to convey in a manner most-receptive to your audience inshaa’Allah.
- give everyone a deadline to submit their feedback (Shoora/consultation), do Istikhara and then make a decision and stick with it.
- be honest with himself and others. Honesty is one virtue which makes up for all deficiencies.
- make duaa for others. Privately as well as publicly. He mustn’t feel shy to extend warmth provided he has the intention to motivate people and not do it for his personal motives.
- recognize that he’s not in a leadership position but rather he’s in a serving position. That he has been selected by Allah SWT to serve people, something which he should be thankful about by increasing in His Obedience and staying away from disobedience. Therefore, if he has asked everyone to come at a certain time, he should be there before them. If he is organizing an event, he must be the last to leave. This may get tiring and you will need help which brings me to the next point…
- train others and don’t assume that you’ll always be available or have the energy to do everything. Recognize others’ strengths and focus more on working with people’s strengths than working with their weaknesses. As you do that, pick few individuals whom you think are always doing their tasks properly, and appoint them as your trainees so that when you’re unavailable or you die, they can take your place. Do this from day one and give them special attention so that they feel even more excited to take newer responsibilities and do a much better job than you inshaa’Allah.
- be humble in front of Allah SWT and should not forget his relationship with Allah SWT as he maintains good relationship with others.
- have self-blaming attitude and must blame his intention and lack of sincerity for not achieving optimum results. This will prevent him from dwelling too much on problems and inshaa’Allah he will focus more on solutions. He must keep reminding himself that he’s not working for people even if he’s serving them. He’s in fact only working for Allah SWT!
Sh. Ahsan Hanif has said that a person doesn’t need a huge group of people to lead. It could even be one or two individuals. His success is not measured by how many people ‘follow’ him but rather how effectively those people’s lives’ change for the better. There will be Prophets on the Day of Judgement with only a handful of people who would’ve believed in them and sometimes just one or two. Does that mean that they had failed? Of course not. So we mustn’t measure our success according to the quantity.
Leadership is over-rated these days. There are leadership seminars everywhere and thousands of people (professionals and non-professionals) flock to such workshops spending time and money aiming to learn about it in a week. But leadership is not just about learning, it’s about an attitude towards life. And it is not always by designation.It is when as soon as you recognize that you need to reform things within your own self and within the society. It is the moment of awareness, that light of guidance Allah SWT blesses you with which then demands you to work towards that reformation. Please don’t ever take guidance from Allah SWT for granted and never be stingy in sharing goodness. Don’t be a means of hurt/agony for others and be a means of strength for others as Rasulalah salalahu ‘alahyi wasalam has said:
Abu Musa (radi Allahu anh) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said,
“The relationship of the believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other.” He (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) illustrated this by interlacing the fingers of both his hands.
[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]
May Allah SWT bless us all with hikmah to do the right thing at the right time in the right manner at the right place. Ameen!
And Allah SWT knows best.