On life…and learning

Prime Minister. Is He A Leadership Material?

with 7 comments

Listening to Barack Obama’s spirited election speech yesterday, I could not help recall the pride our own Prime Minister takes in speaking less. Well, I am myself not an advocate of leaders’ babble and ranting without a cause and I am also not falling prey to the Time and Outlook magazines’ works on the respective ‘Underachievers’. However, as an ardent student of the idea of leadership, I cannot fathom as to why would the leader of world’s largest democracy fails to communicate and motivate his nation!

Then, another questions comes to mind, is he actually a leadership material? Or, was he, when he donned the cap of the PM in 2004?

However, I am not writing this blog blindly criticizing the Prime Minister; so many of them seem to be doing that off late. Nor is this blog aimed at hailing Obama as a better leader than Dr.Singh. I am rather thinking aloud; is this good man, the genius academician and a man of indisputable repute in Indian economy and polity, a real leader? Does he possess what we call the skills of leadership? Or, is he a sad case of Peter’s Principle, where he was mistakenly promoted to his levels of incompetence?

My mind says; he was never a leadership fitment. He was always an academic genius, who excelled in all he did, albeit as an individual contributor. Those who carefully noted the happenings in early 1990s in India, a period that credits Dr.Singh as an architect of liberalization of the Indian economy, would certainly remember it was the might and backing of PV Narasimha Rao, the then Indian PM, under whose leadership and guidance Dr. Singh, the then Finance Minister could take those bold decisions the nation thanks him today for.

In my assessment, he was never a leadership candidate, not at least for this crucial responsibility. Retuning back to power in 2004, the Congress Party found him as a befitting person to be given the top-job, with a clever agenda of ‘remote-control-ruling’ by the Party President. He possessed all qualities the common man would look in a chief of our nation – unblemished track record, authenticity, credibility, knowledge; he enjoyed the trust of the masses. After all, we saw him as a messiah of the economic reforms. In him becoming the PM, the party found a silent front, and the nation was led to believe that with all these qualities, he would but obviously be the true leader we always wanted.

Eight years later, we find things so starkly different. He is just not THE leader we assumed him to be. Authentic and trustworthy still as a person, he emerges a fit case of poor leadership. He just doesn’t inspire, just doesn’t invoke confidence in the masses. We still believe he is a great man. But a leader? We doubt. Many don’t even doubt; they believe he isn’t.

When I heard Obama speak with passion yesterday, I found his words compelling. Not just plain oratory it was, it appeared authentic to me. It invoked enthusiasm. It inspired me. Something that one always misses when our own PM speaks.

What does he lack, then? Why don’t we feel compelled or inspired by him?

John Hamm, the celebrated author of the bestseller ‘Unusually Excellent’, speaks at length about leaders being compelling. Parts of this book are so befitting in the current case,

“People who are authentic and trustworthy are usually good and fair…. They might be candidates for a good friendship. But it is not obvious that we should follow them – anywhere.

 …We (followers) must feel compelled (to follow)… there is no such thing as an unwilling follower, only one who has not yet seen a compelling reason to join…

 Hamm continues, and speaks at length about the five E’s of excellent leadership:

  • Great leaders know how to engage
  • Great leaders enroll people
  • They energize the troops, to forge them into a cohesive unit, orient them towards the common goal, and marshal the resources to support them in their task
  • They empower; build leaders under them
  • They enthuse…making their mission exciting for their followers, compelling them to follow…

Does Dr. Singh possess above qualities? I wonder, as I don’t see them, howsoever hard I try to locate them in him. I don’t get answer to the crucial question – ‘what’s in it for me’, in his leadership.

And how would I see these qualities in him, even if he possesses all of them!! After all, I don’t just see him talking; I just don’t see his passion. Being nice & introvert is all fine; when would he start building confidence in his followers? When will he start to engage and enroll? When will he, like a strong leader, reprimand and rein his rather notorious ‘gangs of ministers’, who just don’t do him any good in the failing attempt of governance? Will I ever see him as bold and courageous?

Does he even know that he NEEDS these skills to be able to lead us? I doubt yet again.

Failing me on all above, PM is just another ordinary replica of a corporate world’s manager, who got promoted to a role of ‘leader’, without anyone caring whether he had it in him to be one or not.

One thing that I am confident of – I’m not the only one thinking aloud like this.


Photo-credit one: economictimes.indiatimes.com

Photo-credit two: firstpost.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Though there is no denying that our Prime Minister is known for his integrity but unfortunately that became his sole qualification for being entrusted with the hardest job in our country. Appointed as the poster boy not as a leader of the coalition.


    September 9, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    • You have put it brilliantly. Thanks! Also, by integrity, it not always means personal integrity; I also lay a lot of importance on integrity of purpose. A leader’s purpose is to lead and inspire others to follow, chasing goals and driving results. For all of this, relevance and integrity of goals in a must. That seems to be missing here.


      September 9, 2012 at 6:23 PM

  2. Manmohan Singh is getting the “being silent”theory totally wrong. There is a difference between being silent because you are on a backfoot vs using the power of it by maintaining “dignified silence” when you very well could say thousand things. We know his silence is the first one – coming out of inability rather than being a choice. A good example of dignified silence is Shri Amitabh Bachchan – he remains silent through unnecessary controversies that fame brings with it, but he also knows well to choose the moments to speak up and how! And when he does speak, the world takes notice. Manmohan Singh needs lessons, as they is, it is never too late to learn…


    September 10, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    • Neha, you have taken the discussion to a new height with your argument; indeed very well said. ‘Inability to communicate’ shouldn’t be considered akin to the ‘dignified silence’. AB Senior is indeed a true example here.


      September 10, 2012 at 12:31 AM

  3. Sir I would also add some lines.. as a PM of India Mr. Singh is not only responsible for his own integrity only, its now related with Our Nation where he is been failed on all the front..so somewhere there is a problem and i would say its Integrity, As a PM of India neither he stood up againts any wrong things/actions, which had taken place nor clarified, So it Seems that he is one of the best selfish person with greed of given benifits by govt of India after completion of his PM-Period.

    Shashikant Singh

    September 11, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    • Shashi, this blog wasn’t meant to blindly accuse the PM or to question his personal integrity. I have attempted to only question a leadership gap. Also, I am not sure if anyone is currently questioning the personal integrity of Dr.Singh; we are rather questioning his leadership skills as the PM of the nation.


      September 11, 2012 at 12:40 AM

  4. The problem is the PM was never READY to be the PM. Just like DeveGowda[who didnt have an iota of idea how to communicate with his countrymen]. There is difference in wishlist and READINESS.
    The case in the making is Rahul Gandhi. His party has catapulted him to the pedestal that he himself is not confident of. Youth icon or Best PM candidate is the rhetoric of the day for him.
    Nobody[including himself] knows what he will do after coming to power. He is so defensive that he will not respond to the basic queries about his studies abroad, his job and the dreams he has for India. Basically there is a idea-paralysis these ppl suffer from. If we are not clear about the things we are involved with there will be problem in communicating with fellows.

    Half Baked strategies and ill-defined goals will take no Leader…..and India too far.

    Virender Pratap

    September 12, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: