Nepal | September 24, 2020

Leadership crisis in Nepal: Radical change is needed

Madhukar SJB Rana
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The current global scenario is one of what Ruchir Sharma in his remarkable book, The Rise and Fall of Nations Ten Rules of Change in Post Crisis World” (2016) calls a new era of “depopulation, deglobalization and deleveraging”

Leadership crisis

We are living in extraordinary times, believes Ronald A. Heifetz, one of the foremost theorists on leadership. He calls forth a ‘new social contract’ to revitalize our civic life to grapple with this crisis of leadership.

Our own current batch of leaders have become the prisoners of their followers and hence fall prey to nepotism, favouritism and other manner of social corruption.

Politics today, instead of uniting society, is actually victimized by its very fragmentation.

Vote banking politics has gone to such dangerous depths that it is difficult for MPs and PMs to unite the country by governing on behalf of all citizens. Is it any wonder that MPs, who are supposed to be legislators, now seek executive roles as development project providers.

It remains to be seen how this will play out when federal legislatures also seek the same fiscal favor given that they may not be from the same political parties.

Leadership is all about adaptive success through peaceful reconciliation of conflicting values.

The most difficult and the most valuable task of leadership is to be engaged in realistic goal setting and to be able to mobilize people to face the challenges by providing hope, a national vision, and a national mission for action – guided by a national security policy laying down clearly and concisely our supreme national interests and national core values that bind one and all equally sans exception.

Ronald Heifez tells us, ‘authority’ needs to be seen as the “conferred power to perform a service”. It is based on a quid pro quo, an exchange or social contract. It can be taken away and rendered to others who can fulfill the service to the sovereign people.

Thus we authorize our leaders to do things for us and not to dominate us, or to rule over us. Authority is not identical to dominance and deference so the theory goes.

Which may be so in the animal kingdom, but not in the society of human beings.

Authority should be no more than required to carry out one’s responsibility. Checks and balance is a must to control the perversion of power.

In a political oligarchy, this necessity of checks and balance is totally eroded as room for free speech and dissent is reduced to a bare minimum. We saw what happened during the debate on the Constitution just prior to its promulgation by the second Constituent Assembly.

We saw how the results of the public opinion sought by the Constituent Assembly on the major features of the Constitution were never made public.

It is common knowledge that nearly 90% of the people were opposed to secularism, federalism and, further, they wished to have a directly elected PM.

Another method of checks and balance is when we as citizens exercise leadership too. But this cannot happen when party politics is brought to roost in public institutions, including media and the academia.

When the family members choose different political parties for access to power centres for their family interests rather than commitment to any particular ideology the space between state and society is minimized.

Such a reduction is nurtured by inclusive politics that grants quotas and privileged access to the state and its resources on the basis of creed, caste, community and not class.

For a genuine democracy we count as citizens. Each vote should and must count. It is the citizenry that must get our leaders to do what we want for the nation, for our community and for the future of our children and their children.

We, as citizens, must exercise leadership to elevate our leaders to a higher moral plane.

Most of us have grown up with a sense of powerlessness–deferring to parents and grandparents; to teachers and headmistresses; to political, economic and social leaders; and, not least, to the coercive powers of the state’s security apparatus.

Where citizens act like consumers of the spoils of power then, quite naturally, democracy gets reduced to acts of populism from an expectant electorate.

Is it any wonder then if we get the leaders that we deserve? We have only ourselves to blame for the crisis of leadership.

We, as citizens, must inculcate a new concept that of ‘good followership’. We must begin to believe that it is a part and parcel for good leadership. Without this new way of thinking amidst us, is it any surprise that we have political leaders totally devoid of any sense of statesmanship.

We have missed the dawn of the Emergence of Asia owing to the utter lack of vision of our political leadership.

The current global scenario is one of what Ruchir Sharma in his remarkable book, The Rise and Fall of Nations Ten Rules of Change in Post Crisis World” (2016) calls a new era of “depopulation, deglobalization and deleveraging”.

Which makes me wonder whether Nepal can deliver the much-hyped ‘economic revolution’ after the full implementation of the Republican Constitution of 2015.

It is my submission that it will never happen unless we have a radical change in political leadership all round and, hopefully, these go to reform minded leaders.

This is unlikely in the current oligopolistic polity driven by outdated feudal-minded leaders subscribing to out dated socialism, communism and Maoism but actually being sustained by crony capitalism.

Rana is Executive Director, SAIM Leadership & Executive Development Centre.

A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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