The Missing Link – Why Most Leaders Fail and Only Few Succeed

linkOn the front cover of his book entitled The Leadership of Muhammad, Professor John Adair sums up everything about Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) leadership quality or philosophy in one sentence – “On a journey the leader of a people is their servant Muhammad”.

This is the key ingredient to becoming a successful leader, be it a leader of a nation, a leader of an organization, a group, soccer team and so forth. If we can internalize and externalize this number one leadership quality or philosophy then we will definitely be on our way to lead our followers to achieve greatness as can be seen in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), especially in his 23 years journey leading and guiding mankind to Islam.

So, how do we internalize and externalize this quality or philosophy? First let’s talk about how to internalize it. We internalize this philosophy by continuously reminding ourselves that our main role is to serve our followers and not the other way around.

Being a leader is not a privilege to live an easy or a luxury life, rather it is a responsibility that we must carry out properly because the welfare and wellbeing of our followers depend on us. They choose us as their leader because they believe that we can get the job done, they trust us to take care of them and more importantly they expect us to lead and guide them to achieve the shared goals, mission and vision of the team. If we keep on reminding ourselves of these responsibilities then they will be translated into our daily lives, which brings us to the second part of this philosophy i.e. to externalize it.

We externalize the philosophy by acting upon it or apply it in our day to day routines. In other words, we externalize this philosophy by sacrificing our own interests or needs for our followers’. Over and over again we can see how great leaders externalize this philosophy in their lives. For example during a serious drought in Arabia in 640 A.D the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn Al-Khattab put the interests and wellbeing of his people ahead of his own.

During 640 A.D., Arabia suffered from a serious drought. There were no rains, and as such there was no cultivation. That led to serious famine. There was not a blade of grass to be found anywhere, and as such there was nothing for the animals to graze upon. Because of serious famine conditions the people were involved in great distress. Black dust storms blow over the countryside and that added to the distress of the people. The people from the interior flocked to the cities. There was practically no grain in the market. Ghee, butter and meat disappeared from the markets. It became a serious problem to feed the people.

Umar rose to the occasion. He wrote to the provincial governors asking them to send food grains to Arabia. Camel loads of food grains and other necessities of life came from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. Food-grains were received from Egypt through the sea as well.

Umar distributed food grains and other necessities among the people family wisely. Meals were cooked at the State level and all persons from the interior of the desert who took refuge in Madina were fed daily at state expense. According to one account, as many as 40,000 persons were fed every day.

In view of the resources of his disposal, Umar could afford to have dainty food but he vowed that as long as the famine lasted he would eat only what was available to an Arab of ordinary means. He refused to eat meat, ghee or butter during the period of famine. He ordered that his meal should be cooked with oil. He would eat only the coarsest of food. As a consequence of eating nutritionless food, his color took a blacker hue. His stomach would rumble, but he said: “O stomach you may rumble as much as you like, but as long as the famine persists I cannot allow you anything dainty”. One day some ghee came to the market and his servant purchased the ghee for him. When Umar came to know of that he refused to have anything to do with such a luxury. A son of his cooked some meat one day and offered him the dish. He refused to eat it… (

So to conclude, if we want to become a great and successful leader, all we have to do is, serve our followers well and put their interests and well-being ahead of our own.