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Book Review: The Charismatic Leader

Book Review: The Charismatic Leader

I started this book in January for my Book of the Month goal. My overall impression of it is that every Pakistani and non-Pakistani should read it. It's a little history heavy so if you are not familiar with Indian and Pakistani politics especially during the Partition, you may get distracted by all the names and dates. However, once you learn to overlook that, you will realize this book is actually a well-written piece of Pakistani history. What the subject matter is and how the author writes it, I will let you know. 

The Charismatic Leader: Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Creation of Pakistan was written by Sikandar Hayat in 2008. It was a good idea to read up on the author to see how knowledgeable and educated Mr. Hayat is. Mr. Hayat has been educated in Columbia Univesity and has held many positions in colleges and universities as an educator. He even served as an Education Counselor at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. He has won many awards in Pakistan Studies and has written extensively on the founder of Pakistan in both national and international journals. Needless to say, Mr. Hayat is quite qualified to write on this topic. 

What particularly stood out to me about this book was Mr. Hayat's argument- was Mr. Jinnah a charismatic leader or not for his people? He supports his thinking with many evidences and literary texts of other authors on the topic of a charismatic leadership. Chapter One starts with his argument on what charismatic leadership really looks like. According to him, a charismatic leader "is an economically independent, sober, and rational leader, and possesses rational qualities of mind. In order to pursue his goal with 'inner concentration and calmness', he even seeks 'distance' and 'detachment'". He continues to support his argument by stating, "of particular importance... are the qualities of supreme 'self-confidence or self-assurance', exceedingly high 'energy or vitality', 'self-control', 'powerful mind, with a unbelievable wide range of knowledge,' and, a keen 'sense of mission' ". I think he has a very strong argument. History tells us that individuals have used their charisma to bring together communities in distress and through their common mission, ideals, and certainly drive, they have been able to convince large populations of their charisma. 

He even cites Hitler and Stalin as being very charismatic. He points out that people can love charismatic leaders or abhor them. Hitler and Stalin were both loved in their times, but their charismatic leadership got them so far. Their leadership was laden with wars and hatred. They were able to convince their nations of bitter lies and got ahead through their speeches and cunning strategies. Charismatic leaders like them invoke strong feelings and opinions in people, whether they are different or same from their theirs. What is common is that they bring a new vision and hope for people in a situation of distress. Both Stalin and Hitler brought in new ideas that placed blame on minorities and so people followed them. 

The leader focused in this books was Jinnah. Was he charismatic or not? By the definition used by Mr. Hayat, Mr. Jinnah was. He was educated, an idealist with a good grasp of language and he had a vision for the Muslim people. Mr. Hayat writes, "Robert Tucker assigns charisma to a leader who can convincingly offer himself to a group pf people in 'distress' as the only one qualified to lead them out of their 'predicament'". Mr. Jinnah was such man. He was active in overthrowing the British and felt the need for Muslims to be represented in the Indian Congress. When he realized that it was becoming harder for Muslims interests to be heard in the Indian government, convinced by the Muslim people, he fought for a separate nation. He ran for elections and won without any oppositions. He was called "Quaid-I-Azam" by the Muslim people. He was able to create Pakistan. In Mr. Hayat's opinion, there is no one else who could accomplish what Mr. Jinnah accomplished. 

In conclusion, I believe that Mr. Jinnah was a charismatic leader. Mr. Hayat's writes that there are many scholars who disagree with this notion because they describe Pakistan's founder as "detached" and lacking emotion. In my opinion, leaders don't have be emotionally vested in their mission. There are great western leaders and founders who have calmly lead nations out of wars and into statehood. Mr. Jinnah is no different then them. To read more about how Mr. Jinnah accomplished his national goal, read the book-I highly recommend it. 

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