Leadership has been defined in many ways but it is mostly agreed that “leadership is about influencing others towards a common goal”. According to Michael H. Hart’s book ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’ (1978), Muhammad (s.a.w.) has been the most influential personality in the entire human history. It will be interesting and edifying to know what was his leadership style which made him the most influential person ever along with other factors.
Bernard M Bass and his colleagues have differentiated five distinct styles of leadership.
In ‘Directive Leadership Style’, the leader tells the followers or subordinates what to do and how to do it. This leadership style is quite authoritarian and dictatorial, and is often frustrating for the subordinates or followers whose creativity and initiative is often not valued in this style of leadership. The directive leadership style is also known as autocratic style and is mostly prevalent in Military and in Authoritarian Governments. This style is, however, important and effective in situations of urgency when there is no time for discussion or consultation.
In ‘Delegative Leadership Style’, the leader delegates his decision-making authority to his followers or subordinates. The competency of the followers, the availability of the requisite resources at their disposal and the trust and confidence of the leader in the followers are some of the pre-requisites for the success of the delegative leadership style.
In ‘Negotiative Leadership Style’ the leader usually puts his personal or party interests before the interest of an organization or the interest of the country or people as a whole, and uses carrots and sticks approach to further often his personal or party agenda. Most modern-day political parties and politicians use the negotiative leadership style.
In ‘Participative Leadership Style’, the leader seeks the opinions and thoughts of the followers or subordinates to reach a collective or unanimous decision. If the decision is reached by a majority vote, this is a ‘Democratic Style of Leadership’. The responsibility of the decision is borne collectively and not just by the leader. The participative leadership style is mostly prevalent among the Boards of Governors of various organizations and among the cabinets of the many democratically elected prime ministers.
In ‘Consultative Leadership Style’, the leader takes the opinions and thoughts of the followers or subordinates but he alone has the ultimate authority to make the final decision and also bears the responsibility of the decision. According to the Fiedler, different leadership styles may be effective in different situations. In a passage in the Quran, Allah has enjoined the ‘Consultative Style’ of leadership to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.)
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were soft and gentle with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and seek protection for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”
According the Al-Quran 3:159, Allah has commanded the Prophet (s.a.w.) to consult the believers (in public matters, as the context of the verse suggests). It is also clear from the verse that the final decision had to be taken by the Prophet himself (s.a.w.). Furthermore, the verse describes some additional leadership traits of the Prophet (s.a.w.), i.e. (a) being soft and gentle with the followers (b) never being rude to them, (c) being soft-hearted towards them (d) overlook their minor shortcomings and pardoning them, (e) seeking protection and security for them. It is also clear from Al-Quran 42:38 that all the believers also adopt a consultative approach in their affairs.
وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ “
…And (the believers conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation…”