How to lead others successfully?


The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about human psychology and leadership

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Why am I writing about this topic? I have been a writer and an editor, but I have not served at any important secular or religious office.  How should I know about leadership?  But, I have done two important things; I have been cataloging knowledge on important issues as Chief Editor of the Muslim Times for the last ten years and so I have collected pearls about leadership.  Secondly, I have read all the important biographies of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, in Urdu and English, whether by Muslim or non-Muslim writers.  So, when this issue of Muslim Sunrise came to the planning stage, I volunteered to write about this topic.

In my search for leadership the best piece of information I have found so far is a booklet by Prof. John Adair of some 127 pages. The title of the book is, The Leadership of Muhammad. I have previously written a review of this book, which is included in this volume of the Muslim Sunrise (1). Professor John Eric Adair (born 18 May 1934) is a British academic who is a leadership theorist and author of more than forty books (translated into eighteen languages) on business, military and other leadership.

The prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was the recipient of the final scripture sent by All-Knowing God, the literal word of God, the holy Quran, yet he did not monopolize knowledge. He said, “Acquire knowledge, even if you have to go to China!”(2) He implied that we should acquire knowledge from all sources and leave no stone upturned in that pursuit.

Today, if we go to China, we find a great secular success and China is perhaps the only country that has mounted a real challenge against the Western civilization’s economic ascendancy in the last five centuries. Yet we find in the Western media, information that China may have put hundreds of thousands if not millions of Uyghur Muslims in internment camps. How can you lead successfully, unless you have clear ideas to teach the Muslims about secularism and patriotism and coexistence with other religions, not only from reason and rationality but Islam itself, on the one hand and to show the Chinese authorities the necessity of religious tolerance and human rights, on the other hand, rather than any half baked ideas about these concepts?

How can you lead in our global village, if your compassion is limited to only your family or people of your village or sect? Let me suggest reading a post in the Muslim Times: Joel Osteen: Enlarging the Circle of Love (3). Let me also say, please continue to read and by quoting the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

This is an age of information and there are hundreds of books and teaching videos including Ted talks on the subject of leadership and human psychology. How can you be a leader unless you have kept pace with the world and acquired knowledge not only about leadership but a host of other subjects of human interest? Here is a collection of a few Ted talks under the heading: Leadership is not autocratic anymore (4). Here is a Ted talk that has been viewed by more than 30 million: Ted Talk: The Puzzle of Motivation (5).

I have found the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, the best leader of all times, not only from my religious learning, but also from secular learning of his influence on human history. He not only turned out to be a great blessing for his friends and those who believed in him, but also those in medieval Europe, who were not particularly fond of him. Let me suggest an article that I wrote a few years ago: Muhammad: the Light for the Dark Ages of Europe! (6)

Among dozens of other things I have learnt from him the flexibility of thought and how to best negotiate, as he did at the time of Treaty of Hudaibiyya: What Can We Learn From the Treaty of Hudaibiyya: Flexibility of Thought?(7)

Unless you have the best ideas that are true you are not a leader, you may have a title or a leadership position, but someone else may be leading behind you or you may be leading in the wrong direction. How do you find the right direction? How do we know that we have not been carried away like Taliban in our ill placed religious zeal or misdirected in some other way?

For this let me share what I learnt from Pope John Paul II. I do what I am preaching and learn from all sources. I am not intimidated by the Christian dogmas that still have some 2 billion followers in the world. I find that I can very easily refute them. In fact I have written an article tackling one of Pope John Paul’s important Encyclicals: Pope John Paul II and Me: ‘Truth Cannot Contradict Truth?’ (8) But, I admire him for he was able to find a very fundamental truth despite being surrounded by a lot of erroneous dogmas. The Catholic Church struggled with evolution as presented by Charles Darwin for more than a century. But Pope John Paul II yielded to the truth in the theory of evolution in 1996, as he spoke to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and said, “New knowledge has led to the recognition of more than one hypothesis in the theory of evolution. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” (9) The proofs of evolution had come from multiple sources and dimensions, in other words evolution did not hold water only in one rigid frame of reference or mental construction. The learned pope recognized that important issues should be examined from multiple angles and only the facts that are supported in all dimensions, are most worthy of our attention and determining the directions of our lives.

Today America is not only a superpower militarily, but has been the source of the greatest secular knowledge for several decades now and a world leader in so many different ways. The USA constitution has a more than 240 year history of debates and embellishments behind it. A frieze, designed by Adolph Weinman, on the north wall of the US Supreme Court, depicts great lawgivers of the Middle Ages, there are 27 of them, four of them are prophets of God, the prophet Muhammad, Moses, Solomon and Confucius, may peace be on all of them (10). America has been learning from all sources, just like the prophet Muhammad said, “A word of wisdom is lost property of a believer, he acquires it wherever he finds it.”(11) Could this be the secret of the American success?


  2. Book of Hadith: Kanz al-Ummal. Book of Knowledge.  Hadith No:28697.
  11. Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Book of Knowledge, Chapter: what came in the fiqh about worship, Hadith No: 2687

Incidentally I have saved the volume of the Hadith book Urdu version, with the China Hadith here: Kanz-ul-Ummaal-Urdu-Volume009-010

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