Leadership is not rocket science!

imageMan started off as an individual. When Hazrat Adam descended to this earth with Mother Huwa, they were left to search for each other for long before they became one and along came the human race. Till very late in our human existence, we lived as individuals, mainly driven by the whims of kings, queens, nobles, lords and ladies.

Somewhere around the late 18th century, history was turned on its head. The Industrial Revolution changed us humans. Suddenly ‘mass’ was the way to go. We have all heard how an individual used to make a single pin in a day, but once a team was set up for mass production, overnight this individual made 48 pins. Such was the power of this vision and its success. Everything, literally everything was now designed this way. Warehouses, movement of goods, markets, schools, cinemas, colleges, sports events and rallies. They replicated the industrial floor.

At the same time separate events were propelling things towards individuality. The French Revolution in 1789 brought individual rights to the fore. Also the American Revolution created the dream of individual success. People could rise from the bottom to the top. Individuality was now a huge driver. Consumer and human needs (call it greed if you wish) was/(is) a powerful compeller.

This today has become the modern day conundrum. Man’s penchant for mass developed systems and output (our capitalistic efficiency drives this) versus our other inner drive for individuality. Our human is born unique. Unique DNA, unique retina, unique fingerprint, unique voice note. So why, oh why do we expect this human to function like a regular mass number, standard deviation one? It does not work like that. People have to want to do something on their own, for themselves, for inner satisfaction. People are not numbers.

Todays working society faces this big challenge. The individual has to take his/her individuality and somehow find a legitimate means to fit in, into this mass vision. Similarly, mass organisations have to find a means of marrying their needs to these individuals needs. As far as I can see, there is only one way to resolve this conundrum. Create a team.

Why create a team. Because once a team is created, then any objective can be achieved. Nowadays they call it Employee Engagement. To get the employee or contributor interested in what they are doing. If they become interested individually, they will eventually form a team. Its a sense of belonging, which then drives team dynamics. It’s your family and one fights for one’s family.

My personal belief is that there is also great spirituality involved in this. It’s not possible to prove this. But anecdotal events at least tend to suggest this spirituality. The Spartan 300, Greeks at Marathon, Ikrimah at Yarmuk, Muhammad Fateh at Constantinople, the creation of Pakistan, the World Cup 1992 and so many more. These are all events which appeal to me, but all humans have their own personal spiritual team story. When teams form, we just go on a roll, challenges which seem back to wall, are overcome and results are astonishing, considering the individuals involved. Where did these heroes come from? Not this decrepit unassuming human. How did he/she become a super hero?

So through all my life, I have looked for the story which catches ones imagination. If you find that story and it appeals to people and inspires them, then belief happens. When belief happens then passion is created, and this leads to ownership, teamwork and hard-work. You do not need to do anything, the people themselves will take care of the end goal (the Vision). They will achieve the dream you have made them see and believe. Its the very essence of leadership and its actually simple. No rocket science at all.

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From Enemy to Friend – Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl

Yarmuk Valley

Yarmuk Valley

When Ikrimah looked up at the sky, as the storm raged and called on Allah the one to help, the shades fell from his eyes. Two decades of virulent opposition to the Prophet (saw) turned into belief in Allah. The flashes of Badr, his father’s body undone , the triumph at Uhad as assistant to Khalid bin Waleed, the retreat from Khandaq and his flight from Mecca all cascaded by. What a waste! So let him go back to Mecca and profess the shehadah.

This seminal event was to change history, resulting in hundreds of millions of lives being influenced in these past 1400 years.

On arriving at Mecca, Umm Hakim, his wife, took Ikrimah to the Prophet (saw). Already the Prophet (saw) feeling the momentous event, had told his companions Ikrimah approaches with belief in his heart, so do not revile his father. The meeting was close and Ikrimah asked for forgiveness and promised to devote his life to Islam.

Six years later, the Muslim armies positioned in Yarmuk valley, north of Jerusalem and east of Lake Tiberius, were barely clinging on with their finger nails across a broad front of 7 miles. The Romans outnumbering them – some say 5 to 1- had been pushing them back for four days. Favourable ground and higher numbers had taken toll.

Vahan had decided that today was the day to break the enemy lines and encircle the Arab armies. Heracles orders were clear, destroy these Arabs and drive them into the desert, so that they never return. A march further south into the Arabian heartland was also conceivable.  Having done a feint on the Arab right, he had forced Khalid bin Waleed to send the reserves into action.  Then, putting together all his strength Vahan focused on the Arab left centre, attacking Yazid’s (not the same one!) divisions. The Muslims outnumbered and without reserves, were spread thin. During this attack, Abu Sufyan and some 100 others lost an eye under a barrage of arrows- also known as Day of the Lost Eyes. Under pressure, the Muslim left centre was in wholesale retreat, the Arab lines were about to break.

Left facing the approaching Roman cavalry was the sole regiment (400 strong) of Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl – former great enemy of the Prophet (saw).

The situation is clear. If Ikrimah’s men break, the battle is lost and the future is bleak. If they hold, there is hope yet. Not since Uhad, has Islam faced such a cataclysmic moment. Ikrimah decides to use the Arab tradition and take baith from all 400. Today, no one will retreat, rather they shall die. The Roman ranks crash against the Arab 400. As the day drags, Vahan intent on victory throws lines after lines on the enemy, only for them to stand firm. Losses are heavy, but the Arab lines hold and as the night falls, a perplexed Vahan withdraws.

Lying somewhere in the middle of the carnage is the broken body of Ikrimah, his triumph complete and his debt to Islam paid in full. His regiment have achieved shehadat and also forced the Romans to withdraw. Not only the Roman strength has been used up, but the enemy is exhausted and demoralised, they have let victory escape out of their grasp.

The rest of the story is recorded as a gory tale, when the Roman armies in retreat are boxed in and slaughtered and are never able to recover. Khalid bin Waleed’s resounding victory leaves the road open west and north. One of the greatest victories of Islam leads to massive conquests over the next century. Not till Tours – just 18 miles from present day Paris- and some 96 years later were the Muslim armies to be stopped.

Khalid’s maneuverings at Yarmuk are taught even today in various military academies. But in those few hours, Ikrimah and his companions made that success possible, where otherwise defeat stared in the face. Yarmuk changed history and while today European historians using their own logic (rather than facts) try and review numbers, even they agree to the significance of the event.

Above all stands the phenomena of belief, where one man went from being the most persistent enemy to being the saviour of Islam. May Allah accept the sacrifice of Ikrimah and his companions.

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