Manipur: Land of beautiful people sans good leadership

Themshang Sasa *

Breath-taking landscape of Manipur taken by Bullu Raj :: 2011
Breath-taking landscape of Manipur taken by Bullu Raj :: 2011

The common people of Manipur are beautiful. They are hardworking and "patient" for almost everything. They are patient even if regular electricity is deprived decade after decade. Think of a government that could not provide such a thing as basic as electricity? What a gift in this 21st century! They are patient even if the bad road condition remains the same year after year. In some quarter of the state road repairing or construction was never in the list whereas in some areas the road conditions are far better off. There is uneven maintenance of road in the state.

The people are subjected to stand in a long queue on hot sunny or cold rainy days for fuels like petrol, diesel, LPG etc. The grim situation is all over; be it in hospital, banks, ATM, institutions and the list go on. Such episodes are not common in other states as in Manipur. In Manipur, all are calm and quiet but oppressed. We learned that the newly recruited Rastriya Madhiyakmik Shikasha Abhiyan (RMSA) teachers haven't yet been given their salaries for 5 months!

And some of them are posted in remote places and without salary for 5 months. Can you imagine the degree of misery that would bring on them in that kind of circumstances? Will there be joyful service? Can you expect prosperity in the education system in Manipur in that kind of manoeuvre? If this trend continues, there will be another clone of today's Manipur in future young generation. How humane are the leaders or how authentic are the concerns of the authority concerned? Do things work best only with vested interest in Manipur?

In addition, the land, which is already battered with corruption and bribery, is infested with insurgency along with all its maladies. If you are a bureaucrat or politician and don't exercise bribery and corruption in a situation where you will not be caught, you are treated with contempt as a fool! The practice of corruption is even more open.

Who will end this long night of captivity? It is the God fearing and righteous leaders. The common people of Manipur have been seared in the flame of withering injustice. More than century years of Indian independence with all its 'educated' leaders, the people of Manipur is sadly crippled with the shackles of communal segregation and the chains of discrimination in almost all spheres. But the responsible citizen of the land-the leaders are apathetic and just yawn at common people and their plight.

The common people of Manipur are 'composed' in almost everything. But this is not the time to engage in cooling off or take the tranquillising drug of gradualism especially when the new government is being expanded. The people need to dramatise the appalling conditions of their surroundings and the deficiency and flaw of the working system that deprive of even the basic need of the citizen. . The well-off people may do think for the under- privilege and the downtrodden. Let us not believe that bank of justice in Manipur is bankrupt. The privileges are for all in free and fare ways.

One righteous leader can make a difference by accommodating accountability in his or her sphere of service. Sorojini Naidu on the occasion of the first Independent Day of India said, "It has been the only revolution in the whole history of the world that has been without bloodshed; and for this we thank one man, one tiny person ... Mahatma Gandhi, our prophet of non-violence. We have to thank him our leader whose days are imperishable who has created a new civilization for the world to be based in years to come".

Freedom is deprived to the people due to insurgency groups and the brutality of police and military. The land lacks efficient leaders; leaders that will facilitate invigorating autumn of freedom and equality among the people, between the hill and the valley. It should be realised that the destiny of the hill and the valley people are tied up together and the freedom is extricably bound together.

I believe in good leadership, where heat of injustice and oppression will be transformed into oasis of freedom and justice. I have hope in righteous leader where people will not be judge by communal or tribal line but as fellow human being made by the same God and by the content of their characters transforming the land into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Now who is a good leader? What makes a leader a good leader? What are some of the "must avoid pitfalls" for leaders? What is leadership? Here are some, but may not be perfect answers to the questions.


Decades of academic analysis has given us more than 350 definitions of leadership. But Dr. Hans Finzel tends to view the profound process of leadership in a simple definition; "Leadership is influence". Anyone who influences someone else to do something has led that person. Leadership is basically people business.


In different levels everyone is a leader in some way or other. It comes as a sort of compulsory thing for everyone. A father is a leader at home. A mother is the leader in the absence of her husband and the eldest sibling is the leader in the absence of their parents. Teachers, priests, ministers, politicians, officials, heads of different institutions and organisations are in the forefront in the sphere of motivating the young generation through their leadership. Leaders are those who meet people and meet the needs of people.

The head of the department should not avoid people. Some people tend to be task-oriented people and few tend to be people oriented. Leaders are to be people oriented. Experts confirm that the most effective leaders spent most of their times being with people and solving their problems. Leaders are to be patient, listen carefully and sensitive.

Leadership is not an easy crown to wear. Some people become leader by chance and some by choice. Leaders hold in their hands the power to do irreparable damage to the followers by the mistakes they make. The greater sphere of leadership influence, the more their impacts on the world around them.

And more people they lead, the greater the potential damage caused through their poor decisions and actions. This is one of the sobering realities we must face when one takes up the mantle of leadership in the state, or district or in which ever world leadership is involved. Great leaders influence us to go to places we would never go on our own, and to attempt things we never thought we had in us.

Good leaders are scarce commodity today. There is lots of confusion and chaos in the present society; leading to bloodshed and violence in the land. This write up is not intended to answer the question of good leadership scarcity but rather to look at what makes a good leader go bad or better yet, what habits to avoid if you want to fill the gap and replenish the great leadership famine in our land. Most people fall into leadership more by accident than by design and tend to do what comes naturally.

For instance, to treat employees or subordinates like children when they are matured enough to understand the circumstances, but it is best to treat them with adult respect as your most precious resources for success.

Must avoid pitfalls for leaders

Why do new leaders often get a bad start up? They replicate the poor leadership habit of others. They lack good models and mentors. They suffer confusion over values. Here are some pitfalls.

1. The top-down attitude: This approach to leader is based on the military model of barking orders to weak underlings. This attitude comes naturally to most people. This is the no.1 leadership hang-up. The ministering -leadership is rare. Adolf Hitler realized that he could best work his wicked schemes when his audience was kept in the dark. Effective leaders are honest and transparent and see themselves at the bottom of an inverted pyramid. You would think that people would have learned by now, yet it still keeps cropping up, the age old problem of domineering, autocratic, top-down leadership. Symptoms of top-down leadership are abusive authority, lack of listening, dictatorship in decision-making and egocentric.

2. Putting paper work before people work: True, it is the age of computers, telecommunications and highly information technologies and there is still no substitute for quite; prolong exposure one to another. Many lives are changed through direct contact. A few leaders tend to put people before paper work. The greater the leadership role, the more important people work is, People are opportunities, not interruptions. Only through association is there transformation in the relationship. People change people by direct contact.

3. Absence of affirmation: Organisational researchers have agreed that affirmation motivates people much more than financial incentives. A leader has to condescend to all the weakness and infirmities of fellow being, cover their frailties, love their excellences, encourage their virtues, relieve their wants and rejoice in their prosperities. When someone does a good job, pay a visit to say thanks. Don't let good work be secret. Employees or students are discouraged when their efforts go unnoticed. Former IBM vice-president always sends a handwritten note of appreciation to his subordinates.

4. Leaders not giving room for a person with independent or unorthodox views: This makes the organisation or movement become monument with no room for entrepreneurial gift. Here the 'environment' is filled with such as "that's impossible we don't do things that way around here before. It's too radical a change for us". "who give you permission to change the rules?" And "how dare you suggest that what we are doing is wrong?" Such attitudes soon snuff off the potential in the person.

5. Dictatorship in decision-making. Dictators deny the value of individuals. In 1980s communist Eastern Europe observed all was calm, quite and oppressed. Dictatorship is like that. They take the fun out of life and break the human spirit that longs to soar with achievement. Dictator's style is more akin to keeping the followers/employees in the dark.

6. Over managing: Dirty delegation, or over managing is one of the greatest problems of poor leadership. Nothing frustrates those who work for you more than poor delegation with too many strings attached. Most leaders find it hard to let go their responsibilities. They underestimate the strength of their followers. Clean delegation is a great challenge for leaders. Here are some reasons for why some leaders don't delegate.

Fear of losing authority, fear of work being done better(display of pride), lack of training and positive experience, unwillingness to take necessary time(delegation takes time), fear of work being done poorly (in some cases, such fears are justified but often there is hang-up of not being willing to allow others to do their ways) etc. Leaders are to make the duties of the subordinate very clear. They also give room to fail occasionally. As the saying goes, "to err is human, but to forgive is divine".

7. Communication Chaos: The leader should never assume that anyone knows anything. This is the core principle of leadership. The bigger the group, the more attention must be given to communication. Nothing happens until people talk. Communication must be the passionate obsession of effective leadership.

Leaders are encouraged to spell out their purposes, key goals and core values and communicate passionately. How to avoid communication chaos? Make internal communications a top priority of your job. Keep your followers or subordinates informed as to what you expect of them. If people are not doing their job well, tell them so. Practice honest, open, and transparent communication.

8. Failure to focus on the future: Vision is an effective leader's chief preoccupation. " a leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees further than others see, and who sees before others do" -Leroy Eims. Leaders who don't change with the changing times of our future world will, like dinosaurs find themselves only in a museum for attraction. Focusing to the future and making necessary change is essential. Not to change is a sure sign of eminent extinction. Remember the dinosaurs could not adapt to the new changes in their environment before they extinct.

Finally the best model of leadership is that of the servant leadership style of Jesus Christ. On the night he was betrayed, He wraps a towel around His waist, poured water into basin and began to wash his disciples' (followers') feet, drying them with towel that was wrapped around Him. He showed His followers just how much He loved them. We read them in John Chapter 13 in the Holy Bible. At that point Jesus began to give His final and ultimate demonstration of servant leadership. He washes the disciples' feet.

The foundation of His servant hood was a true realization of His power, position, and prestige. He was God himself in the flesh, and had every right to be a dictator. In fact, He is the one and only man who has ever walked on the face of the earth who has had the right to be an absolute autocrat. Yet Jesus demonstrated that he who was to be greatest among His followers would be servant/minister of all.

Conquerors, ruler, Philosophers, Scientists, artists, etc have come and gone and are forgotten; they are not alive as Jesus do today. People are convinced by the leadership of Him then and now and will be. "The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on" -Walter Lippman. This kind of leadership is the most pressing need of this century.

* Themshang Sasa wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow in ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region Manipur Centre, Lamphelpat, Imphal and can be contacted at themshangsasa(at)rediffmail(dot)com
This article was posted on May 20, 2012 .

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