28 September, 2021

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Cometh The Hour; Cometh The Leader? 

By Tharaka Kodippili

Tharaka Kodippili

This is a follow-up to my previous piece – Self-interest, an Ostrich, & a Sri Lankan. One recurring theme in the comments section throughout that article was the mention of “leadership,” or the lack thereof in Sri Lanka. I made it a point that leadership was hard and that it required a lifetime of work and commitment.

Sri Lanka has a leadership vacuum (more like a black hole in space, to be honest). There is no simple prescribable solution to this Hobson’s choice of elected leaders. History, however, has proved that Sri Lankan voters have been fickle and jarring in their decision-making as the Roman spectators were at the Colosseum.

Ironically, we Sri Lankans find ourselves in a constant pickle when it comes to finding the best suitable candidate to lead our country, let alone in voting for him or her. However, maybe, during that time of examination (of the candidate), it may behoove us as a nation to look at several “leadership attributes” that would distinguish the candidate’s leadership potential.

There are many qualities a leader should possess to lead/govern a nation. Initially, we need a retrospective about the nature of the beast – i.e. Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans.

State of our union 

We are a nation with a long and proud culture and history. Sadly, that rich history has led to deeply rooted cultural-biases and confirmation-biases that prevent us from progressive thinking and in logical decision-making. Resulting in Sri Lankans entombed in a cocoon of xenophobia. Rotting, decaying, and mummifying in a soup of ignorance and malice. Our self-anointed Feng Shui is paid sponsorship via raging social upheaval and religious bickering; propelled with finger-wagging towards the unknown; ripe with fear, and disharmony.

This sort of retrograde rationale- institutionalized within our societies- over several generations, is the reason why we find ourselves constantly stranded at the precipice of chaos. Negativity breeds negativity. If the self-fulfilling prophecy has taught us anything, it is that negative expectations will result in surefire negative outcomes.

A million and one “leadership attributes” differentiates a true leader from the feckless- the type we have in abundance. Taking practicality into consideration (and for starters), I will put forth three important (and basic) attributes. Any potential Sri Lankan leader could learn and perfect (hopefully) these qualities.

Accountability 

This is the most important precept in any leadership training. A leader has to be accountable to his or her fellow citizens and for his/her actions. Being accountable has far-reaching consequences. Both pros and cons. However, being accountable on the right side of good-deeds will mostly lead to actionable, positive outcomes.

Accountability is the Woolly Mammoth of leadership attributes in modern-day Sri Lanka. It roamed the plains of politics in this land a long time ago but has ceased to exist over the course of time. As politicking became a business, its malignant attributes have metastasized throughout our society to debilitating degrees and repercussions. Today’s upper-echelons of leadership in Sri Lanka have lost sight of what accountability is. Moreover, they have willfully forgotten what it once stood for.

An accountable leader is principled- in the premise that he or she works within the parameters of law and order of the nation, he or she serves. Such leaders make sure that groups that follow them intend well for the betterment of the nation, and have no ulterior, self-serving motives. Accountability is taking ownership of a problem with follow up and resolve to see it through.

Situational awareness 

Is to understand your surroundings – take stock of your resources and plan accordingly with the help of common sense. Easier said than done here in Sri Lanka, it seems. Permeating from over half a century of eroded political-leadership, today, Sri Lanka is in dire economic stability. Unlike developed nations, our political leaders lack resources to justify many a decision. Yet, giving petty excuses is an anathema for a leader who practices situational awareness.

As a leader, one has to delegate and manage existing resources. Every large, successful business today- be it local or global- was once a small company, but grew to become a behemoth in its respective industry thanks to its leaders’ capacity to manage their (then) resources, and therefore, maximize output.

Road map (Vision) 

Every leader has to have a road map as to where he/she wants to be at- both personally, as well as for the nation. Short term and long term. It is mandatory to know your true north. If not, one ends up in a Neverland of incompetence and false promises. That is not ideal for progress.

Over the years, we have all come to loathe the quasi “100-day action plans” of newly-minted political leaders, only to see those plans fizzle away into a footnote in history and a constant supply of campaign jokes. Such road maps (action plans) need not limit themselves to mere “campaign propaganda.” A planned out vision should be attainable. Especially, when claimed to be “achieved” in a mere 100-days or less.

Voters should also look at these proposed “road maps” using a lens of objectivity, beyond party-line politics that have so far defined our collective scope of view. A road map is a layout, a sketch, a plan that defines clear touch-points of a leader’s journey while in office.

Above points are some of the elementary, yet critical and practical attributes that would truly define a leader from the largely unqualified we often elect. Obviously, as voters, it is up to us to make the informed decision of “choice” at the ballot box.

However, seven decades into our independence, it is yet to take effect in Sri Lanka. Decades on, we continue the charade of languishing as a “developing nation,” led by miscalculating, harebrained, deity-chasing leaders, and their nincompoop (in)actions.

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    Accountability in our Lnakawe has a totally different meaning , mate..\\

    If you like , the meaning is how Did they Kill 70,000 plus in Nanthikdal and Mulivaikal in under one week,
    And made them disappear in to a Black Hole,
    Who killed them ?.
    Where are the “missing people” who guarded Mr Pirahaparan?.
    And when are they going to pay the missing, compensation and give them land..

    BTW How dare can you belittle 6.2 Million Universal Franchise Holders in Lankawe,
    Who elected this Dr Ranil and Game Sira Duo to give them Yahapaalane .
    The are the cream of the crop in Lankawe.
    Do you seriously think they did not know how to evaluate the Candidates and assess their Leaderhip Skills?..

  • 4
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    this is old hat tell us who you have in mind

  • 6
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    True reflection of the current state and the shameless politicians. All good Sri Lankans should ask themselves what is next from here. What can I do to reverse this symptom of annus horribilis of the politics.

  • 4
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    Our leaders’ Road map is – how to win the next election. Accordingly they plan their strategy and we Fools vote.

  • 1
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    Fine, but if both the voters & the political leaders have been wrong always, who has been right? If there was something going on well before the independent, doesn’t it mean that political leadership is the one that has failed? Yes, SL has long history but is there a continuous single theme running along throughout this history? I doubt very much!
    I think that SL didn’t have a history that is smart enough to prepare its people to dawning world. Look at other countries that became instrumental in changing the face of world but with very similar social & economic background such as England, Germany & Japan. They all were constrained by very rigid social stratification as well as tight religious bonds. I believe that the the key factor that separate SL from them is the knowledge. The explosion of knowledge in the 17 th century following the invention of printing was deciding factor that drove Europe & Japan forward. Japan actually was a late comer but it understood the need to find knowledge. For whatever reason, SL political leaders, except for JR & now perhaps Ranil, failed completely to understand this. It was the lack of knowledge based investment that failed SL.

  • 5
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    Tharaka, Thanks Again. Unfortunately we Lankans never had leader with all three attributes you mentioned. Initially the leaders who ever had few of the first too did not have long term vision. They always looked for short term political gains. After 1950 on wards it has been nothing but self serving politics. Eventually the public too joined the politician (did not want to left out) to complete the vicious cycle. Now our people have reached the point of debating who is the lesser EVIL to vote as our next leader. It is hilarious when readers argue on who stole more, who killed less, who is more destructive—so on.Think about it Tharaka, all we had is family rule of Senanayaka, Bandas, JR/RW and Rajapaksas. In this circus where is the vision and mission. It is nothing but omissions and commissions. That is when , we end up with the shit head like MS who lied all his life.

  • 6
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    This is a follow-up to my previous piece – Self-interest, an Ostrich, & a Sri Lankan. One recurring theme in the comments section throughout that article was the mention of “leadership,” or the lack thereof in Sri Lanka.

    1) I made it a point that leadership was hard and that it required a lifetime of work and commitment.

    *** You sound very amateurish. You say leadership requires a lifetime of work and frankly you all have had a go at it for 70 years which is more than a life time for many. How much longer do you need to get it right. Sadly my friend either you have it or you dont . You dont need need to work on it. You cant straighten a Dogs Tail.

    2) We are a nation with a long and proud culture and history. Sadly, that rich history has led to deeply rooted cultural-biases and confirmation-biases that prevent us from progressive thinking and in logical decision-making. Resulting in Sri Lankans entombed in a cocoon of xenophobia. Rotting, decaying, and mummifying in a soup of ignorance and malice. Our self-anointed Feng Shui is paid sponsorship via raging social upheaval and religious bickering; propelled with finger-
    wagging towards the unknown; ripe with fear, and disharmony.

    *** There is a contracdiction in all of the above. If you are long and proud cuture it is in your gene and treating eeveryone as equal becomes second nature.
    All the characteristics you have listed above are an inherent and integral part of Sinhala Mind Sent . It cant change or wont change other than by Gene Mutation.

  • 2
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    It is funny you mentioned the word “Black Hole” which exactly I wrote in my comment few years ago. It is people like us who feel that way. Tharaka let me share some thing more. My understanding of democracy was initially from studying in books and then from the experience of living in Lanka. But after leaving and residing in west, is when I actually felt the true meaning of it. Now with time and looking retrospective , I realize what we had in Lanka is SHAM. In paper it may be but in reality it is “filth/gutter politics”. I understood the true meaning of RIGHTS such as to study, work, speech, practice religion ,express political views, accountability, long term vision and work ethics , only after leaving Lanka. . And for that I am grateful.

  • 1
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    When the time to vote comes, there must be an option to ‘Reject All’. If this exceeds 50%, then all candidates be banned from the election for 5 years and a new election held.

  • 0
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    We desperately need the ilk of Tharaka Kodippili to change the Lankan mindset.
    The title {“Cometh The Hour; Cometh The Leader?”} may be worded “The exposition of the inner sanctum of the heart of Lankan leaders is happening””

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