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Feb 01, 2012 at 05:34pm IST

Leading without licence: Leadership the Anna Hazare way

In February 2011, Anna Hazare shot to the nation's attention when he conveyed to the prime minister his intention to fast on matters relating to corruption. Since then, he has galvanized a massive, national movement to combat corruption in the country. So, how did Mr Hazare, at the age of 74 and relatively unknown to the masses, manage to spearhead this movement against corruption? Simply put, how did he become a leader?

It is this question the book by authors Satheesh Namasivayam and Sivaram Bandhakavi illustrate how Anna Hazare is masterfully practising a set of principles, proven to be effective over the ages, in exercising leadership.

Here's an extract from the book:

Leading without licence: Leadership the Anna way

An extract from authors Satheesh Namasivayam and Sivaram Bandhakavi book on Anna Hazare.

Part I Introduction

Sing, Play, Lead!

On Thursday, 17 February 2011, India began juxtaposing on the national stage - two individuals struggling with the problem of corruption in the country. One was Dr Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, and the other was Mr Anna Hazare, a common citizen.

On that day, Mr Hazare conveyed for the first time to Dr Singh, through a letter written in Marathi, his intention to fast on matters related to corruption. At that time, Dr Singh Was a household name; on the other hand, not many Indians had even heard the name of Anna Hazare, let alone know much about his background. Barely eight months later, however, when this book is being Written, many Indians appear to repose faith in Mr Hazare - and not in Dr Singh - in finding solutions to the problem of corruption in the country. Why?

Dr Singh and Mr Hazare have, after all, a lot in common. Both are over 70 years of age. Both chose, at some point in their lives, public service as their main pursuit. Both are recognized for their decades of contributions, in their own Ways, to the betterment of the country - one at the macro level and the other at a micro level. Both are highly respected for possessing unblemished personal integrity. Yet there is one singular, profound difference between the two.

Dr Singh is a formal, constitutional authority. But he chose not to - or could not - exercise leadership on the problem of corruption. Mr Hazare, on the other hand, has no formal authority.

But he still chose to - or could - lead on the problem of corruption. Or so it seems. This book examines the Anna Hazare Movement from a leadership perspective, explains the fundamental difference between authority and leadership at a deeper level, and outlines lessons for exercising leadership.

In India, as in the rest of the world, the Word ‘authority’ is used synonymously With the Word ‘leader’. Let us pause to reflect if those Words indeed mean the same.

We usually call people holding positions of high authority - such as prime ministers, chief ministers, heads of political parties or CEOs - our leaders. But We also, inevitably, complain about their lack of leadership. In the same breath, we eulogize Mahatma Gandhi for his leadership but forget that he relinquished positions of authority. So, could it be that authority and leadership are two different things? Could it also be possible that achieving a position of authority does not always empower - but may enfeeble - one in exercising leadership?

Let us quickly revisit what has happened in the months starting February 2011.

By the time Mr Hazare wrote to Dr Singh on 17 February 201 1, minor protests against governmental corruption had already started to occur in India. And this was not the first time Mr Hazare had Written to Dr Singh. He had been doing so since December 2010. During those intervening months, few took notice of Mr Hazare, let alone Dr Singh. The prime minister cannot be expected to reply to everyone who wishes to deal with him directly; not everyone receives the prime minister’s attention - Mr Hazare certainly did not.

Mr Hazare’s 17 February letter too did not elicit any reply from Dr Singh. After all, this is India, and a number of people go on fasts everyday, around the country, in search of solutions for numerous causes. But the national media - which Was capitalizing on public dismay with mass-scale corruption and reporting relentlessly on recent scandals - began relaying messages to the rest of the country about Mr Hazare and his fast. Ironically, media programmes such as ‘Breakfast with India’ focused their attention on Why one man was planning to not break his fast indefinitely. Mr Hazare’s simplicity and integrity, combined with his Gandhian associations, made him a remarkable contrast to the corrupt politicians to report on television.

Propelled by this media attention and influenced by the Election C0mmission’s coincidental but timely announcement of elections in five states, Dr Singh invited Mr Hazare to meet him on 7 March 2011. The government, understandably, could no longer afford to continue to have corruption on the headlines while important elections were round the corner.

From that moment on, people’s comparisons, even if subliminal, of Mr Hazare with Dr Singh were compounded. Specifically, the ease with which Mr Hazare continued to garner the prime minister’s attention significantly enhanced his stature in the public mind. How did Mr Hazare manage this and why do a lot of Indians seem to be Willing to follow him on the problem of corruption? The answer lies in a set of principles, proven to be effective over the ages, in exercising leadership - which Mr Hazare too is masterfully practising.

Some people may rightly question whether Mr Hazare’s activities in the recent movement against corruption qualify as leadership work. The arguments against Mr Hazare’s work fall into three categories. While We elaborate on these arguments in the book, We would also like to address them up front.

The first category includes three inter-related arguments:

1. Anna Hazare’s method is akin to blackmailing; Where is leadership in this?

2. Anna Hazare’s movement is not real; it is a media creation.

3. Anna Hazare’s movement is not broad-based. It is only an urban, middle-class affair.

To analyse these arguments, We should begin by asking if it is easy for any one of us to blackmail an all-powerful, elected government. Blackmail is only possible when the blackmailer possesses something so precious that the blackmailed party finds it indispensable. So, What did Mr Hazare possess that the government could not ignore?

It certainly could not be his life that he was blackmailing the government with. That would not have been difficult for the government to deal with. For eleven years, successive governments have force-fed Irom Chanu Sharmila in Manipur through a tube in her nose. The government could have responded similarly to Mr Hazare’s fast.

Undoubtedly, the movement could not have grown Without media activism. But has any movement in this World grown

Without media engagement - either traditional media or, in recent times, the social media? For example, would Mahatma Gandhi’s or Nelson Mandela’s movements have at all been possible without significant media engagement? Let us assume for a moment that the Anna Movement was indeed a media creation. But would the government of India be threatened enough to acquiesce to a mere media creation that has no ground support?

And would the government act if it was only an urban, middle class affair, when most of the middle class does not even turn out to vote?

One cannot have it both ways: if it was indeed blackmail, we have to accept that there was something much beyond Mr Hazare’s life - or the middle class or the media - that the government could not risk losing.

What was it, then? It was Mr Hazare’s success in mobilization that the government could not ignore. He mobilized, as we explain later in the book, key influential factions - movie stars, media, religious and spiritual groups and some political parties - which have the ability to collectively galvanize millions of people across India for collective action. With that mobilized force behind him, Mr Hazare used an extreme method of indefinite fasting to orchestrate progress on the problem of corruption. In our opinion, it is not blackmailing; such deviant acts indeed have a lot of parallels in movements around the World. For example, Aninon Kamanza in Philippines successfully mobilized other Women in her village for a sex-strike, influenced their husbands to resolve a long-standing separatist issue and brought peace Where the UN Refugee Agency failed. Methods may vary, but extreme action is a key leadership activity in orchestrating progress in a society.

The second category of inter-related arguments against

Mr Hazare are:

1. Anna Hazare does not represent the Whole of India. 2. Anna Hazare is trying to create a law from a maidan (and

not Parliament).

The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘There are always two parties, the party of the Past and the party of the Future: the Establishment and the Movement.’ Throughout history, major societal changes - most of which needed substantive legislative push - have been brought about by movements outside representative governments.

For example, a small group of activist Women led a successful movement to amend the constitution of the United States in order to gain women’s right to vote nearly 140 years after the country’s independence. Laws cannot be legislated in a maidan, but they can originate with a small group of people in a maidan. And such movements, especially during incipient stages, cannot be expected to be fully representative of the entire population. So is the case With Mr Hazare’s Work on the problem of corruption.

And the final category comprises two inter-related arguments:

1. One law, such as the Lokpal bill, will not root out corruption. Anna Hazare is too obsessed With one law.

2. Anna Hazare focused only on the governing class; how about others such as corporations?

Yes, We fully agree that one law will be grossly inadequate in changing the culture of corruption in the country. Even a series of laws will not root out corruption. As We explain in Chapter 9, exercising leadership on the issue of corruption would mean going much beyond enacting laws. Mr Hazare would have displayed only partial leadership if his work stops with this one law.

The book is published by Rupa Publications.

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