There is voluminous literature in social and management sciences on the personality and qualities of a leader. There are many forms of leadership such as charismatic, political, and spiritual. Theorists and authors have consensus that a successful leader should be cool-headed, a good listener, polite to his subordinates/colleagues, respect opposing views and make good judgment. As far as the personality of a leader is concerned, three components are important: character, world view and style. According to political scientist Dr James David Barber, these characteristics develop during childhood, adolescent and adulthood years, respectively. All of us have two fundamental orientations or dimensions in our personalities: active-passive and positive-negative. The active-passive orientation denotes a leader’s energy to effect the environment around him. The negative-positive attributes his reactions to what he does either as optimistic or pessimistic. In the light of these two dominant theories, I analyse the leadership of Imran Khan. There are four types of personalities: 1) active-positive; 2) active-negative; 3) passive-positive and 4) passive-negative. Imran Khan fits in the category of an active-negative type personality that is ambitious, striving upwards, power-seeking, impulsive, aggressive, pessimistic and preoccupied with ‘I’m succeeding’ (“tsunami aa raha hay”). Sometimes, the type can have a vague and discontinuous image, persistent problems in managing aggressive feelings and contradictions between relatively intense effort and low reward. This type of personality has two other traits as it little enjoys its work and has very low self-esteem; however, Imran has the opposite. He derives much enjoyment from his work and has a high sense of self-esteem.
Apart from the above-mentioned philosophical and theoretical analyses, Imran Khan has tremendous potential and opportunity to lead the nation if he objectively reviews his personality. It is interesting to note that all politicians who left the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had differences only with Imran, not with the party or programme. Most of them blamed Imran for being arrogant, inflexible and unpragmatic. Imran is not the ‘man of people’ given his lifestyle and attitude. He also flip-flops on both national and international issues. However, as far as the strengths of Imran are concerned, he has charisma and aura. He is a great philanthropist and fundraiser and an amazing social/community worker. He is energetic, brave and popular among the youth and women. Most importantly, he has a huge and unparalleled organisational capacity or political machine for elegantly using social/electronic media and the latest technological tools to raise money and hope among the people. He also has support, both moral and financial, of the upper class overseas Pakistani community. But I would like to remind all of the fact that leading a nation of 180 million people is absolutely different from captaining an 11-member cricket team.
I agree that there are other factors besides leadership for achieving political success. However, I do not agree that Imran is emerging like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. Bhutto emerged in a ‘vacuum’ due to the lack of general elections for the past 24 years. Political parties and politicians had no opportunity to test their ranks. But after Ziaul Haq, there have been eight general elections from 1985 to 2008 and the next election is scheduled soon. Politicians and parties have been participating in those elections. There are two major political forces in the country, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muslim League, along with some other regional and national parties. There is no ‘vacuum’ in politics at all and there is little space for a third major political force. Imran’s vote bank is the same as that of traditional right-wing votes, which will absolutely be divided. His vote will benefit the PPP alliance in rural parts of the country just as the PPP alliance votes could benefit Imran in urban areas of Punjab. Collectively, this will badly hurt the Muslim League.
As far as young voters are concerned, the youth matters in a huge constituency, as in the US presidential elections where the whole nation votes for only one man but not in a parliamentary form where constituencies are small and controlled by traditional, cast-ridden and hereditary politicians. The major drawback with the PTI is the dearth of electable or winnable candidates in the party. Imran needs over 2,000 candidates/covering candidates all over the country to contest on all seats in all assemblies of Pakistan. Does the PTI have these numbers? The answer is simple: no.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2012.