The Charismatic Leader


I started this book in January for my Book of the Month goal this year. My overall impression of it is that every Pakistani and non-Pakistani should read it. It’s a little history heavy so if you are not familiar with Indian and Pakistani politics especially during the Partition, you may get distracted by all the names and dates. However, once you learn to overlook that, you will realize this book is actually a well-written piece of Pakistani history. What the subject matter is and how the author writes it, I will let you know.

The Charismatic Leader: Quaid-I-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Creation of Pakistan was written by Sikandar Hayat in 2008. It was a good idea to read up on the author to see how knowledgeable and educated Mr. Hayat is. Mr. Hayat has been educated in Columbia University and has held many positions in colleges and universities as an educator. He even served as an Education Counselor at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. He has won many awards in Pakistan Studies and has written extensively on the founder of Pakistan in both national and international journals. Needless to say, I felt Mr. Hayat was quite qualified to write on this topic.

What particularly stood out to me about this book was Mr. Hayat’s argument– was Mr. Jinnah a charismatic leader or not? He builds his argument with evidence of literary texts by other authors on the topic of a charismatic leadership. Chapter One starts with his argument on what charismatic leadership really looks like. According to him, a charismatic leader “is an economically independent, sober, and rational leader, and possesses rational qualities of mind. In order to pursue his goal with ‘inner concentration and calmness’, he even seeks ‘distance’ and ‘detachment'”. He continues to support his argument by stating, “of particular importance… are the qualities of supreme ‘self-confidence or self-assurance’, exceedingly high ‘energy or vitality’, ‘self-control’, ‘powerful mind, with an unbelievably wide range of knowledge,’ and, a keen ‘sense of mission’ “. I think he has a very strong point. History tells us that many individuals have used their charisma to bring together communities in distress and through their common mission, ideals, and certainly drive, they have been able to convince large populations of their charisma.

He even sites Hitler and Stalin as being very charismatic. He points out that people can love charismatic leaders or abhor them. Hitler and Stalin were both loved in their times and their charismatic leadership got them so far. Their leadership was laden with wars and hatred, however. Through charisma, they were able to convince their nations of bitter lies. Charismatic leaders like them invoke strong feelings and opinions in people, whether they are different or same from their theirs. What is common is that they bring a new vision and hope for people in a situation of distress. Both Stalin and Hitler brought in new ideas along with their charisma that placed blame on minorities.

The leader focused in this book was Jinnah. Was he charismatic or not? By the definition used by Mr. Hayat, Mr. Jinnah was. He was educated, an idealist with a good grasp of language and he had a new vision for the Muslim people living in India at the time. Mr. Hayat writes, “Robert Tucker assigns charisma to a leader who can convincingly offer himself to a group of people in ‘distress’ as the only one qualified to lead them out of their ‘predicament'”. Mr. Jinnah was such man. He was active in overthrowing the British and felt the need for Muslims to be represented in Indian Congress. When he realized that it was becoming harder for Muslims interests to be heard in the Indian government, he fought for a separate nation. He ran for elections and won without any oppositions. He was called “Quaid-I-Azam” by the Muslim people in India and was able to create Pakistan with their support. In Mr. Hayat’s opinion, there is no one else who could accomplish what Mr. Jinnah accomplished.

In conclusion, I believe that Mr. Jinnah was a charismatic leader. Mr. Hayat’s writes that there are many scholars who disagree with this notion and rather describe Pakistan’s founder as “detached” and lacking emotion. In my opinion, leaders don’t have to be emotionally vested in their mission. There are great founders and leaders who have remained calm outwardly when leading creating nations or winning wars. Mr. Jinnah is no different from them. To read more about how Mr. Jinnah accomplished his national goal, read the book (See HERE)–I highly recommend it. Happy Reading!!