Leadership 2: Modi-worship and Leadership

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Most Indians I meet these days have fallen head over heals in love with Narendra Modi.  Women I can guess, but why the men? I wonder if this is some form of passive homosexuality? What else can explain this awe and worship of a 63 year old.  Affluent and the middle class males especially have taken to him like any male does to a remote control.  Endlessly twiddling their TV instruments until the right channel satiates their desire to ogle at India’s topmost alpha male.

Admittedly Indians do have this tendency to fall in love with their heros –Gandhiji was one such person.  And when they do, the love transcends all known boundaries –people open fan clubs, hang themselves, worship them with incense sticks, and I don’t know what not.

Sachin, Amitabh, Rajnikanth, are some modern day heros and they can pretty much get away with anything.  But the new one on the horizon is Modi and he gives them a run for their money.  If Rajnikath was a bus conductor Modi was a chaiwala, if Amitabh gets millions of people to listen, Modi gets 10s of millions; Sachin is an icon in anglophone countries, and so is Modi – though more so with non-resident Indians.

There is something about leaders that people don’t like to question.  No one wants a tentative, introspective leader, the leader knows what is to be done, he takes but does not need advice, and whatever the leader says holds true.  These are the blind follower-type or BF-Type voters, and Modi has garnered an impressive number of such followers.

For any leadership to be effective, it does require some level of blind faith among the followers.  It is important to believe in the leader for it allows quick coordinated action.  The leader is quickly able to put resources together towards a single set of objectives.  There is no need to explain, negotiate, elaborate, argue, or convince.  There is no need to generate a consensus around an issue.  And so we can create a leader who will be able to do great things if substantial people have some faith in his abilities and intentions.  Modi is playing that role of such a leader. To some extent all leaders are expected to be like this – The CEO, the Prime Minister, the General, the Entrepreneur are all expected to lead with limited or no cross-questioning.  We do tend to follow their bidding with limited questioning.

But there is that catch – leadership works best when people follow blindly.  But leadership can also get to be disastrous if people follow blindly.   I don’t think you can have the best of both worlds – so we tend to alternate between somewhat dictatorial leaders and those more comfortable with getting consensus decisions. Which is better, perhaps it is neither. When things seem very bad we like these strong infallible superhumans; and when not so bad, we prefer leaders with more human-like traits.

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