Features of Charismatic Leadership: Mahathir Mohamad

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Features of Charismatic Leadership

Self-Confidence

“I realize that I make enemies. I have no choice. Either I come here and sit
comfortably and be nice to people and do nothing or else, I try to do something
even at the expense of being unpopular. I don’t think I’ll be permanent here. I
don’t think I’ll be forever unpopular, so it doesn’t really matter. Even being thrown
out of the office doesn’t really bother me.” -Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. (Aziz Zariza Ahmad, 1954. Mahathir’s Paradigm Shift: the man behind the vision. Malaysia: Firma Malaysia Publishing, 1997. p 217)

Those who followed closely the progression of Malaysian politics have identified the former premier as outspoken and blunt with an outstanding personality. Some had even gone as far as pointing those qualities were the very reasons that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was able to stay in the office as long as he did. (Papado Poulos, Nick. Malaysia Under Mahathir. Article retrieved on July 18 2001. TIME, 2001.) His self-confidence allows him to bounce back from everyday challenges and he ‘appears to display a drive to succeed’. (Aziz Zariza Ahmad, 1954. Mahathir’s Paradigm Shift: the man behind the vision. Malaysia: Firma Malaysia Publishing, 1997. p 217) Although Malaysia was in a state of slow progression, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took on the somewhat economical backwater country and built it into the 28th largest trading nation out of 110 in the world, on his principles. (Figures are from United Nations Conference on Trade Development based of the Trade Development Index, 2007. http://www.unctad.org/Templates/Page.asp?intItemID=3582&lang=1)

But perhaps, the most remarkable display of his self-confidence over a crisis was the 1977 KGB espionage incident which saw the arrest of Siddiq Ghouse who was the Executive Secretary of the Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs and used to work under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1974 with the Ministry of Education for seven years. When the news of the arrest was announced to the public by the media regarding the arrest of his former Political Secretary, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad remained calmed although questions and suspicions arose over the constitution on which the administration had used to govern the country, especially since there were still traces of communists movement left in Malaysia then. As a result, for the first time in the history of Malaysia, three Soviet diplomats were deported and the Malaysian police found equipments supplied to Siddiq Ghouse by the Soviet KGB, supposedly used to document State secrets. (Morais, J. Victor. Mahathir: a profile in courage. Malaysia: Eastern Universities Press (M) Sdn Bhd, 1982. p 15)

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismissed the fears of the Malaysian people by stressing that ‘the activities of Siddiq do not in any way mean that UMNO had been influenced by communist ideology.’ (Morais, J. Victor. Mahathir: a profile in courage. Malaysia: Eastern Universities Press (M) Sdn Bhd, 1982. p 152) His stance and demeanour over the incident was so remarkable that it seemed with, but a single remark, he crushed all doubts with nothing –just his confidence. And, the people returned that same confidence to him.

Vision

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad envisaged Malaysia as a self-sufficient industrial, Malay –centric developed nation with an economy that will be eight times stronger than it was when this ideal was tabled during the Sixth Malaysia plan in 1991. This vision had come to be called as Wawasan 2020. The word Wawasan literally means ‘vision’ in the Bahasa Malaysia (used to be termed Bahasa Melayu. The change has its relation with this vision in developing the nation…..). In this vision, 9 challenges had been outlined by the former premier:

1.To form a nation that stands as one.
2.To produce a Malaysian community that has freedom, strength, and full of self-confidence. 3.To develop a mature democratic community.
4.To form a community that has high...
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