“Yes, we can!”

Yes We Can

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barrack Obama was criticized for the simplicity of his message: “Yes, we can.” I feel that this is the best and the simplest message a leader can transmit for training and developing an effective and efficient team.

In order for a team to be valuable and competent, we need to analyze the role of the leader, and how a leader guides or coaches the team. We need look no further than Surah Kahf and the example of Dhul Qarnain. Ayaat 83 – 98 of this Surah clearly demonstrate, how a leader should behave for inculcating the following in the team:

  • trust,
  • keenness to achieve results,
  • discipline,
  • effective communication,
  • clear work objectives,
  • ongoing learning.

Let’s analyze these objectives one Ayah at a time.

When Allah (swt) says: “Verily, we established Him in the earth, and we gave Him the means of everything” (Al-Kahf 18:84),it clearly indicates that a person is chosen for leadership, he cannot nominate himself for it. A team must trust that their leader has not forcibly or deceptively gained the position. The second part of the Ayah brings to light that a leader must have the appropriate abilities and knowledge required to lead a team successfully. He must have the ‘means’ and the ‘know how’. The foremost aspect of training team is to make them believe that you have the proficiency to lead them forward.

With words “so he followed a way”, Ayah 85 denotes that a leader must be a guide. He must set a direction for his team to follow. A team keen to achieve results must be given a specific goal and also shown a path to follow for achieving that goal. Training the team to follow this path by default implies that the leader must not only follow that path as well, but must be at the forefront, leading the team down that path.

Ayahs 87 – 88 tell us that a leader must maintain discipline in his ranks: “He said: ‘As for Him (a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah) who does wrong, we shall punish him; and then He will be brought back unto his Lord; who will punish Him with a terrible torment (Hell). But as for him who believes (in Allah’s Oneness) and works righteousness, He shall have the best reward, (Paradise), and we (Dhul-Qarnain) shall speak unto Him mild words (as instructions).”

For a team to complete their job and do it successfully, a leader must train his team to be disciplined, giving out rewards where appropriate and handing out punishments/reprimands when required. This also includes handing out assignments in a just and fair manner, so no member of a team feels overburdened. Honing the capabilities of each member is an essential part of training a group: utilizing each member’s abilities in the appropriate area and providing the members with the opportunity to explore all the aspects of the task at hand. In order to do this, the leader must be ready to accept minor failures by the team members as part of the learning process.

Ayah 93 brings our attention to the fact that a team is comprised of individuals with varying intellectual levels, expertise and skills: “When He reached between two mountains, He found, before (near) them (those two mountains), a people who scarcely understood a word.” When training the team, the leader must establish effective communication among the team members. The leader must provide guidelines/instructions, so that the entire team establishes a common language among themselves, in order to proceed with the task effectively. The leader must train the team and help them acquire the tools, confidence, language skills, etc., required for communicating with people.

Next, let’s look at Ayahs 94 – 95: “They said: ‘O Dhul-Qarnain! Verily! Yajooj and Majooj (Gog and Magog) are doing great mischief in the land. Shall we then pay you a tribute in order that you might erect a barrier between us and them?’ He said: ‘That (wealth, authority and power) in which my Lord had established me is better (than your tribute), so help me with strength (of men), I will erect between you and them a barrier.’” A leader must set an unfailing example for his subordinates: bribery/corruption is not acceptable. Only legal compensation is allowed. For a team to function, spiritual training is an essential part.

Last, let’s look at Ayah 96: “‘Give me pieces (blocks) of iron,’ then, when he had filled up the gap between the two mountain-cliffs, he said: ‘Blow,’ till when he had made it (red as) fire, he said: ‘Bring me molten copper to pour over it.’” A leader must be well versed in the use of latest technology, and then instruct his team in the use of it. In addition, the team must have ongoing professional training, so they are abreast with current and emerging trends in their field.

“The building of this barrier was the truest example of, in the history of man, of compassion and cooperation, between a nation of great wealth and a weak nation…” (commentary of Surah Kahf, Ali Abdur Rasheed), in other words, this models how a leader should behave and by setting an example, train his team to do the same.

Amazing! Allah (swt) has given us the perfect training model, if we only chose to follow it. Yes, we can!