Living off luxury: An important trait of leadership in democracy

Published : Tuesday, 5 June, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Leadership is made up of many qualities such as dedication, sacrifice and effort. Instead of pursuing a life of luxury a good leader always crave for welfare of the people, society and country. These become more important when a leader works in democratic environment. He or she should lead by examples to drive his or her followers in working for cumulative benefits. 
Throughout the world, no leader could achieve any goal without making sacrifices. The roads for them are not strewn with flowers but full of thorns. But they endure the pains and suffering focusing on certain aspirations which could bring better future for the people. This sacrificing nature along with love for simple life actually makes a leader great and in democracy there can be no alternative to these qualities for good leaderships.

Their focus should not be on the riches, luxury or wealth but their priority be ensuring the rights and welfare of the people. Unless the solvency of the people can be ensured, the luxury in the life of their leader amounts to be a sin. Leaders are expected to dedicate their time, wealth and works for the mass. They cannot be afraid of barriers, oppressions, unequal fights and hurdles in lives. In today’s world, it is very hard to find such leaders who can move above the charm of materialistic world. But in the history of every great leader, we will find the presence of simple tastes and lifestyles which contributed a lot in making them great and it is true for not only the political leaders but also the leaders of different sectors. If we look into the lives of great leaders, we will find hundreds of such examples where comfortable living had no place.

Mahatma Gandhi is its greatest example and it is hard to believe how this apparently simple man left such a legacy for the world and changed the lives of millions of people forever. His power and influence to a degree lay in his apparent simplicity and minimalist way of living. He practiced simplicity and minimalism in all areas of his life as he always taught people how to live a life of simplicity.
When Gandhi died, he had less than ten possessions including a watch, spectacles, sandals and eating bowl. He was a man of non-possession and didn’t even possess a house. Despite taking birth in a well-off family and receiving privileged upbringing especially prestigious education in England, Mahatma was always so down to earth. He studied Law at University College in London and he was subsequently invited to join the Bar there. Though born into wealth, he ultimately gave it all away and through the course of his life managed to let go of material trappings. He followed a life of simplicity which made him a great leader. His simple lifestyle led his followers to follow such traits and focus on the improvement of people’s future.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of independent Bangladesh, was also a very simple and humble man. He was down to earth and was never found to lead a luxurious life. His simplicity and sacrifice for his people had taken him to such a height that the global leaders often praised his courage and charismatic leadership. His simple lifestyle yet strong will and character actually makes us proud to be his fellow countrymen.

Similar was the life of Nelson Mandela. He was always beside the people and fought with them on the streets. When he became the President of South Africa after long struggle, he did not flew into a life of luxury rather was even more focused on the welfare of his people which made him a great leader. Similar is the case with Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler and many others in the history.
Luxury and greatness does not actually come along together for most of the top leaders of the world. Particularly for democratic leaders, willingness to lead a simple life is a must. Not only we need to look in the past but also in today’s world, there are so many exemplary leaders leading a life full of sacrifices. Uruguay’s former president, Jose Mujica, was termed as the poorest president of the world. Being a guerrilla fighter himself, Mujica was elected President in 2009. He donated 90 percent of his presidential salary to charity and ditched the lavish presidential palace, opting instead to live in his ramshackle farm with his wife.
For the longest time, his sole personal asset amounted to a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. His simple life makes him feel more connected to his political roots as he realized that he doesn’t actually need any of the trappings of a supposedly successful life to be happy. He is adored all around the world considering his sacrifice and contribution to his countrymen’s lives.
Joyce Banda was elected the first female president of Malawi. Shortly after taking office, she sold off the presidential jet and the fleet of 60 Mercedes limousines in an effort to turn the then-struggling country to economic severity. Later, the money earned from selling the plane went to feeding more than 1 million people — an extraordinary example of people-oriented leadership.

His term as Nepalese prime minister may have been short-lived, but Sushil Koirala was widely lauded for shunning the benefits associated with being the leader of his country. In a nation where politicians are typically associated with wealth, the 75-year-old Koirala, apart from having 3 mobile phones — one of which is an iPhone and another doesn’t actually work, has no other asset to his name. Before moving into the official prime minister residences, he rented a house in Kathmandu. Koirala’s lifestyle is said to have come from his simple tastes. Manik Sarkar, four times Chief Minister of Tripura, India is known to be the poorest CM in India.

He doesn’t own a car or a house and takes a rickshaw to travel around even after 20 years in the parliament. His simplicity and no charm for materialistic features made him very popular to his followers. Not only in politics, but in other areas also, leadership requires sacrifice. Greed of worldly assets cannot make a good leader. For example; Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) led a very simple life and when he died, he had no assets. He always spent his assets for the people. His sacrifice made him the best leader of the world from all angles.

Since he was declared leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has put great efforts to ensure that the church serves the people. He has been vocal about global poverty and while visiting the US, he chose to dine with Washington DC’s homeless people rather than the lawmakers. Francis has been known for being humble and living a simple and sparing way of life.

 In many other areas also we find top people who left luxury to bring a positive change in the society like; Wall Street baron Warren Buffet, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, actress Jennifer Lawrence, actor Keanu Reeves and many others. They also live a simple life out of luxury and contributes most of their earning for charity. Now if we look into Bangladesh, the scenario is very different. From the era of former president HM Ershad, luxury has been the definition of national leaders. Bangladeshi leaders are so eager to accumulate wealth that the chairperson and acting chairperson of the country’s main opposition are both sentenced for corruption in a graft case.
Many ruling party leaders are also engaged in huge corruption. Along with that, despite around 25 per cent of the people still living below the poverty line, the benefits of the government leaders are being increased again and again. Recently, Tk 75, 000 allowances was declared for ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers, secretaries and acting secretaries to obtain smart phones. Their pay has already been increased. They are also allowed to import tax-free cars. Other than that, they receive many other facilities while majority of the citizens are moving with empty pockets.
If a leader lives a life full of luxury and acts irresponsive to the condition of his people, then his followers will also opt for luxury and will act in the same way. This scenario can be very vital. If the leader leads a simple life, his followers will also move on the same direction. Hence, it is required that, the leader rejects luxury until the people reaches the same ground. We are still far behind in this area considering even our South Asian counterparts like; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc.

Bangladesh being a democratic as well as fast developing country needs leaders with sacrificing attitude. Democratic politics is not a business and all must realize that. Only the valiant efforts of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for which she has been already acclaimed globally, will not suffice. Participation of leaders from both ruling party and opposition is required to change the future of Bangladeshi people.

We need the same mentality as Bangabandhu or other above mentioned leaders to take the country forward. We hope, Bangladeshi leaders really understand the concept of democracy and portrays sacrificing attitude to enlighten our future. If that happens, it is very much possible that Bangladesh also reaches a position of importance and honour in the global forums in the near future.

The Writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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