Monday, March 5, 2012
Advice for the Indonesian President - To Be a Great Leader, You Need to Be a Good Manager With a Capable Team
Peter Drucker, one of the world’s foremost pundits of modern management, used to say that there are no poor countries, only mismanaged countries. Indonesian management guru Tanri Abeng would add that a country is only as good as its leader and a leader is only as good as the people he recruits and empowers.
These are two basic principles of management that all organizational leaders, even a head of state, must remember when they recruit people for their ring-one, or inner circle. A failure to do this weakens their leadership. It is time our own elected officials started to realize this.
History teaches us that great leaders were surrounded by capable assistants or aides. They were ministers, advisers, combat generals, strategy planners or policy executors.
Leaders can never have confidence in executing their organizational plans until they are absolutely sure of the quality, loyalty and integrity of the people around them. The opposite is also true. Leaders that employ the wrong people are only paving the way for their own failure.
From a management perspective, the bigger the scope of duty, the more sophisticated the system of supervision must be. Likewise, the higher the level of leadership, the more secure the system must be to ascertain the accountability and loyalty of ring-one people.
That basic principle of management requires a thorough analysis of the competence, integrity and acceptability of the people a leader intends to recruit for his or her organization. The first test of being a good leader is whether one can pick the people with the highest level of competence and credibility.
But before going out to find the best and the brightest, leaders must first create the positions in the organizational structure to implement their strategy. Those positions are part of the structure in every organization. And every structure is part of the strategy. So, structure follows strategy and the strategy is the road map for every organization. These are universally accepted management principles.
This is why the management theory of Tanri, who sits on the editorial board of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, which the Jakarta Globe is part of, advocates what he calls the four S’s: strategy, structure, system and skill.
Place those principles against Indonesia’s top government structure and we will see clearly what has gone right or wrong.
First, strategy. On this, Indonesia has chosen the right road map, called democracy. It is an irreversible road map that the nation must follow to be in line with globally acceptable practices of governance.
Unless the country breaks up, democracy can never be uprooted because people have acknowledged its benefit and goodness. So all that an Indonesian president must do is to substantiate it to the extent that every citizen enjoys its benefits.
The second principle is structure. This is where a national leader needs to take courageous and corrective steps.
Given that power has been decentralized to provinces, districts and so on, the rule of the thumb must be to downsize the central government structure to just six areas where power is still held by Jakarta: monetary, fiscal, defense and security, religious, judicial and foreign affairs.
Our current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, does not have the courage to initiate bureaucratic reform to the extent that the top-heavy structure of the government is corrected.
The failure to deflate the central government structure is a loud confirmation of the retention of bureaucratic inefficiency. The president cannot be applauded for this despite his widely publicized intention to promote good governance.
The third principle, system, includes all the laws, regulations, decrees, ordinances, standard operating procedures, bureaucratic ethics and work culture. This is an area where a thorough review is desperately needed, especially because of the overlapping of authority brought about by the spinning off of the central government’s powers to the regions.
The state institution that has the authority to judge this area is the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, the Constitution does not give the court the right to be proactive. Consequently, the Constitutional Court can only wait until there are complaints about the overlapping of policies or authorities. But if nobody makes a complaint, such problems remain hidden.
The president does not have an institution that is capable enough to conduct an overall review of rules and regulations across so many ministries and take corrective action to fix the situation. Meanwhile, when it comes to state structure, controlling is not the duty of the president, but that of the legislature, which does not have the time or intention to do so.
So, any discrepancy resulting from a collision of policies and regulations across the many ministries and down to the district level should be blamed not on the president alone, but on a legislature that fails to exercise its supervision function properly.
Finally we need to look at the available skill sets of human resources, from the president to governors and all the way down to the subdistrict level. This is the area of state management most difficult to fix.
From management’s perspective, a leader needs a good team. It has to be solid and ensure the smooth execution of decisions and policies. A president must also have a solid team, and so should every governor, mayor and district head. This is not happening, from Jakarta down to many provinces, districts and municipalities.
President Yudhoyono can decide by himself to appoint ministers and yet he still compromises with political parties, undermining his own prerogative in the process, because of the fear that political parties would block his legislation in the House of Representatives and destabilize the country if they were excluded from the cabinet.
Such fears are totally baseless, according to Yudhoyono’s former boss, Wiranto. Wiranto says that the president should not be afraid of political parties because behind him are more than 60 percent of voters who would support him should the parties go against him. And Wiranto is right.
But because Yudhoyono is the patron of the ruling party, he is now suffering a lot of political bruises. This brings us to the question of whether an Indonesian president should concurrently be the chief patron of the ruling party.
Had Yudhoyono quit his position as the Democratic Party’s top patron on the day he was sworn in as president, he would have enjoyed greater popularity and trust, standing above all the political interests and acting as a great leader for the entire nation.
Wiranto believes that Yudhoyono’s mistake was to repeat the error made by Suharto when the former dictator became the chief patron of the Golkar Party and ruled the country for 32 years.
Anybody would assume that the president could, in such a situation, easily abuse power to benefit his own party or inner circle, directly or indirectly. To avoid this kind of perception from further tarnishing Yudhoyono’s reputation, he must now step down from the ruling party.
Stepping down would certainly not be a mistake. In fact, it would distance him a bit from the political dirt being pelted at his party these days.
Sukarno and Suharto ended their terms of office in disgrace. B.J. Habibie and Megawati Sukarnoputri are still highly respected, at least by some segments of society, even though the ending of their stories were not very nice.
Will Yudhoyono become the first president to end his term of office honorably, having become the first democratically elected president in Indonesia’s history?
His political responses have all proven to be a failure and his party’s reputation is declining fast. He needs to look at Drucker’s and Tanri’s management lessons.
By Pitan Daslani political correspondent for BeritaSatu Media Holdings. Jakarta Globe