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ACADEMIC CONTRIBUTIONS

Character centered leadership:
Muhammad (p) as an ethical
role model for CEOs

Character
centered
leadership
1003

Rafik I. Beekun
Managerial Sciences Department,
University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the leadership style of Muhammad (p) within
a character-centric framework as a useful alternative to the transactional, self-centered model and the
value-neutral transformational approach that currently permeate business management. The author
differentiates such perspectives from the character-centered, moral approach to leadership suggested
by the Qur’an and modeled by Muhammad (p), and proposes that this approach may be of practical
use to CEOs.
Design/methodology/approach – A conceptual, comparative discussion of Muhammad’s
leadership style based on the primary Islamic sources is shown to have practical implications for
the leadership process in management.
Findings – The current malaise in business leadership can be resolved by a new focus on character
and on virtues.
Practical implications – The character-centered, moral approach of Muhammad provides
exemplars of virtues and behaviors that, if emulated by CEOs, may help pre-empt potentially
self-serving, individualistic and narcissistic tendencies.
Originality/value – The leadership model of Muhammad has been applied to a number of arenas
before, but this is the first attempt at explicating the Qur’anic emphasis on the role-modeling aspects of
his character (khuluqin azeem). When fully expounded, it is likely to offer a more virtue-centric
alternative to transactional and/or transformational approaches to leadership and their associated
relativistic values.
Keywords Islam, Ethics, Behaviour, Transformational leadership, Character, Virtues, Muhammad,
Servant leadership, Practical wisdom
Paper type Conceptual paper

1. Introduction
The litany of unethical business actions resulting from poor leadership at global
companies such as Enron, Arthur Andersen and numerous others in Europe and
elsewhere, the enactment of laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) in the USA and
the UK Bribery Act (2010), the potential international bribery blacklisting of British
firms (Leigh, 2011) and the renewed global emphasis on anti-bribery and corruption
compliance activities (KPMG, 2011) suggest that dominant leadership models, such as
the transactional and the transformational approaches to leadership, need to be
rethought in spite of the relative “effectiveness” of these approaches (Groves and
LaRocca, 2011). Although transformational leadership counterbalances the potentially
self-serving nature of transactional leadership, research indicates that it too may be
hampered by flaws (Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999; Howell and Avolio, 1992). For example,
transformational leadership does not ensure behavioral ethicality or an emphasis on
moral values (Groves and LaRocca, 2011; Dubrin, 2012). A potential response to these

Journal of Management Development
Vol. 31 No. 10, 2012
pp. 1003-1020
r Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0262-1711
DOI 10.1108/02621711211281799

Bass. but have each their own ethical slip-ups. but that perspective – focussing on a single virtue – has also provided an incomplete resolution to the weaknesses in previous leadership research (Pruzan and Miller. this perspective may engender an exclusive pursuit of one’s own interests and be therefore problematic (Rosenthal and Buchholz. The transformational leader influences his/her followers to look beyond their self-interests and to focus instead on the collective good. Maak and Pless (2006) and Groves and LaRocca (2011) have recently emphasized the concept of responsible leadership. p. This belief may result partly from the dichotomy between ethical and unethical values. and the frequent conflation of values and virtues – two terms that are not interchangeable (Mele´.10 1004 concerns has been the focus on responsible leadership. and aims to provide practical insights for CEOs and other leaders. Why character-centered leadership? Over the past decades. He later reversed himself by distinguishing between “authentic transformational leaders” and “pseudo-transformational leaders” (Bass and Steidlmeier. 3) contend that the key issue in making moral judgments (and acting morally) depends on the “legitimacy of the grounding worldview. 2. Although Burns (1978) had suggested that a transformational leader should be morally uplifting. 2012). positive changes that leaders bring about. and beliefs that grounds a set of moral values and criteria.” What if the “others” are members of a gang. Bass and Steidlmeier (1999. 1985) focusses on the major. my paper examines the virtues underlying Muhammad’s (p)[1] leadership style within a character-centric framework. Business leaders still hold to the idea that greed pays as long as they can get by governmental watchdogs. 1999). 2011).JMD 31. different approaches to leadership have been proposed to improve leaders’ effectiveness (Dubrin. 1995). The primary purpose of my paper then is to uncover the character-centric model of Muhammad and to outline a core set of leadership education principles within the . transactional leadership emphasizes the idea of social exchange processes based upon contingent reinforcement. Indeed. Followers perform a task for the leader in return for the rewards that he/she can deliver. transformational leadership (Burns. Reflecting on the gaps in transactional and transformational leadership. One cannot be sure then whether a transformational leader abides by values that are either moral or immoral.” While Bass and Steidlmeier (1999) and Ciulla (2006) have looked at moral character as discussed by Aristotle and Confucius. I contend like Beekun and Badawi (1999) and Kriger and Seng (2005) that there is a character-based model embedded within the Qur’an and the Sunnah or Hadith[2]. 2011). 2006). terrorists or other types of criminals? What if the standards by which one is to act are criminal standards? Since responsibility is a necessary but not sufficient condition for ethical leadership. an obligation to act on those standards. suggesting that one element missing from previous models of leadership is the responsibility element. Waldman and Galvin (2008) assert that responsibility is “geared towards the specific concerns of others. By contrast. Exacerbating the above issues is the fact that leaders find it difficult to ensure that their people abide by values and ethics (Nonaka and Takeuchi. and some measure of accountability for the consequences of one’s actions. As indicated by Bass and Steidlmeier (1999). Unfortunately. there are likely to be other virtues that relate to moral judgments and acts. 1978. To address these deficiencies. Bass (1985) initially proposed that transformational leaders could be either “virtuous” or “villainous” depending on their values.

” In contrast to the word fitrah (Qur’an. guided by values and morals. p. For the purposes of my paper.” Abu Laylah (1990) states that the word khuluq (plural akhlaq) means “character.” Over time. 3. and [other] things you did not know (Qur’an. I will now explore key virtues at the core of his character. and then reaffirms that mankind is to learn wisdom (hikmah) from him: [y] We have sent among you a Messenger of your own to recite Our revelations to you. practical wisdom emphasizes the importance of flexible and contingent decision making while seeking advice from people with the relevant competencies and moral character. the search of balance between opposing values (Mele´. 2004). 2011). character and virtue. I must first focus on a key verse in the Qur’an (68:4) where God describes him as follows: And you (Muhammad) stand as an exalted standard of character. 30:30) which describes the nature with which a person is born. The Qur’an emphasizes the modeling dimension of Muhammad’s character-centric exemplar. Since the implementation of ethics is a function of a leader’s character (Halverson.” Thus. Abu Laylah suggests that while a common core of morality (fitrah) is created in us when we are created. Overall. then. wisdom. it is not surprising that character is a critical requirement for leadership effectiveness (Mintzberg. For the purposes of my paper. 2006. and relies on both above-mentioned meanings of the term. we can acquire morality through education and socialization – by properly emulating the model or behavioral pattern of Muhammad (p). I will use Aristotle’s definition of character as the moral dimension of a person (Mele´. 2:151). I will use Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (2011.context of practical wisdom. The Arabic term khuluq used in this verse means “character. the Qur’an (68:4) stresses this aspect of the character of Muhammad when it explicitly states (33:21) that he is the “ouswatoun hasana” (excellent model) mankind is to follow. Muhammad (p) repeatedly refers to the concept of akhlaq. take proper account of the salient features” (Hartman. p. In two verses. 74). and since Aristotle suggests that “the person of good character perceives a situation rightly – that is. Character-centered leadership To situate the leadership style of Muhammad (p). 2004). are essential. 2011) and the application of ethical principles. purify you and teach you the Scripture. a “habit” or “custom” may become second nature to a person. In a Character centered leadership 1005 . One possible definition of hikmah which correlates with Aristotle’s is given by Burhan (2012) as “a total insight and having sound judgment concerning a matter or situation through understanding cause and effect phenomena. in seeking to offer practical advice to CEOs and other leaders based on Muhammad’s (p) leadership model. khuluq (26:137) connotes an additional meaning. Accordingly. natural disposition or innate temper. when juxtaposing fitrah and khuluq. In describing his character modeling mission. Other important elements of practical wisdom involve the sincere attitude to do what is right. 60) definition of practical wisdom as “tacit knowledge acquired from experience that enables people to make prudent judgments and take actions based on the actual situation. that of an acquired or learned “custom” or “habit. too. but Islam suggests that mimicry alone does not guarantee wisdom. This verse describes the very core of Muhammad’s (p) leadership.” Picking a model and emulating his behavior are clearly an important means of learning.

he betrays his trust (Abu Hurairah. As such. 4. kindness and sabr (patience). promise-keeping and trustworthiness. In this paper. when he makes a promise. and is consistent with the Qur’an. “Verily the character of the Prophet of God was the Qur’an. and must devolve the responsibilities associated with his/her position toward other stakeholders (Beekun and Badawi. humility. the Prophet (p) stated: I was not sent except to perfect moral characters[3]. 2005).JMD 31. The above hadith is interesting in that it defines integrity (the lack of hypocrisy) as a “synthesis of virtues” (Mele´. Amazingly. 2011): truthfulness. in fact. 1006 Thus. Integrity. benevolence.10 hadith that reflects the authentic transformational nature of his mission. he must bear responsibility for his actions. nor did he ever cheat anybody. Known as As-Siddiq (the truthful) and Al-Ameen (the trustworthy) long before he received divine inspiration. Indeed. The wealth and other resources that man has access to are not his. I will adopt Alasdair Maclntyre’s (1984) definition of virtue as being “qualities that both enable and predispose a person to live a good life” and lead them to do the “right” thing given any situational context[5].[4]” The character-centered model of Muhammad (p) is also consistent with Aristotelian thought where ethics centers around virtues and virtues derive from character. Muhammad’s (p) character Muhammad’s (p) character was virtue centric. Trustworthiness The above hadith also highlights the second core value characterizing Muhammad: amana or trustworthiness. a CEO is accountable for his/her actions. It correlates with Dubrin’s (2012) discussion of the characteristics of effective transformational leaders. These will be described briefly here. he breaks it. but have been loaned to him by God as tools to fulfill the responsibilities of the trusteeship. she answered. is the number one attribute by which followers of the most effective leaders assess the effectiveness of their leader (Kouzes and Posner. Modeling the behavior he preached to others. his/her followers will trust him/her. the mission of the Prophet (p) as an “exalted standard of character” is to help men and women improve their own moral character with the Qur’an and his traditions as their guide. trustworthiness. justice. he once declared: Three are the signs of a hypocrite: When he speaks. Like any other person. He (p) always encouraged truthfulness and integrity of character. in Bukhari and Muslim). . and when he is trusted. Muhammad (p) modeled core virtues that defined his character and his behavior: truthfulness and integrity. when ‘Aisha (ra) was asked about the character of the Prophet (p). he lies. For example. the very adversaries who were plotting to kill him in Makkah were the same people who had entrusted him with their property. In spite of offers of vast wealth and power. his enemies would still not accuse him of lying. 1995). An additional dimension of amana relates to the concept of man’s role of trustee on earth. Truthfulness and integrity Muhammad’s (p) truthfulness was so well known that even after he claimed Prophethood. Since a leader with integrity will be steadfastly upright. Muhammad (p) never compromised his cause.

Whereas CEOs and their followers sometimes self-destruct because of lingering enmities. Kindness A leader’s role is not that of a bully wielding a big stick. In a famous incident involving a lady thief. one of the key attributes of the CEOs of the most effective firms is level 5 leadership which centers on humility. 2011). this will weigh heavily in your favor on the Day of Judgment [y]. e. balance” whereas qist refers to the highest level of justice. By contrast. Humility According to Collins (2005). Muhammad (p) acted benevolently even with respect to those who had committed grievous and barbaric acts against his family. he rejected any intercession attempt decrying the selective justice administered prior to him. Benevolence (Ihsan) It describes an action that benefits persons other than those from whom the action proceeds without any obligation. and issues from the recognition and consideration for human dignity (Mele´. In contrasting the concepts of Ihsan (benevolence) and ‘adl ( justice). Many famous CEOs have acquired notoriety because of their harsh treatment of their subordinates.” Muhammad (p) never dealt with anybody in a partial manner. Al-Qurtubi (1966) expounds on the Qur’anic verse “Lo! God enjoins justice and kindness” (16:90). mended his own clothing. Overall. I will now analyze his character-centric model of Character centered leadership 1007 . Jack Welch[6] (New York Times. Being humble does not mean that one is submissive and easily swayed. As narrated by Amr Ibn Harayth: If you show kindness to your servant while employing him in some task. he milked his own goats. Muhammad modeled key moral virtues integral to his character by practicing them tangibly.g.Justice Justice is described by two words in the Qur’an: ‘adl and qist. While preparing for the battle of Al Ahzab. Consistent with Mele´’s (2011) definition of justice as “the perpetual and constant will to render to each his or her right. At home. sabr is the type of endurance leaders need during natural disasters ordained by God. or Steve Jobs[7] (Nocera. God’s Messenger (p) raised his clothes and showed that he had two stones on his belly[8]. During a three-year long total boycott of the fledgling Muslim community in Makkah. 5:8). and suggests that ‘adl ( justice) is mandatory while Ihsan (benevolence) is what is above and beyond the mandatory. Muslims are encouraged by God to behave justly toward all: “Be just! For justice is nearest to piety” (Qur’an. To demonstrate that Muhammad (p) not only preached virtuous behavior but also practiced it. the Prophet (p) advised his followers to treat a worker or servant kindly – as he did. ‘adl means “equity. In the Qur’an. 2011). the Prophet strengthened his followers through his exemplary sabr: When we complained to God’s Messenger (p) of hunger and raised our clothes to show we were each carrying a stone over the belly. 2011). and slept on the floor on a very thin mat. the Prophet Muhammad (p) joined his companions in digging the ditch around Madinah and carried bowls of earth on his head. Patience As Safi (1995) points out.

Muhammad’s mission was to change the jahiliyyah[9] culture in pre-Islamic Arabia and. eat of carrion. Describing this pre-Islamic state of affairs. Inspirational motivation Moral character of muhammad (p) Servant leadership Figure 1. just and halal (lawful) during a period of jahiliyyah or ignorance. Wasa’ya’).JMD 31. Muhammad’s character-centric style of leadership As an authentic transformational leader (Bass and Steidlmeier. on a broader scale. 2008 and based on Bass and Steidlmeier. Focus on what is feasible to accomplish 5. enjoined benevolence. Help people look beyond their self-interests 3. the world across time. commit fornication. 1999). Creating trust 4. Service before self 2. 2012). kindness and justice and argued against the egoism that permeated the times. Idealized influence or charisma 5. 1999 and Dubrin. steal. 1008 5. Raise awareness 2. Against this backdrop. The process by which Muhammad (p) was able to bring about this change is described in Figure 1 (adapted from Beekun. He posited that practices such as infanticide should not be acceptable simply because they • Principle of intention • Principle of taqwa (awe) • Principle of gratitude • Principle of shura • Principle of accountability Transformational leadership 1. This analysis will then enable me to extract elements of practical wisdom for CEOs and other leaders. Muhammad (p) as the Ouswatoun Hasana (excellent model) for leaders 1. Ja’far ibn Abi Talib told the ruler of Abyssinia: “O king! We used to drink blood. We used to do many other things shameful and despicable” (Bukhari. Muhammad (p) spent his lifetime teaching and mentoring his followers in the core Islamic virtues and values. Help people look beyond their self-interest Muhammad (p) stressed the universal brotherhood of mankind.10 leadership in light of the authentic transformational leadership and servant leadership literature. Lend a hand . Individual consideration 6. Intellectual stimulation 4. kill one another and plunder. Raising people’s awareness Muhammad (p) increased awareness of what it is right. The powerful used to oppress the weak. Listening as a means of affirmation 3.

68:4). Muslims developed the first universities and led in many scientific areas for centuries (Said. As indicated earlier (Qur’an. 1991) is characterized by the communication of high expectations. 2005). but differently depending on his assessment of their maturity level and readiness – as when he refused to appoint Abu Dhar to an administrative post based on his “inability to manage the affairs of the people” (Muslim. and to serve their Creator. He reached out to everybody with kindness and benevolence. Charisma. 1988). (2004). Inspirational motivation This dimension of transformational leadership (Avolio and Bass. but were also morally unkind and unjust: None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself (Hadith #13 in An Nawawi). One need only compare the pre-Islamic Umar (who was about to assassinate him) to the Muslim Umar (r)[10] to understand the effect that Muhammad (p) had as a role model and coach on some of his toughest opponents. Unethical charismatic leaders are motivated by self-interest. Taking these injunctions to heart. Muhammad (p) encouraged his followers – the Muhajirin and the Ansar – to look at the “big picture” for the sake of the Ummah. however. Intellectual stimulation The intellectual stimulation necessary to challenge jahiliyyah was divinely ordained in the first word of revelation: “Iqra” meaning “Read!” This command. These were not only morally unacceptable. Muhammad (p) was an ethical charismatic leader. leaders who demonstrate integrity in ethical conduct become role models that followers admire. learn from criticism and rely on an internal moral standard. 1983). 16-17). Blood ties were to be superseded by the ties of the brotherhood of faith strengthened by the virtues that the Prophet’s (p) himself lived by. can have either a positive or a dark side. coming to an unlettered Prophet (p) implied that believers should use their intellectual and spiritual faculties to reflect about God’s signs present throughout His creation. Besides raising their spiritual awareness. He understood that each follower had different needs and that those needs changed over time. In the manner of authentic transformational leaders (Avolio and Bass. including his worst detractors. the use of symbols to focus efforts and the Character centered leadership 1009 . They were to search for and acquire knowledge not for self-aggrandizement. He treated them fairly. Imara. Muhammad (p) offered his followers a new worldview. he (p) urged them to engage themselves in learning and to excel in whatever field they pursued: He who issues forth in search of knowledge is busy in the cause of God till he returns from his quest (as reported by Anas Ibn Malik in Al Tirmidhi. Challenging their clan-centric parochialism. but rather to get closer to. Ethical charismatic leaders work to develop their followers into leaders. and this is validated by the virtuous life he lived. hadith #420).had been passed down from one’s ancestors. Idealized influence or charisma According to Stone et al. Individual consideration and attention Muhammad (p) paid close attention to the personal differences among his followers (Humphreys. censure critical or opposing views and lack an internal moral compass. respect and pattern themselves after.

7. McMinn (2001) suggests that servant leaders develop people whereas Farling et al. his character-centered model was based on virtues and moral values that extend beyond this leadership perspective. Benevolent to the core. gain credibility and trust from their followers. one notes Muhammad (p) sought shura (consultation with others) about key issues whenever there was no direct revelation from God. 6. although Muhammad (p) meets several of the parameters of transformational leadership. Muhammad (p) stated that “a leader of the nation is their servant” (sayyid al qawn khadimuhum). The fact is that. He never built himself or lived in palaces like other contemporary leaders. and adopt the values which they believe fit the implicit theories of leadership of their followers. He never ordered his companions to give away their possessions to him.10 1010 enunciation of important goals in simple terms. status or wealth. the . Second. Inspirational leaders often provide encouragement during difficult times and set the group standard as far as work ethic is concerned – as when the Muslims were being harassed and several were being tortured and put to death in the cruelest manner. contrary to transactional leadership. He/she wishes to do what is morally right even when it may cost him/her personally. and there may be an unhealthy concentration of power and authority at the top. Had he been morally corrupt. Muhammad (p) as a servant leader According to Greenleaf (1977). he would have adopted the corrupt values of the elite in Makkah and accepted their offers of immense wealth and power. the Messenger of God.JMD 31. Muhammad (p) refused to react vindictively and kept his companions focussed on their higher common purpose. 2005. the Prophet (p) dictated these words: “This is from Muhammad. Muhammad (p) constantly sought his companions’ welfare and labored to guide them toward what is good. A more recent leadership theory that may help us understand some additional elements of Muhammad’s leadership model is servant leadership. Clearly. Such behavior increases the selfconfidence of followers. Muhammad (p) never compelled anyone to embrace Islam against his or her will. Muhammad (p) was forthright about his values and never compromised them.” When the Quraish’s delegate objected. Dubrin. Status was unimportant to him. 2012). I will now discuss several key attributes of servant leaders – as they relate to Muhammad (p) (Humphreys. However. (1999) indicate that such leaders also provide vision. During the writing of the Hudaybiya treaty. He never yielded to their demands. Most importantly. Service before self A servant leader is not interested in obtaining power. followers may be manipulated into following their leader’s interests rather than attending to their own personal needs. In rebutting this argument. and rise above its potential deficiencies. Third. there was never an occasion when he sought shura that he did not follow the shura decision even when he may have personally disagreed with it. He never appointed any of his family as his heir apparent. there are no checks and balances for transformational leaders. as enjoined in the Qur’an (Surah 2:256). First. Problems with transformational leadership Howell and Avolio (1992) and Bass and Steidlmeier (1999) have indicated that there are potential ethical problems with transformational leadership. the servant leader focusses on the needs of others rather than his or her own needs. transformational leaders may enhance their positives and downplay their weaknesses.

He was always a man of his word. Muhammad’s (p) kindness and benevolence were limitless. These principles are briefly discussed here: . Muhammad (p) was known as “al-ameen. son of Abdullah” instead. Muhammad’s (p) character-centered leadership modeled the virtues he preached. Anas (r) said that the Prophet would accept an invitation even if he was presented with barley bread and soup whose taste had changed. Clearly. 4:760). shura and accountability. This model of leadership is moderated by what five principles critical to Islam – intention. taqwa. He would stay quiet while first listening to the queries from his followers. he would choose the easier of the two (Bukhari. the servant leader is above all honest with others. intentions are critical in judging the behavior of any person including leaders. ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa reported that the Prophet (p) never disdained to go with a widow to accomplish her tasks. Intention (nyat): in Islam. Creating trust As indicated by Greenleaf (1977). He was always helping the poor and the needy. Character centered leadership 1011 . Lending a hand The servant leader is a Good Samaritan – he or she searches for opportunities to do good.” the trustworthy. I have contrasted in Table AI (see Appendix) these two dominant leadership perspectives with character-centered leadership. Focus on what is feasible to accomplish The servant leader neither seeks to accomplish everything. Anas also reported the Prophet (p) as saying: I am God’s servant. then. and then respond appropriately. never cheated or stole from anybody and spoke the truth at all times – something even his enemies grudgingly acknowledged. the action(s) are but (judged) by intention(s) and every man shall have but that which he intended[11].Prophet (p) promptly requested his scribe to write down “Muhammad. rather he first had to proceed covertly until God allowed him to go public. This direct attempt to humiliate him did not dent his humility and patience. Muhammad (p) also used gradualism: he knew that he could not take his message to the whole of Arabia immediately. focussing on their needs and earning their trust. I eat like a servant and sit like a servant. Neither wealth nor status attracted the Prophet (p). As indicated before. Aisha (ra) narrated that whenever God’s Apostle was given the choice of one of two matters. The change in his social status from that of a trader to the head of the state in Madinah did not bring any alteration in his modest living. and is unique in that he blends elements of authentic (ethical) transformational leadership with servant leadership. Muhammad (p) is reported to have said: O people! Behold. Jabir stated that the Prophet used to slow down his pace for the sake of the weak and also prayed for them. gratitude. Listening as a means of affirmation Muhammad (p) did not seek to impose himself on others unless it was a matter of divine revelation. nor does he take the most difficult route to do it.

g. As indicated by Petit and Bollaert (2012) based on the research by Glad (2004) and Woodruff (2005). In Islam. Gratitude is a key element of Islam since it reminds one and all of the bounties that God has granted humankind (e. A leader’s awe and fear of God will lead him to remember who he is ultimately accountable to.[20]” 8. and they fall victim to the Bethsheba syndrome.JMD 31. 2005).10 The above hadith is important because a major criticism leveled against the transformational leaders is that they engage in impression management. Character-centered leaders know that even if they foil the justice of man. we can now abstract elements of practical wisdom that can be of use to managers in general and to CEOs in particular. Unethical transformational and pseudo-servant leaders behave unethically because they believe they are beyond checks and balances (Bass and Steidlmeier. It ensures integrity. A leader or follower who does not feel gratitude toward his Creator is likely to trend toward being arrogant (ghabid) like Satan instead of being a sincere servant of God (ghibad). The character-centric model of Muhammad (p) focusses on intentions. namely that they do not have to account for their actions. This principle is emphasized by the following hadith narrated by ‘Adi bin ‘Amira al Kindi: I heard the Messenger of God (p) say: “Whoso from you is appointed by us to a position of authorityand he conceals from us a needle or something smaller than that. 1012 . As Al Buraey points out. . . Mao Zedong[12]. thus negating pseudo-transformational leadership. justice and trustworthiness because the leader’s actions will be gauged by somebody else. shura plays a critical role in administration and management. and he will (have to) produce (it) on the Day of Judgment. 1999). Unlike the elitist (majority/minority) approaches to decision making. they cannot dodge that of God. . Hitler[13] [14]. 1999). the limits on the exercise of power have been set both by the Qur’an and the Sunnah (Beekun and Badawi. Taqwa would pre-empt such abuses. everyone will have to account for their actions on the Day of Judgment – leaders notwithstanding. inner consciousness of one’s duty toward Him and the awareness of one’s accountability toward Him (Beekun and Badawi. specifically with respect to decision making.g. Accountability focusses on what a person has done with respect to a particular task. unethical transformational leaders (e. Taqwa (awe): Taqwa is the all-encompassing. those who are consulted must be competent (ahl-ar-raie) and trustworthy – one of the virtues underlying Muhammad’s (p) character. Contributions of character-centered leadership to management development Based on the above discussion of character-centered leadership. 3:103). and that their actions are only for show. the concept of shura stresses consensus building – a key ingredient of practical wisdom. In Islam. Stalin[15] [16] and Saddam Hussein[17] [18] [19]) lack humility because they are convinced that their own views or doctrines are infallible though these may be evil. it would be misappropriation (of public funds). and avoid any behavior that may be outside the limits prescribed by God (2:2-5). Shura (consultation): through the Qur’anic phrase amruhum shura baynahum (who conduct their affairs through consultation) (42:38) and the Prophet’s (p) habit of seeking and accepting advice. Practical wisdom centers on the concept of phronesis discussed by Aristotle . it provides a restraint on administrative power and authority.

Muhammad (p) was concerned with neither motivation. . This higher purpose is what Aristotle calls telos. Muhammad (p) when dealing with impatient creditors accepted their harsh criticism of him. killed. but with respect to alcoholism. slavery and alcoholism. Based on the above discussion about the character-centered model of the Prophet (p) and Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (2011) analysis of wise leaders. Go your way. Keeping in mind his mission as a Prophet. he behaved benevolently and magnanimously toward his former enemies. Alternately. they may accept others’ comments without intending to follow up. 2010). His approach to different problems was judicious and timely: with respect to idolatry.(Pakaluk. he dealt with it in a more gradual manner – inspired by God. and act upon them. Some leaders avoid dealing with tough and/or critical problems because of political expediency or economic self-interest. leaders need to recognize that they are not omniscient and that occasionally they lack experience in particular situations. saying to them: 1013 . I speak to you in the same words as Yusuf (Joseph) spoke unto his brothers: He said: “You will hear no reproaches today. . infanticide. Leaders. Taking revenge would have been contradictory to his higher purpose and nyat. The source of the advice never mattered to him as long he or she was competent or had more experience. . he graciously accepted the advice of Umm Salama (ra) that he set the example and did as she suggested. he dealt with it head on. After Makkah was liberated. Practical wisdom can be viewed as a virtue itself. Again.” (Al-Qur’an 12:92). sometimes feel offended at the feedback and criticism they receive from their followers and other stakeholders. we now suggest how a phronetic leader can develop these skills: Character centered leadership Wise leaders remain focussed on their higher purpose. . because of their psychological size. His Message was neither to compel people to accept the Message nor to use a scorched earth approach against those who rejected his Message. and magnanimously refunded them with more than they had lent him[21]. In figuring out the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance. for you are freed ones. it combines will with skill since it is the moral will (desire) to do the right thing coupled with the moral skill to figure out what the right thing is. he tackled the key problems such as idolatry. maimed. Muhammad (p) sought advice (shura) in situations such as battle strategy where there were more experienced veterans around him. starved and forced many Muslims into exile expected no mercy from him. the Quraish who had tortured. but must discern which are the tougher and more critical ones to tackle and the right way to tackle them. Wise leaders seek advice from competent and/or experienced people. and to do so for the right aims (Schwartz and Sharpe. Wise leaders welcome feedback and criticism graciously. 2005). after the Muslims had refused to abide by his command at Hudaybiya. Often leaders are confronted with a flood of problems. Except in matters of divine revelation. The higher purpose of Muhammad was to spread the Message of Islam and to guide them toward the good. Leading in areas where one lacks competence shows a lack of humility and recklessness. Wise leaders courageously tackle the most tough and critical problems facing them.

in a very few select cases. Dukerich et al. And yet he used to recite the following prayer (du’a): [y] O God. 1014 . etc. make me grateful to You. namely. and arriving at an “acceptable” set of principles that would allow them to act “out of good character. Wise leaders create shared experiences to construct a new paradigm. While CEO at GE.10 . There may be cases when a leader may have to bend the rules to reconcile two parties or make things right for a customer.” i. mindful of You. brotherhood.e.g. the Prophet (p) said it is permissible. putting things right between people[22]. The subordinate is then asked to fix his/her mistakes and to proceed to the next step. He also used this process to train his replacement.JMD 31. A Japanese boss asks a young subordinate to take the initiative on a certain project (sometimes a major one). in awe of You. Wise leaders are grateful. reflecting over and discussing different possible scenarios relating to key topics/cases studies so as to obtain a deeper insight into their own moral understanding. Indeed. is a particularly effective way of teaching virtue and thereby teaching character. as Roche (2009) indicates. These followers then receive proper acknowledgment and feedback for acting in the right way at the right time. and both character and virtues can be taught and can be learned in several ways. and then proceeds to tell him/her everything he/she did wrong – often without any positive feedback. have a “virtuous” leader mentor him/her and provide him/her with a moral model. CEOs only care about “keeping score.” a process similar to the Aristotelian dialectic. If you want a follower to learn virtue. (1990) found out that followers exhibit higher level of moral reasoning when they emulate leaders who are morally mature. When he/she comes back to his/her boss for feedback. the red pen . devoted to your obedience. and to nurture a common set of virtues in his early companions. Wise leaders know when to bend the rules. living so sparingly that sometimes there was no food to be cooked in his house for three days in a row. 9. a well-designed business course can provide students an arena where they can practice in thinking through. First. penitent. Implications for management development The character-centered model of leadership is virtue centric. a long-standing teaching process since Plato. e. However. In Islam. To impart the message of Islam both in words and deeds. those who would continue spreading the message after he passed. humble. . As Hartman (2006) indicates. a patient or even a lender. competing with one another over who has the biggest toys. the former and now convicted CEO of Tyco International pointed out in an interview on the CBS show 60 Minutes[23].” One last approach to character (and virtue development) is to use a variant of learning by doing what Japanese style management calls horenso[25]. and ever turning to You in repentance [y][24]. but rather gave away almost everything he owned or received. Muhammad as an authentic transformational leader selected Al Arqam’s house to conduct intensive coaching and mentoring in virtues. Muhammad (p) never kept score. Often as Dennis Koslowski. Jack Welch used a similar mentoring process at Crotonville. awareness of world affairs and spiritual upliftment. modeling. A second approach to learning about character is through “reflective equilibrium. lying is generally forbidden and a major sin.

Umar ibn al Khattab. Beirut. actions. Aristotle. cavalier.” Jack Welch (2001. rude. 7. [y] I’m the first to admit I could be impulsive in removing people during those early days. and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (P)” (Beekun and Badawi. hadith no. “[Steve Jobs] and his colleague Steve Wozniak were considered the young rebels of the personal computer industry [y]. 83 “Mao’s troops executed landlords. ‘This is a lousy client list. looking as though he would throw a knockout punch at Steve. [One] accounting partner from Peat Marwick was so incensed by the arrogant. and the latter has developed a deep sense of humility. Hadeeth #45.” In Alan Deutschman’s (2001) book. 1999). 75. Straight From The Gut” (my italics). 131) reminisces on the day “in early August 1984 when Fortune magazine put [him] at the top of its list of ‘The Ten Toughest Bosses in America’”. Mr Welch recalls the challenge with relish in his memoir. Brookey (2006) notes on pp. or ‘ignorance’ of monotheism and divine law”. is an acronym used after the names of companions of the Prophet (p). are “what an individual wants or desires or ascribes worth to” (Ryan and Bohlin. When they handed it over. 5. p. Al-Albani. Nocera (2011) notes. 107-8. Sahih al Bukhari. 9.” 8. by contrast. (ra) is the feminine version of that acronym. they are viewed as “another form of revelation – in meaning – to the Prophet (P). In a New York Times article about Jobs. Rather than dwell on the human cost of such downsizing. 10. arrogant. The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. Notes 1. I could get so emotionally involved that I’d stammer out what others might consider outrageous things. but it needs to be developed and nurtured – in the manner Muhammad (p) did with himself and his followers. cursory treatment that he reacted furiously. 6. While Hadiths are not ipsissima verba Dei. states (pp. 2005). In Rudolph Rummel’s (1991) book entitled China’s Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900. Values.” 3. As reported in Sahih Muslim (746). 42-3): “I was blunt and candid. The New York Times Editorial (2011) states: “[Jack Welch] earned the nickname ‘Neutron Jack’ for dismissing 100. quick calculated test. We all have character. the term jahiliyyah refers to the “pre-Islamic period. 1. he states on p. 1985.’ he would say. 2. Jack Welch (2001) in his book. (p) is an abbreviation of “peace be upon him”.1.000 employees in his early days as chief executive. Jobs was driven from the company he helped create. (r) means Radhi Allah ‘an. that proponent of practical wisdom. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. and capricious. He would [y] ask to see their client list. (compiler).comes out again and this process repeats itself several times until trust is established between the boss and his/her subordinate. he notes “Steve subjected them to a cruel. 1. Silsilat Al-Ahadeeth Al-Saheehah (in Arabic). In 1985. and means “May Allah be pleased with him”. My language could be coarse and impolitic. p.’” In Leadership in the Media Industry edited by Lucy Kung. ‘local bullies’. Al-Maktab Al-Islaami. 11. Translated by Jamal Badawi. 4. [y] During a business discussion. At the same time. Character centered leadership 1015 . and Jobs was seen as rude. “He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their ‘bozo ideas. he would hardly glance at the printout before he crudely insulted them. This type of “crucible” event is one of the most effective techniques for character and virtue development. Muhammad N. Narrated by Abu Talhah and reported by Tirmidhi in Mishkat. Straight from the Gut. and some thought. would say that we also need to become virtuous realists. Vol. 12. The Sunnah or Hadith represent “the words. an honorific formula that Muslims use when the name of a prophet is mentioned.

Kenneth Roth (2005) states on p. “[lest] there be any doubt on the part of the cadres as to how many of these there were to be eliminated.” . though not quite impossible. 367 “During the course of the twentieth century.” Again on p. Sometimes this will is on the side of good – as in Gandhi’s case. a number of incredibly evil sociopaths rose to power over great nations. infrastructure and employment guarantees during boom periods of oil-driven development. McCarthy (2011) assert on pp. Rummel states that. most are for the years from 1949 to around 1958. 267 that “The rule of a tyrant is reliant on fear. Gary Beene (2010) states on p. The attack by the Argentine military dictatorship on the Falkland Islands was followed eight years later by the attack of Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. and all sorts of ‘class enemies.000 kurds. Such leaders are seen as [y] being exempt from the rules [y]” (my italics).’ ” Rummer on p. 77 that “unless leaders are able to transform everyone and create absolute unanimity of interests (a very special case). and Hussein. during the 1988 Anfal genocide in which the Iraqi government slaughtered some 100. was very specific: five percent of the members of every organization were ‘elements and should be purged. the Iraqi government murdered or ‘disappeared’ some quarter of a million people. in a directive.” 15. 2011) and deeply embedded in the country’s leadership mythology. 148. few question the conspicuous wealth accumulation of those in power and the corrupt practices that they may embrace. Mao. we estimate that in the last twenty-five years of Ba’th Party rule.’ They often went to excess.000 executed. Michael Keeley (1995) states on p.” 14. for anyone outside Iraq to argue for compromise” (my italics).” 19. 18. Sheila M. The tyrant displays a certain number of typical attitudes which then may lead him or her to engage in specific behaviors. 17. Tyrants are convinced of their uniqueness and consider themselves to be above the normal rule of the law (Woodruff. Askari et al. Stalin. education. if not more. 27-28 that “Traditional Russian leadership style is strong and authoritative (Kets de Vries.JMD 31. probably of a mediumsized dictator possessed of the instincts of a gambler. [y] There were times in the past when the killing was so intense that humanitarian intervention would have been justified – for example. and are in the multi-millions. 243 states: “[How] many were killed during this collectivization period? Few estimates are focused on this period alone. 2004). 2005)” (my italics). such as Hitler. [y] Based on communist sources. Mao Zedong [y] and dozens more instigated the democidal slaughter and starvation of 200 million humans. Puffer and Daniel J.700. Douglas Hunt (2000) states “Future wars between nations are less likely to result from a clash of giants pursuing national objectives than from adventurism. were punctuated by episodes of extreme cruelty both towards their so-called allies or supporters and towards large sections of the civilian population (Glad. 16. The actions of notorious twentieth century tyrants. a Hong Kong Study Commission gives a figure of 15. transformational leadership produces simply a majority will that represents the interests of the strongest faction.10 1016 usurers. To the extent that the PGOE are able to continue to develop in the areas of health. (2012) state “For the oil-rich economies the effect of corruption on human development is sometimes disguised by oil windfalls used to subsidize generous social welfare programs.” 13. Men like Joseph Stalin. [y] Of course the blindness and bloody-mindedness of Saddam Hussein made it difficult. “Having devoted extensive time and effort to documenting [Saddam Hussein’s] atrocities. which embraces the forceful and authoritarian actions of national leaders such as [y] Joseph Stalin in the 1930s to 1950s Soviet terror period [y]. Valerie Petit and Helen Bollaert (2012) states on p. Sometimes it is on the side of evil – as in Hitler’s. 241. [y] In post-invasion Iraq. the number and size of Saddam Hussein’s numerous palaces are well documented.

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edu To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. Emulation of leader’s themselves. His current research focuses on business ethics. model vision and goals of common moral norms and values leader as their own. Human Relations. not Either hierarchical or relational self-serving depending on context. not selfserving Vision and practice of a Vision is integrative. the University of Texas at Austin) is Professor of Management and Strategy in the Managerial Sciences Department and Co-Director. Moral Character: Leadership Lessons from Islam.com Or visit our web site for further details: www.com/reprints . Journal of Business Ethics and Decision Sciences. adept at Nature of way of life focussed on on inviting others to be God charismatic managing human conscious and to be of service to service resources gift mankind Followers become servant leaders Response of Heightened motivation. Autonomy and search development of goals met. enhancement for knowledge encouraged. adopted Common culture may be adopted Moral and personal development of Autonomy and moral Consequences Leader and/or larger followers. Reno. Character-centered virtues Relational power. Rafik I. servant and character-centered leadership models Source of influence Situational context Leader training and skills Unilateral or hierarchical power Servant leadership Character-centered leadership Humility and altruism Spiritual insight with a moral core.10 Appendix Transformational leadership 1020 Table AI. A comparison of transformational. He has published in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology. and focussed Vision. development of influence Enhancement of common good of common good followers Sources: Adapted and modified from Graham (1991) and Tourish and Pinnington (2002) About the author Rafik I. This paper is based partly on his forthcoming book. Journal of Management.emeraldinsight. leadership. personal of leader followers. Center for Corporate Governance and Business Ethics at the University of Nevada. Beekun (PhD. Beekun can be contacted at: rafikb@unr. and exert extra effort servant leadership followers willingness to adopt at virtuous self-development.JMD 31. national cultures and the link between management and spirituality.