Was Mahathir a leader or a boss?

By Tajuddin Rosli
30th April 2015

I am sure most people who decide to read this article are doing so because the title of my article questions the popular belief. Some may already begin deploying their cavalry and loading their artillery even before reading past the first paragraph. I look back at Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s 22 years at the helm and wonder if he was a leader or a boss.

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. – Stephen Covey

Dr Mahathir brought enormous success to the development of the nation. It is because of him we now have the Petronas Twin Towers. It is because of him Malaysia is on the Formula 1 circuit map. It is because of him Malaysia experienced economic growth. He definitely broadcasted Malaysia globally in many aspects of science and technology.

Unfortunately, it is also because of him corruption has seeped deep into the genes of the nation. It is because of him cronyism has become a well-known word in Malaysian politics. It is because of him racism went on a malignant spurt. He was for sure a success but the success he brought jeopardised the nation such that its effect is still being felt today.

A good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible. – Polybius

Despite being advised not to do so by most of his advisers, Mahathir still went on with the Bakun Dam project; a project that till today is Malaysia’s biggest failure despite tonnes of money being spent and pocketed by contractors close to Mahathir. The Multimedia Super Corridor mega project has also been deemed a failure.

Mahathir splurged insane amounts of money to keep Proton alive and to save it from bankruptcy. Till today despite all Mahathir’s confabulations, Proton has failed miserably in the international market.

You don’t lead by hitting people over the head; that’s assault, not leadership. – Dwight Eisenhower

Today the whole nation tunes into the online media daily to see Mahathir’s ranting over the current governance. What did he do when people questioned him during his tenure? He introduced the Internal Security Act and kept detaining anyone that questioned him. He ruined the career of the once very popular M Nasir who just uttered two words, “Siapa Mahathir?”

He saw Anwar Ibrahim as a threat and, he did anything and everything to destroy Anwar. Today we see Mahathir boasting that he led the flagship of the country for 22 years. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm, Dr M. You went on eradicating people and never allowed questioning; anyone can lead that way. Adolf Hitler, Ariel Sharon and Kim Il-sung led that way, too.

Creating more followers

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. – Ralph Nader

Even with the aid of Google, my efforts of looking for charismatic leaders that Mahathir empowered remains futile. He never wanted to create a leader. He only went about creating more followers. He appointed Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah) as his successor hoping Pak Lah will bow down to him. When he realised that was not happening, he got rid of Pak Lah. He then masterminded the appointment of Najib Abdul Razak as the country’s premier.

Of late, Mahathir is crying out loud that the reason he spearheaded Najib as PM was because he felt indebted to Abdul Razak Hussein. To me it shows his weakness as a leader. When the crooked bridge is still not built, the PM is a bad man.

My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. – Unknown

Mahathir practiced the divide and rule concept throughout his tenure. He never condoned the idea of a ‘Malaysian Race’. He always propagated Malay, Chinese, Indians and others as separate racial entities. He stood firm on creating difference races among the people rather than championing Malaysian as a race with multiple diverse ethnicities.

Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be led. – Ross Perot

One day I am sure the greatest question in Malaysian history is going to be, “Did Mahathir lead the people or did he manage the country by manipulating the system and the people?”

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Friday, 1 May 2015 - 1:09 pm

    Dr M’s authoritarian leadership which demands complete subservience is frightening!

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Friday, 1 May 2015 - 3:21 pm

    What UMNO/BN does is POLITICAL RACKETEERING.. They pedal political narcotic of race, religion and corruption.. Of course Mahathir is a boss – he is boss of bosses, UMNO/BN is our political Nosa Costra – “That which is Our thing”…

  3. #3 by Noble House on Saturday, 2 May 2015 - 3:14 am

    You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it. It has become the prime decider of their reality.

    Knowledge is good, ignorance is evil. Good things have to be defended and protected. Democracy has to be protected against racism, Islamism or any totalitarian ideology. Divide and rule is evil. Tear down this wall!

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Saturday, 2 May 2015 - 12:06 pm

    “a leader or a boss”
    A BIG FAT crook dat led d nation 2 b a BIG FAT corrupt, racist land

  5. #5 by good coolie on Saturday, 2 May 2015 - 8:01 pm

    The author shows perspicaciousness as to Mahatir’s political method.

    The mistake I made was to keep silent when he was raging like a drunken giant during his best days. Only now, when he is a toothless old man dare I oppose him. Let me salute, until my arm gets tired, the brave people who suffered under his “rule” especially those who went to Hotel Kamunting under the infamous “Ops Lallang”.

You must be logged in to post a comment.