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Leadership Lessons In Times Of Crisis From An Unbeatable Leader

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A friend in Italy told me that they ran out of burial grounds so they had no choice to cremate the remains of a Muslim brother who died of coronavirus. This pandemic is affecting everybody no matter whether you are an atheist or a believer. Whether you pray in a Masjid or never prayed in your life. This is both a test and a catastrophe at the same time. 

How do you lead in this time of crisis where not just livelihood but also lives are at stake?

We have not been through anything like this before. CEOs, heads of departments or just the head of your family are struggling to deal with the repercussions of the current situation of this pandemic.

Islam provides a solution to every problem no matter how unprecedented the way may seem. What is then the type of leadership that is needed in this time of uncertainty?

One of the most relevant leadership styles for the current situation is Khalid ibn al-Walid, the Commander that served our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). Khalid Al Walid was a great military leader who was a catalyst in the expansion of Islam. Once he even defeated the army commanded by Rasullullah himself, before he became a Muslim. 

Leaders can benefit greatly from learning how this great leader-led and how he achieved the impossible.  There was no single leadership style for Khalid ibn al-Walid. He adapted to the situation. His leadership was both agile and creative. Here are some of the leadership lessons that can be drawn from this blessed and unchallenged leader to this very day.

Ingenuity 

He is brilliant in executing strategic plans that he devised. Yet, many of his tactical plans are his own invention and alien to the Arabs. In fact, he was the engineer of the early Muslim military doctrines and pioneered virtually every tactic that Muslims used during the early Muslim conquest. 

Sometimes you as a leader need to create your own path. Sure they will be voices of dissent because you are taking them out of the comfort zone of their ‘Standard Operating Procedure’. But some challenges are so unprecedented that what you do will be a blueprint for others.

Identifying And Harnessing Skills

Khalid was not just a master warrior but he can spot skills and developed them to be a formidable force to be reckoned with. One of his achievements is by harnessing the individual skills of  Arab Bedouin warriors and scaled it up. He is believed to have developed them into an almost regular unit called Mubarizun (“champions”).  Mubarizun would issue challenges to the enemy officers in a duel and neutralize these officers even before the battle starts. 

Psychological Factors

The Mubarizun is just one of the examples of how Khalid made sure that the war was won first in the mind of his soldiers. giving a psychological blow to enemy morale. Every battle is a deposit to this psychological confidence of the team.  The Battle of Ajnadayn is perhaps the best example of this form of psychological warfare. The Muslim army which number around 35,000 were able to defeat the 200,000 of Byzantines soldiers.  

Divide and Conquer 

The Muslim army was used to fighting in small groups like skirmishes and yet they were able to defeat the Byzantines organized battalions of soldiers. How was that possible? 

Different challenges my require different strategy but you must know what you are good at.  Khalid leverages their strengths and turned those skirmishing tactics into something that could be used anywhere.

He would taunt his enemy with small groups. He would bring his army in front of his enemies and wait until the whole battle degenerated into a skirmish between small units. Then, after exhausting the enemy units, he would launch his cavalry at their flanks employing Hammer and Anvil tactics that would corner the enemy from the front and behind. 

Don’t Leave Loose Ends 

Khalid often opted for the least expected route by his enemy throwing his enemy off balance with the element of surprise. Much of Khalid’s strategic and tactical moves lie in his use of extreme methods. He apparently put more emphasis on annihilating enemy troops, rather than achieving victory by simply defeating them. This saves his energy and resources to tie up loose ends. 

A leader should confront challenges to neutralize them not just for that moment. They must overcome whatever challenges fully so they will limit the number of surprises they’ll encounter in the future.

Catalyzing the Environment  

Khalid leverages the environment like the terrain to achieve his objectives.  For instance, at the Battle of Yarmouk he virtually trapped the Byzantine army between three steep ravines by stealthily capturing their only escape route, a bridge, at their rear. 

Often times, our success lies in our wisdom to recognize how the universe is conspiring to bring victory to our feet. So you need to keep your eyes open and take advantage of what is already there

Element Of Surprise 

Khalid often opted for the least expected route of his enemy by throwing his enemy out of balance with the element of surprise.  His most commonly used maneuver was a surprise attack, such as his night attacks from three different sides on Persian camps at Zumail, Muzayyah and Saniyy. His highly mobile army successfully maneuvered in a 100 km area, quickly destroying encampments of the Persians and their Arab allies. 

Conclusion

These are just some of the examples of how this undisputed army commander led and achieved victory and opened the path for Islam to travel from the Arabian Peninsula all the way to North Africa, Iberia, the Caucus and parts of Afghanistan. 

These lessons come in handy after the pandemic is over, that is when the true test of leadership begins. As for now just wait it out and keep afloat. 

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