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A Leader for the City

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When it comes to running a country, or even a city (such as Jakarta for instance), a lot of people would say what is needed is leadership and a strong vision – a sort of super CEO for an incorporated company. In other words someone who can make decisions (preferably correct ones) especially in times of crisis. We need a person who can control and manage and who can come up with the answers when everybody else fails.

This type of leadership however, relies too much on picking the right people to do the execution properly while at the same time hoping that they are giving the right feedback for decisions that need to be made. More often than not the CEO ends up with confusing input that results in inappropriate decision and unclear priorities.

Perhaps a more suitable type of leadership, especially for a messy city like Jakarta where system and structure are not the order of the day, what is needed is less of a boardroom type of management than the disciplining leadership of the sagacious house maker (more commonly known in the form of a housewife). A successful company boss often fails miserably in running the household simply because s/he doesn’t know where things are kept or how to control the children. As the top feeder of the company the CEO is so far removed from the bottom feeders that s/he often has no idea what’s going on at the ocean floor. Moreover the effectiveness of the leader is more than often compromised when s/he puts the shareholders’ priorities ahead of the organization.

To be sure the size of a household is much smaller than a company. However, in terms of leadership skills and decision making the house maker is often more adept and flexible and thus a lot more effective than her counterpart in the boardroom. The house maker is not likely to surround herself with people she can get on with or who would do as she bids or be fired. Instead she would identify exactly the things that need to be done and when and then assigns appropriate personnel to carry them out at a cost that the house can afford. As the household is a constantly living and breathing entity that continually needs fixing, controlling and running, hers is an endless multi tasking and instant decision making organization. As the adage goes, a housewife’s task is never done.

Imagine the skills that go into calling the electrician to fix a short circuit while feeding a hungry baby and keeping one eye on a simmering pot! All this after making sure that laundry is hung out to dry before the rain comes down and the shopping is done so the fridge is stocked up when the rest of the children are back from school. All of this boils down on to basically one thing. Knowing what needs to be done, the knowledge of how to do it and the ability to do it fast.

Jakarta too is one huge household with so many problems, issues and tasks to be dealt with at the same time and often sooner than now. More often than not the tasks are pretty straightforward and do not require much soul searching or time consuming debate such as cleaning the place up, making sure developers don’t choke up the drainage system, getting better transportation, fixing the roads, arresting the drug dealers and generally making sure that the city functions as smoothly as a well run household with everybody playing their assigned role.

A housewife gets the respect and authority in a household because she can control the children, keep an eye on the family finances, monitor the work of the help and the hired services all the while keeping everything spick and span and in their proper place. What the city needs is someone who has that capability to zero in on exactly what must be done and who to pick to execute the job. Someone who understands the way the city works (or doesn’t work) down to the mentality of the residents and the commuters.

What this city doesn’t need is a governor who is well versed in politics but has little interest in policies; someone who overspends on a new carpet when it’s the drainage that needs unclogging; nor a leader who is tough on street peddlers but soft on street thugs. The city needs a person who can make split decisions and not split the community, who puts the tax payers needs first and not first take the taxes. And what Jakarta definitely does not need is someone who robs the poor to pay the rich but, like a good house maker can make ends meet on a very tight budget and still manage to put the children through school.