RSOG Leadership in Action
Saya Yang Menjalankan Amanah
Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid
When: 13 December 2018
Where: Razak School of Government
Guest Speaker: Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid
The framework of the Session
Amanah is a relatively short yet versatile and profound word. It was one of the four exemplary features of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Bersih, Cekap, Amanah was once the ethos of the public service in Malaysia while Amanah Saham is a legendary wealth distribution initiative until today. Lately, Amanah is also applied in the financial and political sphere, arguably with a certain degree of success. The fact that the word Amanah is preferred compared to its translation, speaks a lot about the far-reaching meaning and appreciation of the word. Perhaps, the decision to embrace the phrase Saya Yang Menjalankan Amanah in official government communication this year is largely anticipated given the past examples and contemporary trends. What could be the various ways for the phrase Saya Yang Menjalankan Amanah to be embraced beyond the requirement? What can decision-makers and policymakers do to ensure that the ecosystem supports this commitment? These are some of the potential focus areas that the Guest Speaker – who is known for his wisdom and forward thinking with regards to public sector leadership – will discuss in this programme.
Key Takeaways from the Session
John Donne was a poet and cleric in England. His name is perhaps lesser known compared to his oft-quoted phrase, “No man is an island.” When read in full, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent”. In every continent whereby communities live, individuals within society are likely to thrive based on good values that are set. Oftentimes, good values are inherently universal. Amanah for instance is considered one of the values that can make or break a person’s integrity. Closer to shore, the government’s commitment to uphold integrity was further elucidated when the phrase, “saya yang menurut perintah” was shifted to “saya yang menjalankan amanah”. In this Leadership in Action session, the Guest Speaker uncovered what the phrase represents and unravelled roots in which it may come to be, expounding the importance of early education in the inculcation of positive values.
“Saya yang menjalankan amanah”, the Guest Speaker posits, isn’t revolutionary as amanah is the very essence when one upholds the responsibility thrust upon them. The question of amanah necessitates one to undergo a process of self-reflection – whether one is, “worthy of this organisation?” and conversely, “is the organisation right for me?”. Taking it a step further, one may pose the question, “am I doing justice to my colleagues and the organisation?”. These questions are linked to how one undertakes tasks and duties to their humanely level best and in the process, honouring the responsibility that has been granted. Amanah is closely locked to integrity, responsibility, and accountability.
Responsibilities are not merely the task at hand or what needs completion in the long to-do list. At times, executing responsibilities are linked to what is termed as intimate history that one experiences. The Guest Speaker repeatedly uses examples of his intimate histories with renowned leaders to illustrate how the leaders’ personal thoughts of uplifting their followers then translated into policies and programmes implemented. The process in how these personal thoughts became collective action requires imagination and the courage to strive from the leader. Whilst there may be experts debating on what characteristics are more important – intellect or imagination – the Guest Speaker reiterates the importance of imagination and character over intellect alone. Imagination allows one to explore a multiverse of possibilities while character roots oneself to the core positive values and principles that one should always uphold.
Unfortunately, the pitfalls lie in our lack of confidence and this, the Guest Speaker opines, is due to our inability to record our thoughts, expressing it through writing, and our diminishing culture of reading. Being a chair of an important committee also allows the Guest Speaker to be privy to many intimate history and knowledge. Sharing before an audience from various schemes of services, the Guest Speaker spoke on the shift of skills shown by the current premier. Learning from Japan, where there are many toys that encourage education focused on manipulative skills then shifted into living skills and then to design thinking skills. These shifts are progressions and can only materialise if one has the curiosity for knowledge, the drive to inculcate positive values and having the patience and perseverance to be able to do things repeatedly.
Bureaucracy has always been faceless and nameless, considering the sheer mass employed and at times, services rendered behind the scenes that the public knows not of. However, this changed when nametags were introduced in public service – putting a name to a face of the governing, ruling bureaucracy. This was a small step towards recognising and creating a self-awareness of the responsibility one shoulders under the instructions of government policy and based on government circulars. As public servants, the Guest Speaker vouches for understanding political reality and public service reality. In public service, there is the code of ethics to be adhered to and multiple documents to set the compass to the north. However, these documents need to be read intimately and not detached from how oneself can relate to it as enormous value can be derived when these documents are internalised to self and how one can execute it to best that one can.
In short, public servants must be worthy of the public service and vice-versa. To be worthy, one must have a sense of amanah, as it is the very essence of how one leads their life and how we stay true to ourselves in a community of people. After all, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.”
Key issues raised
Concerns of legacy – denying what has been set in the past – is inevitable. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the courageous followers to fuse the intimate history and the understood history, ensuring what has been done are not erased in futility.
Changing “Saya yang menurut perintah” to “Saya yang menjalankan amanah” is a small gesture that could be the drop that ripples into a big change in how one works and how the public service views themselves in undertaking their responsibilities.
While not everyone is given the opportunity to become leaders, as followers, one may still be able to become an influencer.
In any civilisation, there may be some change points that is termed as civilisational mistakes. The duty as leaders is to capture these civilisational mistakes by understanding the root causes and its symptoms before addressing them.
About the Speaker
Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid is the Chairman of National Education Policy Review Committee. He was Director of the Regional Centre for Educational Planning, United Arab Emirates, Professor of Management, Leadership and Policy Studies, and the Founding Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at University Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR) and former Director of Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB) – The National Institute of Educational Management and Leadership. He is Distinguished Fellow at Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Distinguished Associate of the Institute of Educational Leadership, Consultant at the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue, University of Malaya and Senior Fellow at Universiti Islam Malaysia. For more than three decades, he has been the key figure in the field of Educational Management and Leadership in Malaysia.