Dr. Mahathir Mohammad was born in Malaysia in 1925. Born in a lower middle-class family in the Northwestern City of Ellore Sector. Mahathir was the youngest of nine children born to father Mohammad Iskandar. Mahathir’s father was a school teacher and later worked as a government auditor. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad came into power as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for the second time in May 2018. At 92, he was the eldest Head of Government in the world. His first term in Office was from 1981 to 2003, after which he resigned and handed the post to his deputy, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
This paper focuses on his leadership patterns and how they influenced Malaysia’s development programs and her foreign policy. Generally, leadership patterns refer to the leaders’ behavioral patterns, and how these leaders construct their vision, mission, and ideas for the development of their country apart from how to attract their followers.
Tun Dr Mahathir’s leadership style or characteristics will be viewed and discussed against existing theories of leadership. As in the past, it is the characteristics of a person that are important in defining his leadership style in dealing with his followers, friends or enemies in his day-to-day situations. For example, a good leader needs rational decisions, optimism, hope, resilience and strong emotional aspects to influence and attract his followers. At the same time, such national leaders should be able to set goals and objectives for the country to achieve short and medium term goals measured against the long term goals of Vision 2020 like Malaysia. Generally, trait theorists believe that “personality is understood to mean that all people have certain characteristics or characteristic ways of behaving”. In politics, Tun Dr Mahathir should be seen as doing his duty and being fair, and also seen to make logical decisions to deal with every issue and problem that arises. As such, the perspective of personality traits plays an important role in various situations for Tun Dr. Mahathir to manage and solve the various problems of the Malaysian people. It should be noted that trait theories focus on the characteristics of the leader, such as self-confidence, integrity, intelligence and thinking patterns, willingness to lead, and others. According to O‟Boyle & Murray (2015), the characteristics of leaders are considered to be “a fluid integration of personality traits that are consistent with patterns of leadership performance in various group and organizational situations…, traits reflecting individual differences, personality, temperament, motives and skills. Range “Tun Dr Mahathir‟s rise to power again after May 2018 General Election in Malaysia has caught many people by surprise. None of the UMNO ruling party leaders have expected them to loose in the May 2018 general election. Using the traits theories, would like to discuss the leadership patterns of Tun Dr Mahathir, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the world‟s oldest head of State. In many ways, Tun Dr Mahathir has his own style of leadership since taking office as the Prime Minister of Malaysia for the first time in 1981. A man with a vision, Tun Dr Mahathir wanted to develop Malaysia and modernize the Malay society so that Malaysia can achieve a developed nation status by the year 2020. Regarding democracy and leadership characteristics, Tun Dr Mahahir feels that those leaders who are obeying the voice of the people are known as “coward leaders” not confident to make their own decisions about the people and their country. Therefore, Tun Dr Mahathir feels that, as a leader and Prime Minister of Malaysia, he must make decisions for the people, and the results of these decisions will benefit Malaysians at large. For example, the construction of the North-South Highway, Kuala Lumpur City Centre and the Petronas Twin Towers and the creation of Putrajaya as the national capital of Malaysia, the construction of Kuala Lumpur International Airport as an airport for the future for Malaysia. There are many other projects for Malaysia which were initiated and completed by Tun Dr Mahathir for the people of Malaysia. Tun Dr Mahathir feels that Malaysia should have good and honest leaders with high integrity, committed to working for the country and people who have voted them into power. To Tun Dr Mahathir, democracy should have an administrative system which is good, fair and smooth running to serve the people. The Malaysian government machinery should be run by committed and responsible leaders who want to develop the country and its people. It is interesting to note that, Tun Dr Mahathir still holds up with his development philosophy, in which he is confident that his administrative behaviors and policies are still relevant and according to the needs of the people and the country. Many would say that Tun Dr Mahathir is a wise and firm person in managing Malaysian foreign affairs. As an effective political leader, he was known to be selfish with power. However, his many achievements for Malaysia speak volumes of his ability, integrity and effectiveness as a leader of Malaysia. Even at the age of 92, Tun Dr Mahathir still managed to lead a new party called “Pakatan Harapan” to beat the United Malay National Organization and its allies in Barisan Nasional in the May 2018 General Election in Malaysia.
-Writer: Rashedul Islam
Student, Alfa University, Malaysia