“A leader is a statesman first, politician second.”
The above quote, according to the book, Dialog, was said by the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman when asked about his views on the priorities a country’s leader should have. This quote spoke volumes about the level of integrity of the man that was given the title of “Father of Independence” as it shows how dedicated he was to ensure this newly-liberated country of Malaya prospered under reputable hands. A statesman, according to him, puts the people first before oneself whereas a politician puts his own interest before anyone else’s. He also valued unity and frowned upon hateful rhetoric that threatened to break the fragile union of races. He negotiated independence from the British with a vision of a united and harmonious people living in a country to call their own. Yet, six decades later, is is clear that we are nowhere near that now. It would be more accurate to say that we actually downgraded ourselves in terms of values considering that a lot of people in Malaysia today would agree that things were a lot better in the 50s leading up to the 80s in that regard. In a way, they are right; we have devolved and that degradation of values could be attributed to the conduct of the people in the highest office.
The conduct of the average politician is almost universal in the eyes of the general public: they are cunning, heartless, create policies that only benefit them and their goons and make promises that were about as worth as a blade of grass. In hindsight, the blade of grass has more value than a politician’s promise because it actually contributes by producing oxygen. It could almost be a phenomenon that could warrant scientific study due to how similar a person’s views on politicians are no matter where you go which brings us back to the title of this article: Integrity.
From the looks of it, it seems that integrity is something a person in position should have but oftentimes do not. Why? To overly simplify the views of Niccolo Machiavelli, it is because people tend to operate out of their self-interest and for the most part, that is true when applied to all of us as people. Every decision and action we make and carry out is almost always for our own benefit. It might even be argued that acts of altruism are done with selfish motives as it usually feels good to help others. However, much like in a statistical dot graph, there will always be outliers and those outliers are people who stay true to their character and maintain their integrity as an individual. In the gaming industry, such a man was the late Satoru Iwata who has famously said:
“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.
It would be hard to imagine a person in the late Iwata’s position who, at the time, was the CEO of Nintendo, saying such a thing but his words are proven true through his conduct throughout his tenure as CEO. When the development of a certain Pokemon game appeared to be at the brink of delayed release due to compression issues, he personally came down and used his skills as a developer to not only successfully compress the game into the cartridge but also have room for more content. There are several other recollections of his acts of kindness towards his staff of similar nature but a significantly notable one was when he had his own wages cut in half to protect employees from layoffs when Nintendo suffered a huge quarterly loss following the Wii U’s release. It was the highlight of what it meant to be leader with great integrity because a person with those qualities would put the people’s needs first before tending to his own. In the late Iwata’s case, the people were his employees. His philosophy of games were ever present in the games developed by Nintendo. While they were not as high quality as the competition, they were made to be fun. And fun was what he believed games should be.
You might be wondering why am I bringing up a company CEO when the article started off being about Malaysia’s first PM. I’m glad you did because this comparison was made to show that anyone can be respectable and highly-valued individuals if they have a strong personal integrity that they can uphold. To be able to show that you are what you are and that you are genuine in what you do no matter what job you hold, be it Prime Minister, corporate president or citizen. To come back to the topic of the late Tunku, he too, governed following a set of values and a clear vision that would still be felt by the people of Malaysia no matter how many generations have been born and grown since then. Even the youth that live today, despite most of them unlikely to even know the man, feel the sense of a need for harmony and unity much in the same way he did.
While looking at the current state of affairs, it is clear that we are in dire need of people of integrity as news of yet another corruption scandal or egregious ‘oversight’ that results in the loss of lives appears every other day. If we can remain steadfast in our values and stay genuine, the hope for change shall remain.
* This article reflects the views of the author and may or may not resonate with views of the readers.