In today’s political culture, the spectrum of Naga leaders – from government to non-government – have failed to adequately demonstrate their capability of foreseeing and preparing for the road head. One can argue that the present styles of leadership in the Naga realm are fear-based and short-sighted. Rather than instilling confidence, they create feelings of uncertainty and apprehension. Not recognizing the necessity of quality leadership and its far reaching benefits is one of the critical reasons why contemporary Naga politics and life is not grounded in the present with an eye to the future. This collective inability indicates that the crisis of leadership is not solely political in nature, but cultural, spiritual, and psychological. The norm reflects that leaders have compromised their values, ethics, and integrity which are apparent across the spectrum to absolute control of power.
In this form of political culture, leadership is based on position and designation, and not on an individual’s integrity, values, principles, vision, action and commitment to the common good. If this leadership method continues to be defined by position and designation within existing power structures, will it further displace the emergence of genuine leadership? Paradoxically, this structured top-down style of leadership directly opposes indigenous values.
One critical observation of the Naga leadership style is their inability to catalyze and break the inertia of the people they represent. The current leaders appear to be stuck in the familiar present where they are enjoying temporary popularity. When will we see true leaders emerge who can closely collaborate with the people, hear their voices, and respond by bridging the gap between the present existing conditions and a shared vision of the future? We already have enough political leaders that are not transparent and do not use inclusive participatory processes to include public intellectuals and academicians in policy-making processes. Rather, they choose to co-opt community representatives by using monetary and material incentives with the intent to distract and divert people’s attention from core issues of public affairs.
Many leaders exist in the Naga context, yet only a few will make a significant difference. A new leadership model is needed to address this urgent crisis. Replacing one person with another will not solve the problem, because the new leaders will behave in the same manner as their predecessor.
The underlying predicament is the existing structures of power which cannot be remedied with quick fixes. To change the leadership style invariably implies redesigning the structures of power as well.
Leadership is multi-dimensional. As much as good leadership requires inclusive and life-giving human qualities such as humility, integrity, dignity, honesty, community service, wisdom, and so on, it equally needs structures with the same qualities that support restorative justice, accountability, transparency, power sharing, and human rights and so on. Together, the synergy for self-governance becomes possible.
The search for new leaders and leadership models actually calls for a new Naga consciousness. In today’s 21st century, Nagas need leaders that have awareness and the ability to introduce and act on liberative ideas of decolonization and indigenization and participatory democracy. This means that in order for contemporary Naga leaders to build a shared vision of the future, they need to embrace and live the values of the ancestors by being respectful, trustworthy, courageous, stewards of the Earth and all living beings, and more.