Before I delve into the topic, let me tell you that these leadership principles are applicable in any leadership condition. Today I will show you how MRM can take benefit of these principles. Examples will be from Indian MRM perspective.
- “Continually learn, unlearn and relearn”
In today’s ever-changing situation it is important that we learn new things every day. Innovation is the key to success. This innovation also comes by unlearning several old things we might have learnt in the early years of activism. Or we might have learnt before starting activism. For example, every MRA leader needs to learn and relearn feminist principles so that they can effectively counter those. Also, they need to unlearn several things that they might have learnt from initial years of activism.
The main challenge here is MRM couldn’t develop a culture of deep learning or soul searching. MRAs take many feminist concepts at face value which often creates more confusion and lead to disaster. A recent classic example was the movie Section 375, that MRAs didn’t even understand was promoting feminism cause. Details were explained in an article earlier.
- “Value yesterday but live in today”
It is important that we value the yesteryears of MR activism. It was so difficult in those initial years that even remotely criticizing any women-centric law was considered to be a crime. If some die-hard MRAs led the movement through those difficult times, they had done really great work.
But the problem is we can’t live in our past glory for long. A phenomenon that is happening with Bengalis at present. They keep talking of their glorious past, golden talents and brave national leaders in freedom fights, however, Bengal as state and Bengalis as a race are getting finished. MRAs certainly need to understand this and whatever has happened in initial years, need to be renewed with new vigour. However, most MRAs still bank on the same old suicide stat and fake case stats and can’t go beyond.
- “Rely on speed but thrive on timing”
This is a very apt lesson for MRAs because MRAs neither rely on speed nor careful about timing. I tried to start a YT channel and for that, I needed help on video skills from another MRA. However, I found that he had time for unnecessary calls but not for those videos. As a result, I had to drop the much-needed MR channel.
It is because of this reason till now MRAs couldn’t create an effective and sustainable YT channel or a blog. Two very basic weapons of any activism. With this, I will add consistency. NO MRA is found to be consistent in what he is doing. They may start a blog, but in a very short time, they give up. Also, over a period of time, their quality comes down.
- “See the big picture as the picture keeps getting bigger”
As it is true in any big business scenario, in activism, too, we need to see the big picture before we do anything. Best example if the movie Section 375, where many MR leaders and groups were fooled into the feminist campaign and MRAs actually promoted that feminist campaign. They didn’t see what feminists had in mind, and as a result after Priyanka Reddy rape and murder in Hyderabad in 2019, now a lot of processes related to Rape trial is being cut. This will lead to an enormous problem in future that will be impossible to undo. Now we can expect many innocent men given death penalty like Dhananjay on false rape charges.
- “Live in today, but think about tomorrow”
One important way to ensure that a leader lives in today but also paves the way for the future is to create new leadership. This is more important to organizations and groups that are relatively flat in structure and where on different occasions different people take the leadership role. But without constantly developing new leadership or finding out talent internally, it’s not possible to sustain a Human Rights movement.
It’s important that the new leaders are also trained appropriately so that they can bring value to the group. Since there are a lot of parameters that can make a good leader, the consistent search and imparting value education is important. This was tried by TMF in India for two subsequent years but was failed as many MR leaders didn’t understand the importance. Some leaders worked against this initiative and as a result, the movement suffered a long-term irreversible loss.
- “Realize today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges”
This is very well applicable for MRM. As the movement grew older, it was supposed to not only create new dimensions and new ways of activism, but also new arguments that can make a difference. This is because the arguments on suicide stats or false cases may not be enough everywhere. Also, merely altering or switching genders in creating new arguments may not fit every challenge. That is why consistent training, knowledge enhancement, research, writing, discussions, debates etc become important in any activism. These are completely absent in MRM, resulting in it’s early demise.
- “Soloist to conductor”: the “focus shift”
When a new business starts, the CEO needs to perform almost every duty or oversee everything. Later this work is divided among others when the organization grows. This is true for activism as well. Initially, the need for men’s rights was understood by a few. Later the number grew and many more have participated.
This point tells us to become a team player and infuse enthusiasm in a team rather than performing solo. There are many different ways already followed in different MR groups, but not every team performs. This is a major concern for any men’s group and this problem needs focused attention if these MR groups want to thrive.
- “Pleasing people to challenging people”: the “relational shift”
The politics of pleasing others and the need to be in a group is paramount in every potential leader. A leader can’t take the leadership role if one is not accepted by the team as a leader. However, in the quest of being a team player, an always pleasing attitude is detrimental for the movement. Constructive criticism can help grow any organization and unnecessary egoistic criticism can make unsurmountable losses for a group.
For example, the people who objected to my attending a Men’s Rights conference in India in 2018 were afraid my challenging their activism. However, today none of them and that group is seen in activism. This has created a multifaceted problem for Indian MRM. The identification of future potential leaders has been halted and real activists were disheartened due to negativism.
- “Maintaining to creating”: the “abundance shift”
This point tells us the importance of creating new ways of activism than following the old standard or maintaining the status quo. Even though all organizations feel safe in maintaining the status quo, this can ensure the early demise of an organization. It is true for activism as well.
Even though in MRM many innovative ways of activism were thought of but without maintaining these and improving upon these all these fantastic initiatives died early. The abundance in activism that was created in 2013-14 in India, is no longer seen today. The absence of new leaders also led to a disaster. A major laxity was found in terms of developing literature for Men’s Rights. There was hardly any initiative other than creating and sustaining The Male Factor site. Which is only a puny initiative and many such initiatives are needed before Men’s Rights want to see success.
- “Directing to connecting”: the “communication shift”
Even though the author John C Maxwell, marked this as an intended leadership shift for professional organizations; I would like to change this for men’s rights as directing, connecting and collaborating. This is because men’s rights concepts are not easy to be understood and practiced. Only a tenured MRA who has undergone a lot of steam and hard work has the tenacity to steer the movement in the right direction. Without the necessary burn-out in MRM, leaders are susceptible to make mistakes like the ones made with Section 375 and some non-value adding activism like Pujas etc.
- “Team uniformity to team diversity”: the “improvement shift”
MRM already follows the principles of diversity and hence this may not need elaborate discussion here. However, this diversity doesn’t mean gender diversity or other weird forms of diversity that other organizations need to follow. I still can’t believe LGBTQ people promoting men’s rights and becoming men’s rights leaders. In fact, MRM has suffered immensely from women leaders as well. So, when we talk about diversity in men’s rights parlance, we need to understand that essentially they may be from diverse background, race, nationality but strictly following and upholding MR cause and not any other politically correct cause (like family rights, egalitarianism etc.)
- “Positional authority to moral authority”: the “influence shift”
This is a very important aspect for any activist group, especially if they are in the formative years of existence like the Men’s Rights are. The value of the brand or the cause is built in these formative years and hence the leaders’ moral standards need to be very high to keep the positive momentum going.
Examples have been abundant in India’s Men’s Rights space where women MR leaders were found to be promoting feminism on many occasions and male leaders were found to be talking about family rights etc. Moral authority of leaders is also to ensure that disturbing elements that causes harm to the growth of the cause are kept at a distance without getting into any kind of groupism. However, with men’s rights, it’s very often not true. As a result, it is found that hard-working and genuine contributors have left the movement and are not seen anywhere, but some attention seekers continued in the MR groups for a short period and then closed those groups.
A good example is that of Hridaya of Kolkata, where the leadership chose positional authority over the moral authority and as a result, the group is non-existent today.
- “Trained leaders to transformational leaders”: the “impact shift”
Even though the book advises the organizations to have more transformational leaders rather than trained leaders, I would rather see and propose MR groups to have trained leaders first. This is because these groups are in their formative stages and hence they don’t need any transformation yet. Also, since these groups are very flat in structure, they are very nimble in practice. This makes small transformational changes easy and these can be adopted while continuing normal operation.
[These 13 principles are taken from a book Titled ‘Leadershift’ written by John C Maxwell published in 2019 but presented in Men’s Rights perspective by the author.
John C Maxwell, is a coach, speaker and New York Times Best-selling author. He authored the book ‘Leadershift’ that was published by the HarperCollins Publishers in 2019.]