Leadership & Followership

Assalamualaikum dear readers!

I missed blogging last month despite so many exciting things happening in the world of medicine in Malaysia. Namely #HartalDoktorKontrak #CodeBlack.

Even though I am already a psychiatrist now, my heart is as young as those junior contract MOs (LOL perasan). I fully supported their effort of organizing this #Hartal in order for their voices to be heard. I think they had organized the Hartal really well, AND without compromising the healthcare of patients. Bravo! They had really earned my respect.

As usual, whenever a junior doctor speaks up about ANYTHING, there will exist bitter voices of super seniors trying to hijack the juniors’ voices by highlighting about how it was “during their time”. I had faced it when I was a HO and a junior MO, myself. And I have NEVER hidden my utter disgust and my profound disdain at such an outdated and irrelevant sentiment sprouting from the mouth of these super seniors. I pray to Allah, that I will never grow into my career only to become like these super seniors.

Look, I was taught to respect my elders just like everyone else out there. But I was also taught to respect the truth and the concept of justice and fair treatment for everyone. I was taught to respect authority, but I was also taught to never tolerate abuse. People who knew me since I was a houseman knew that I have very little patience dealing with cruel, unjust and unfair authority. I might keep my silence for awhile to observe how far things will go, but eventually I will speak up. I WILL speak up and I will bear the consequences with patience, Insha Allah.

Whenever I make a move, I always weigh in my mind the risks and benefits of making such move. If the action that I plan to do is efficient and has more benefits than risks, I will go for it. I might ignore and brush off little things like sarcastic remarks or minor annoyances by seniors. But the moment you go overboard (eg, being emotionally abusive or harassing junior doctors) so that it is no longer efficient for me to ignore you… and the risks of ignoring your attitude far outweigh the benefits, I will strike a move!

But there are times when we speak up NOT on the basis of efficiency or on the basis of risks and benefits. There are times when we have to speak up because it is the TRUTH! It is the TRUTH! So even if the risks-benefits assessment is very skewed towards more risks to ourselves (loss of job, loss of reputation), we have no choice but to speak up for the truth. (In the Western world, you can lose your job for not supporting the LGBTQ causes and for stating simple biological facts that transwomen are not real women and transmen are not real men. But this is the truth! And as a Muslim, we can become a murtad for not saying the truth! Do you love your job more than you love being a Muslim?) There will be times when we must say the truth no matter what! So, I implore all my readers to PRACTICE speaking the truth over small matters that happen around you so that it will become much easier for you when the time comes to stand with the truth over big matters… even if the whole world is against you.

Because there WILL be times when the risks of saying or doing the right thing may far outweigh the benefits in this world. But as Muslims, we have the hereafter to think about too! You might feel like by speaking the truth now or by doing something that might backfire on you now is inefficient or not smart enough in this world… but in the hereafter, you will learn that you were short sighted for not thinking about the risk-benefit assessment in terms of the akhirah.

At the end of the day, it is Allah who provides for us. And that is the truth!

My Rule

This is my rule whenever I deal with authority figures. Deep inside, I am a questioner!

  1. Are you asking me to do something cruel, unjust, or untrue even if the Perintah Am says you can ask me to do that? If yes, I will NOT follow what you want me to do. I will resist, Perintah Am or no Perintah Am! But if what you are asking me is not cruel, unjust or untrue, then I can still consider fulfilling your request…move to question no 2.
  2. Are you asking me to do something that is unnecessary, a waste of time or inefficient? If yes,perhaps, I can try to suggest an alternative to the unnecessary activity or come up with another way of doing what you want me to do. But if what you are asking me to do is necessary and efficient, then I will follow your idea, no more arguments.
  3. Do we have a COMMON GOAL but at the same time, we are having differences of opinion of what is efficient… you think your way is more efficient, but I think my way is more efficient in reaching our common goal… so how do we resolve this? If this is the scenario, well, I guess I will follow you because you are the boss and it is STILL possible that your way might be more efficient than mine.  And since we are now having differences of opinions on what is efficient and it is still logically possible that your way might turn out to be better than mine, I should give your way a try as you are the boss. You are the one who will be responsible if anything bad happens, anyway. But if after discussing at length, and logically, it is just NOT possible that your way is more efficient than mine, let’s go back to question no 2. I am going to continue to persuade you to do it my way.

You see, when I was younger, I won’t even compromise with question no. 3 (Alhamdulillah, I am wiser now. Haha) When I was younger, I only wanted to follow the direction of an authority figure who had the same way of thinking as me. I like to associate with people who are on the same page as me! Because I think that is the most efficient way to go about – we minimize friction so that we can get things done faster, no? I admit, I was sooo conceited and foolish to think that my way was always the better way, the more efficient way…. so if an authority figure didn’t see it that way, I would start feeling like I should not follow that leadership and simply go my own way.

But these days, I learn to discuss with others to reach a compromise. I learn to spend just a bit more time to patiently explain to people and meet them in the middle. I learn to entertain other ideas and try to incorporate their point of views into the plan. Because in the long run, it is more efficient to spend just a little bit more time now to talk to people and make them see your views so that you can gather more human resources to reach your common goal (even though in the short term, you might feel like you can get things done faster on your own without having to confer with others. But that’s only efficient in the short term… not in the long term. Seriously, when I was younger, I was not this wise LOL. I just wanted things to be done fast back then! There is a benefit to aging…it gives you more patience and wisdom. Not that I am so wise now haha).

But trust me, there is still within me some traces of my younger temperament that I could not fully eradicate. Hahah (This explains my extreme avoidant of being in any organization unnecessarily… I avoid being in NGOs despite the fact that I have received invitation of recruitment. I decline them all. I prefer to work with them on an ad hoc basis only, the way I did during GE 14 in 2018 – I became a PACA for PH without becoming their member. Because I know it is very possible that I will not agree with everything they do in the future. And true enough, isn’t it? I did end up not agreeing with all their anti-Islam, and pro-liberal policies, in the end. So, I prefer to work with an organization for only certain projects and certain initiatives but once the project is done, I want to leave. Because I am just not confident of my ability to follow people blindly long term. When I follow you, it is because for that particular time and for that particular purpose, I trust your leadership. But there is no guarantee that I will always trust your leadership for all time and for all kind of ventures…. And what if you are the sort of leader who subscribe to the notion that the boss is always right? How can I bear being under your leadership long term? Isn’t it better that I only work with you only for a particular project and purpose… so that we can part ways amicably at the end of the project. Belonging to an organization unnecessarily… that is a commitment I am just not willing to make. Just look at how belonging to only ONE organization (KKM) is already headache-inducing… with all their unjust and unfair exhortation to blindly obey Perintah Am, to blackmail young junior doctors to not be involved in Hartal, and to threaten frontliners to NOT share what is REALLY happening on the ground in hospitals to the public. And that is only ONE organization… and already I feel super annoyed that you guys up there at the level of Pengurusan Tertinggi of various hospitals could simply threaten people and shut them up from speaking the truth! Tak malu ke?? People are talking about you, you know! And more importantly, aren’t you scared of what will happen to you in the hereafter? Your leadership will be questioned by Allah in the day of judgment!)

I have a lot of friends who belong to MMA (Malaysian Medical Association) and had persuaded me to join MMA as a member. I appreciate a lot of things that MMA had done for doctors in general. I admit that in general, MMA had done such a great job. I truly applauded them for everything they have done.

However, I was quite disheartened that they had blatantly and openly discouraged people from joining the Hartal. The question is why?? (See? If I belong in MMA, I definitely won’t obey their recommendation about not joining the Hartal and will criticize them quite heavily.  I told you, didn’t I? I have problems belonging to any organization long term. I rather work with an organization for a specific project and for a specific duration. I don’t have commitment issues; I just KNEW myself so well!)

The 4 Tendencies

I have written in my blog previously that in ANY sort of struggle, people who are involved in the struggle can be categorized into 4 categories of tendencies:

1)Upholder (this is me when there is nothing to fight for and everything is good and nice. We uphold what is already good and efficient! We uphold what is already great in the system)

2)Rebel (this is me sometimes when I have had enough of something bad in the system!)

3)Questioner (this is me, most of the time. This is my default mode)

4)Obliger (Very occasionally, to family and close friends, I can be an obliger in things that do not cross my principles and my boundaries. But it is NOT efficient to be an obliger to EVERYONE and for EVERYTHING! Choose who you want to oblige and who are deserving of your obligations.)

In any kind of fight, all 4 types of people need one another. As long as they have the same goal, all of them can work for the same cause in their own way! So don’t stop people from doing what they want to do as long as you guys have the same goal!

If you guys read a lot of history, you will notice that we need questioners and rebellious people to stir the sentiment of the public. And at the same time we also need the diplomats (the upholders) to also negotiate with the other party. But the diplomats (this is the MMA in this scenario) would not be able to do a good job in bargaining with the government if everything is all peaceful and fine and there is nothing to push the government to comply to our demands in the bargaining table. If no one had created the Hartal movement, what bargaining chip could MMA bring in the negotiation? It’s been 5 freaking years! Why should the government even want to give in if there was no public sentiment being provoked by the Hartal movement?

In fact, I would say that the Hartal movement and the Code Black (by  MMA) worked synergistically.  The Hartal movement and the MMA initiative to negotiate with the government are BOTH necessary! Without the existence of one, the other cannot gain much. That was the reason I supported BOTH the Code Black by MMA and the Hartal movement. I wore black on the 12th of July to support the Code Black initiative by MMA and I also took a picture of me holding a stethoscope in my fist which is the symbol of the Hartal movement. It is counter-productive to support one and not the other, in my opinion.

Look at the history of our country’s fight for Independence back in 1950s. Of course the British would say that those Malay villagers were rebellious and caustic trouble stirrers when they marched forward to loudly oppose the Malayan Union. But it was exactly because they were rebellious that the Malayan Union was dissolved and we still have our Sultans in the thrones until now. At last when public sentiment was stronger, Tunku Abdul Rahman had used his diplomatic channel to negotiate Independence with the British. But would the British even consider giving us Independence if no one (no rebels and no questioners and no caustic opposition) had provoked the sentiments of the public? Would Tunku Abdul Rahman succeed if no one in Tanah Melayu had created any opposition and any trouble to the British to make them reconsider their faulty ways? Think about it!

In times of peace in which justice prevails, we always need upholders who staunchly uphold everything good in the system. People like MMA and the “during-my-time-super-seniors” can reign supreme here. They will uphold all the good traditions and resist any sort of change in order to maintain the superb status quo.

But in times of discord in which injustice is rampant, we always need rebels and questioners to loudly stir public sentiment so that the diplomats can do a more effective job of fighting for what is right at the negotiating table. If we don’t have these warrior-hearted people in our midst, we as a society will be doomed. The bad status quo will remain the same (or worsening) even as whatever good that is in the system deteriorates.

So please… if you have the same goal, cooperate with one another (or at least, do not actively oppose or criticize the method of others when all of us are trying to reach the same goal). All our different methods no matter how divergent at first will eventually converge towards the same target. And our target is:  the betterment of our future healthcare system.

People Talk About Leadership All The Time. But How About Followership?

Some people love to be leaders even when they are not that good at it. I have always found it astonishing that people would want the unnecessary responsibility in their lives… they want to belong to this committee and that committee… they kiss as many assess as they can to make themselves likeable to the higher up in the hopes of being given all kinds of posts in so many different things. Things that might take away their time and their joy of life bit by bit. Until all they have are various responsibilities that they cannot rightfully meet and cannot properly juggle. And their subordinates suffer accordingly. And their personal life deteriorates slowly, affecting their family members and their loved ones.

If you are good at leadership, go ahead and be ambitious of getting various posts. We need good leaders to follow. Go ahead and be leaders if you have the talent for it.

But if you are bad at it (but you think you are good because you haven’t had the benefit of people telling you to your face that your leadership is mediocre at best) I pray that you will wake up and smell all the crap you have created.

Some people come up with this ridiculous idea that anyone can be a leader. Like, it is a skill that we can all learn. Ermmm…. I beg to differ.

(Sure everyone can learn how to sing by taking vocal classes. But when talented people and non-talented people take vocal classes, the talented ones will far out-shine and out-class the non-talented ones. Siti Nurhaliza sang marvellously even without the benefits of attending any vocal class when she first began. Whereas a lot of vocal teachers never become singers because they simply don’t have enough talent! See the difference?)

Some people are natural leaders, and some people are not. Yes… we can all learn leadership skills. But when BOTH natural and untalented leaders learn leadership skills, the natural leaders will leave the untalented ones far behind in execution and style. Might as well we let the natural leaders become our leaders. They will take to it like fish to water.

I am not a natural leader… and I don’t want leadership. It’s a burden I can do without. When you are a leader, you have to be answerable to everyone under your leadership. You lose part of your freedom in the process. I just want to go to work, see my patients and come back home to read and do other aspect of non-doctor things that I also love doing. I might want to travel…and I might want to volunteer in certain projects I like without actually having to be a leader of that project. I have other things I want to do with my free time.I don’t want to go back home and still have to think about administrative issues outside office hours. I don’t want to be part of this committee and that committee and have to do extra admin work outside my clinical hours, answering whatsapp messages from so many people in various whatsapp groups non-stop (there are times when I wish that Whatsapp! doesn’t exist) And if that means I will never get far in my career as a psychiatrist and never get a JUSA, I am okay. I don’t want it anyway. I love my simple life. I am just not very ambitious and I am pretty satisfied with what I have achieved so far. A lot of times, I rather follow than lead.

But I must admit that I am also not a natural follower. At least, not for just anyone under the roof. I am a natural follower ONLY to a certain type of leader. A good, kind, and competent leader.

A friend of mine had said “That is exactly why people want jawatan and want to become a leader. They don’t want to have to follow bad leaders. But when they don’t have jawatan yet, they have no choice but to follow bad leaders. So they have to become leaders themselves, to do what they want to do without having to follow the ideas of bad leaders”

Hmm… actually, you don’t have to become leaders in order to avoid obeying bad instructions from bad leadership. Especially if you are not good at leadership, yourself. You can simply refuse to comply and state your reason for not complying. Politely, of course. And continue being a thinking follower rather than a blind follower.

Actually, being a good follower is just as important as being a good leader. There are actually many studies that have been done on followership and many articles have been written about how to be a good follower. The diagram below is a summary of what kind of followers we should be. An actively thinking follower is what we should become! We should become “an exemplary follower” (refer diagram) (for the full article: https://www.medicalprotection.org/newzealand/casebook/casebook-may-2013/followership-the-forgotten-part-of-leadership)

I prefer to be an actively thinking follower. Not a passive, conformist follower. And definitely not a leader (because I know myself and I know my strengths and weaknesses. And whenever I look at the hadeeth of the Prophet about leadership, I shiver!)

I think that a good leader will need a thinking follower to help him make good and fair decisions.

A thinking follower will tell you the real situation on the ground and will whack you real good when you are being blind and stupid. A good leader does not need a blind follower who will kiss his ass and say yes to everything he says. A good leader needs a thinking follower to bounce ideas off with and to have a mental spar with… to sharpen his decision making. A thinking follower is a good source of support to a good leader.

Only a bad leader wants a yes-boss man!

I like to remain as a thinking follower. Let the natural leaders lead… they will commit less mistakes and because of their natural talent, they have minimal risk of not performing well. They have less to worry about when they face Allah in the day of judgment. (The rest of us who are not natural leaders… we are at risk of royally messing up when we assume leadership. The risk-benefit assessment will tell us that we should not be leaders if we are not natural at it! We will regret it in the hereafter in the day of judgment, if we don’t already regret the hassle of it in this world.)

For bad leaders… the thinking followers will be a source of pain and misery to them. We will want to keep looking for other leaders to replace you. We will want to keep being part of the movement to unseat you. We will be your worst nightmare. Because we don’t want leadership for ourselves (we hate it!) and therefore you cannot get rid of us or pacify us by bribing us with various posts. We don’t want to be leaders. But nor do we want to follow you! We will always be waiting for better leaders to come along so that we can follow them instead of you. And we will not stop working until we find that person. We will not settle.

And when I look at the Hartal movement, I know that some people in the medical fraternity are good leaders. Some consultants/HODs had openly supported the contract MOs to join the Hartal. Like Dr. Rafidah Abdullah, the famous consultant nephrologist who was quite vocal in her support of the junior contact MOs. Some consultants/HODs worked together on how they could minimize disruption in work flow as the contract MOs perform the walk-out. Bravo!

You guys are good leaders! No matter what the Perintah Am said, you are an amazing leader, in my book.

And we also know that some people – some of them are Pengarah Hospital, Pengarah JKN, HODs – are simply mediocre leaders. They threatened the junior contract MOs with tatatertib, they didn’t try to make the Hartal work, they didn’t want to even start a conversation on how to enable their junior contract MOs to walk-out and join the Hartal. On the contrary, they only present their junior contract MOs with threats, threats and threats. Oh, and also with their irrelevant ramblings of how it was during their time. Ugh! *Sigh* What a bad leadership!

No matter who you are in the hierarchy, even if you score high in the leadership component of your SKT (pfft! SKT is quite meaningless when it comes to reflecting your real work performance), you are not a good leader if the only way you can make your subordinates comply to you is by blackmailing them or threatening them. You will answer for what you had done… if not in this life, then in the hereafter.

If you are a good leader, you can make people comply to you by inspiring them! And I honestly think that the organizer of the Hartal movement has all the criteria of a good leader. I hope they will go far in their career as doctors. Hopefully, I will be your thinking follower when you go on to become great leaders.

Books of The Month

Last month I read a book newly authored by Mizz Nina and published by Iman Publication. The title is Light For The Lost Soul -Volume 1: Seeking Contentment For The Troubled Heart.

It is about her journey of discovering faith in Allah and Islam. Her journey started when her elder brother passed away and she started questioning about a lot of things that were spiritual and existential that she never really pondered before. I can certainly relate. I too started reflecting a lot more than I used to after my friend passed away in an accident when I was 18 years old. She talked about how her wealth and fame did not really help her feel content and happy. Something was missing in her life. There were some relevant verses of the Quran included in the book as she reflected on her past life. It was quite an inspiring book.

Based on ANFRS (Afiza’s Non-Fiction Rating Scale): I give the book half star for content, ¾ start for clarity of thought, half star for language, half star for credibility of author, ¾ start for enjoyment. So altogether this book earns 3 stars! Not bad for a debut author. I expect that she will continue to produce more inspiring books in the future and will continue to polish her authorship as time passes by. Maybe her next book will earn 4 or even 5 stars based on ANFRS, who knows.

But let me tell you, 3 stars from ANFRS is good! In Goodreads, her book reviews are mostly 4-5 stars. But as I have mentioned before, I try to make ANFRS as objective as possible when evaluating books. I have read better books than hers that I had given 4 stars previously.So I cannot give similar stars for her book. So regardless of how much I adore Miss Nina (and I am her ardent follower in Instagram) I have to be objective when I am using ANFRS to evaluate any book.

Most reviews done by readers in Goodreads are not objective. Books are rated by readers based on purely their subjective feeling. But ANFRS that I created for my own use is based on real objective criterias (1/2 star and ¾ star have different level of qualities compared to one whole star, for example. And there are domains for content, thought, language, author’s credibility and enjoyment). You can check out the criteria of ANFRS (Afiza’s Non-Fiction Rating Scale) and AFBRS (Afiza’s Fiction and Biography Rating Scale) in this blog also. Just search in this blog the terms ANFRS or AFBRS and you will find them.

So knowing how stringent and objective my criteria is in evaluating books, please don’t think this book is not good just because I give it 3 stars. 3 stars is good than the average 4-5 stars in Goodreads! Fans of Mizz Nina, please don’t kecam I, ya! Hahha.


Another book that I bought together with Mizz Nina’s book is authored by Liyana Musfirah, also published by Iman Publication. The title of the book is The Spiritual Strength In Our Scars: Emerging From Personal Struggles With Resilience.

This is a very good book for women who are having a hard time coping with their personal struggles. I think a lot of my lady patients would benefit from reading this book.

This book has a bit of everything and for every kind of women; the single women, the married women, the single mothers, the married mothers with bad spouses, the women struggling with a dark past etc etc. If you know any woman struggling with depression or anxiety because of how the story of their lives have unfolded, I recommend for you to present this book as a gift to her.

Based on ANFRS: I gave this book ¾ star for content, ¾ star for clarity of thought, ¾ star for language, 1 star for credibility of author (she is an ustazah and a founder of Liyana Musfirah Network which is registered as one of the Islamic Education Centres and Providers in Singapore), and ¾ star for enjoyment. So altogether this book has earned 4 stars!

That’s all for now, my dear readers.

May Allah always guide us in all our actions so that we can be a good follower and a good leader to people around us! May Allah only test us with the level of leadership that we can bear that we won’t have cause for regret in the hereafter.

Until next time!

Selamat Menyambut Awal Muharram! Have a blessed one!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s