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Aung San Suu Kyi: A Transformational Leader and A Symbol of Hope April 2, 2012: Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) have won a landslide victory in Burma (BBC News Asia 2012). This signifies a new chapter in humanity which may improve the lives of millions of Burmese. An Incarcerated Leader Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) is one of the world’s greatest leaders in the struggle to fight for democracy (Ball 2004). The 1991 Nobel peace prize winner devoted her life to the freedom of the 60 million Burmese.

Despite being detained by the junta for 21 years and spent 15 years under house arrest, she continues to fight for human rights and democracy. Burma, after North Korea, is probably the most obscured state in the contemporary world (Steinberg 2010). About 40% of the national budget is spent on army, while only 1% is reserved for health and education. The average Burmese annual income is less than US$200 per capita (US Department of State 2012). A Peaceful Warrior and A Transformation Leader ASSK is a transformational leader who advocates a peaceful and non-confrontational approach to democracy.

She exhibits key attributes of a transformational leader namely individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence (Bass and Bass 2008; Bass and Avolio 1994). She once said, “My top priority is for people to understand that they have the power to change things themselves”. Her vision is to build a Burma that people will have the empowerment, a better quality of life and greater opportunities. She advocates the importance of education and donated her USD1. 3 million Nobel Prize money to establish a health and education trust.

In her recent address to the House of Commons at Westminster Hall, she seeks foreign investment to support democratic reform process (Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2012). As a Buddhist, ASSK draws inspirations from her religious beliefs of peaceful reflection and also from Dalai Lama, who is the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet (The Economist 2012). Her non-confrontational leadership styles are also influenced by Nelson Mandela, who has fought against apartheid in South Africa and Mahatma Gandhi, who has fought for India independence. Gandhi nce said “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. ” The Road Ahead Lao-Tzu, the famous Chinese philosopher, once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. The NLD victory has certainly put ASSK and her party one step closer to democracy and freedom for her people. It is paramount for Burma to receive international community support towards the establishment of a truly democratic and just society (Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2012). There are important lessons for us and even world leaders to learn from ASSK.

She has shown us that we can resolve differences through non-violent approaches. Some think that only a gun can defeat another gun, but she believes that education, calm determination, and the truth will set everyone free and a better world for all of us (Ball 2004). She has taught us to treasure the democracy we enjoy and not to take freedom for granted; something which the Burmese would yearn to have. ASSK once famously said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it”. Indeed, the fear of losing power by former rulers such as Gaddafi and Mubarak has caused their downfall.

Many innocent lives were also lost in the leadership transition. More recently, we also witness the Syrian uprising where thousands of lives were lost as protesters demanded an end to five decades of Ba’ath Party rule. ASSK is not just a symbol of hope for the people of Burma; she is an inspiration to millions worldwide for her full-hearted devotion fight for democracy, freedom and justice. (Word Count = 659) References: Ball, H. (2004) Great Women Leaders – The Women’s Hall of Fame Series. Second Story Press. Toronto, Canada. Bass, B. M. and Bass, R. (2008). The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Application. th ed. New York Free Press Bass, B. M. and Avolio, B. J. (1994). Improving Organizational Effectiveness Through Transformational Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. BBC News Asia. (2012). Burma poll: Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD sweeps by-elections. [online]. Available from: http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/world-asia-17588313 [accessed 20 Jul 2012] Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2012). Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at Westminster Hall [online]. Available from http://www. fco. gov. uk/en/news/latest-news/? view=Speech&id=778619482 [accessed 21 Jul 2012] Rueters (2010).

Factbox: Facts about Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, http://www. reuters. com/article/2010/11/10/us-Burma-suukyi-factbox-idUSTRE6A91D620101110 [accessed 23rd July 2012] Steinberg, D. I. (2010) Burma/Burma What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. New York. The Economist (2012). Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama. [online]. Available from http://www. economist. com/blogs/analects/2012/06/aung-san-suu-kyi-and-dalai-lama [accessed 20 July 2012] U. S. Department of State Diplomacy in Action. Burma 12/07 [Online]. Available from http://www. state. gov/outofdate/bgn/burma/88022. htm [accessed 22 Jul 2012]



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