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Jakarta Post

Ahok's good intent has negative impact

  • Nanang Chalid
    Nanang Chalid

    Human resources director with 12 years’ experience

Jakarta   /   Wed, November 9, 2016   /  02:36 pm
Ahok's good intent has negative impact People passes under a banner "Tanah kami haram diinjak ahok" in Palmerah Barat, west Jakarta, Tuesday, November 8, 2016. The resident of the area show their rejection to Incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama by putting those Banner. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The campaign team of incumbent pair Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat has decided to take measures against the recent backlash received by the pair by filing a report with law enforcement and election authorities in an effort to end the campaign disruptions.

The team will submit the report to the Jakarta Police, the Jakarta Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) and the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta), campaign team chief Prasetio Edi Marsudi said on Tuesday.

“The campaign team feels bothered by the campaign disruptions,” Edi said, adding that representatives of the team will file a report to the Jakarta Police on Wednesday.

Ahok was the target of an angry mob last week during a campaign stop in Rawa Belong, West Jakarta. Police had to rescue him in a public minivan.

The attack occurred prior to massive protests by around 100,000 Muslims initiated by the hard-line organization, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), on Nov. 4 in Central Jakarta. They demanded that the outspoken governor be prosecuted over his allegedly blasphemous remarks in which he cited a verse in the Quran.

Djarot also faced protests when he visited a fisherfolk’s village in Cilincing, North Jakarta, last week on the back of protests of the eviction programs planned by the city administration.

Such experiences prompted a new campaign scheme for Ahok and Djarot’s teams, which decided to no longer share schedules of the two with journalists. The teams instead arranged meeting points for the journalists to gather and then depart to the campaign locations together with Ahok and Djarot.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Awi Setiyono said amid recent developments, the Jakarta Police had decided to deploy more security forces to ensure safety in campaign locations set to be visited by Ahok and Djarot.

The number of personnel, however, will depend on how violent-prone the areas are.

“We will examine the possible threats first before we deploy the forces,” Awi told The Jakarta Post.

The Jakarta Police had provided each pair competing in the race with 13 police officers from the police’s Security Intelligence division, Mobile Brigade division, traffic division and public order Sabhara squad.

Still, for reports of potential disturbances, the police will first coordinate with Bawaslu. The agency will decide if the reports made by the candidates are about criminal offenses.

He said that although the police found it difficult to prevent provocative speech, the force would likely arrest anyone injuring the candidates.

Meanwhile, Bawaslu head Mimah Susanti said the agency would monitor potential disturbances throughout the campaign process.

Bawaslu also planned to take down any provocative posters or banners found in the capital and planned to impose sanctions on those who put them there. As reported, several areas had anti-Ahok banners with insulting remarks.

Mimah called on the public to take part in monitoring the campaign and election periods.

“We want the public to report any violations to us so that we will be able to realize a transparent and fair election,” she said, adding that the agency welcomed any reports made by the candidates.

The campaigning trail for the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election runs from Oct. 28 to Feb. 11 next year, before voting day on Feb. 15. Mass protests involving hundreds of thousands of Muslims in several big cities across the country, including the biggest one in Jakarta, demanding the police immediately investigate Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s alleged blasphemy last week resulted in several resolutions after representatives of the protesters met government officials, such as Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

However, the case is not closed yet. In the coming two weeks, we will see the story continue as many arguments — supporting and rejecting the blasphemy accusation against Ahok — are still circulating in both conversation and social media.

The most important lesson we can take from the issue, in my view, is about leadership communication. As human beings, what makes leaders effective in achieving their goals is how they translate their intent into impact through communicating with others.

Although in the study of leadership ethics, some schools of thought believe that good intent (or goodwill) is sufficient as argued by Kantian scholar Joanne B. Ciulla: “Goodwill is good, not because of what it effects or accomplishes, nor because its fitness to attain some proposed ends; it is good only through willingness; hence it is good in itself”.

Communicating good intent well so that it leads to actions and results is definitely the only acceptable norm in our current world where issues are massive, and solutions are demanded everywhere.

This is why leadership communication becomes critical: because leaders can only deliver results through others.

The higher a leader is in the hierarchy of an organization, the more people he or she needs to engage and inspire to make things happen on a larger scale.

Now, let us reflect on the case of Ahok’s speech, on Sept. 27, which triggered the mass rallies from this “intent to impact” perspective.

If anyone would care enough to read the news about Ahok’s visit to Pramuka Island off Jakarta, and watch the 22-minute original video of Ahok’s speech, it was all full of good intent.

He proposed fisheries reform, in which instead of relying on extractive fishing, fishermen could actually start to farm fish in the ocean, and stimulated the creation of such an economic ecosystem by proposing a scheme where after all operational costs are taken out, 80 percent of the profits of the fish-farming is given to individual fishermen themselves.

And to ensure everyone was on board, he tried to anticipate people’s concerns that his reform ideas might be at risk because of the upcoming election, he stressed that the program would run until October 2017 as the official end of his term. “This is important: it is not mandatory that you choose me as governor in 2017, yet I guarantee that all of the program will be implemented,” he said.

It was afterward, that he asked everyone to vote as per their individual preference: “Don’t trust people who are trying to lie to you, using the likes of Al-Maidah verse 51 “— and we know how the story continued afterward.

No one will remember the good intent by now. Instead of the brilliant and courageous idea of fisheries reform, most people talk about and remember only the Quranic verse.

That several seconds of the speech amount to the only gaffe of a leadership speech Ahok made that day, yet it was that gaffe that triggered hundreds of thousands of Muslims to join the march to defend the Quran and may now put his chances of winning the election at risk.

A leader who wants to send a message needs to think that every minute of his or her communication counts. Every choice of word made matters.

There is a simple principle in leadership communication called audience-centricity. This principle simply states that it is not what you say, it is what people hear that matters.

The most ideal leadership communication would be if “intent is equal to impact”. As an example, The late US president John F. Kennedy’s intent was to inspire all American citizens to participate in a movement he wished to create.

Hence, he selected certain words to ensure he landed the intent impactfully in his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 1961 — famous for the quotation: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.

Although it is probably unfair to compare him with Kennedy, Ahok’s intent was to inspire Pramuka Island residents to march toward the fishery reform he initiated, yet the impact was a march coming toward him due to his last few words. In his case, Ahok failed to deliver his intent, as it instead created the totally wrong impact.

Furthermore, in an Indonesian context, the “intent and impact” equation is also happening in what Edward Hall has described as the high-context society. Not only are social interactions filled with unspoken rules and non-verbal cues (i.e. saying “Yes” may mean that you have heard; it may not be an indication of agreement), even gestures are regarded as a statement.

This is why when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo did not meet representatives of the protesters, it was perceived by some as a statement of rejection, resistance and cowardice.

To include other characteristics of Indonesian culture like group orientation (where identity is defined by group, family or work team), harmony and “saving face” are the most important factors for any trust and relationship building.

These come before problem solving, and the importance of rank and status is strictly observed. Playing the role of leader in Indonesia requires multiple intelligences to collaborate at the same time: intellectual, emotional and verbal.

Another reason why leadership communication is important is because all leaders have now become part of an interconnected world of media. With the rise of social media, any individual can now participate in shaping the image of public figures.

“Impact” has now become a multitude and multi-interpretation result that requires leaders to be even more effective in ensuring their engagement with their audience is done with rigor and care, but is still as inspiring, moving and as authentic as possible.

Once a word or a gesture is out in the air (both through verbal speech, or social media statements such as tweets or posts), it stays out there no matter how brilliant one’s public relations advisor is.

To summarize, the Nov. 4 event is a good opportunity for all leaders to think about how effective their leadership communication is.

Have they delivered their good intent well enough to their team, audience, constituents or public? How can each leader start to improve their leadership communication going forward?



The writer is a human resources director with 12 years’ experience, specializing in talent management and leadership development.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.