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Jakarta Post

Ahok'€™s leadership style: Love it or hate it

  • Corry Elyda

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, July 9, 2014   /  02:53 pm

Acting governor Basuki '€œAhok'€ Tjahaja Purnama raised his voice when commenting on the suspension of the University of Indonesia School of Medicine grant used to deploy doctors to regional hospitals during a meeting at City Hall recently.

 '€œI cannot fire you right now Bu Endang because I have to wait for Jakarta governor Joko Widodo,'€ he told Jakarta Financial Management Body (BPKD) head Endang Widjajanti.

'€œHowever, I can replace all of your subordinates who have fooled you,'€ he said.

Scolding and threatening subordinates openly is common practice for Ahok, who uploads video recordings of all meetings on YouTube to boost city administration transparency. The videos have received thousands of hits.

Ahok, who as deputy governor for 20 months, considers being candid and brave the best way to run the administration. He, unlike other bureaucrats or officials, tends to reveal what he means literally. Hence, many of his statements and actions have sparked public controversy.

Some have expressed concern over his blunt comments and attitude while others consider Ahok'€™s bravery and candor a fresh change in the city administration'€™s cumbersome bureaucracy.

Public policy expert Agus Pambagio said he was concerned about Ahok'€™s candid attitude, especially when he scolded his subordinates publicly.

Agus said that decisiveness was important in a leader but Ahok had to adjust his attitude to fit the situation. '€œBeing firm is sometimes also ineffective,'€ he said.

According to Agus, scolding people publicly could result in resistance. '€œThere is a thin line between being firm and being harsh. He should be careful as many parties might negatively react,'€ he said.

Agus said Ahok'€™s subordinates might also get discouraged if they are publicly humiliated.

The same concern was expressed by Ied Sabilla, a 28-year-old staffer at the Communications, Information and Public Relations Agency. Ied said she wished the acting governor was friendlier to his subordinates.

'€œI really hope we [civil servants] and the leader could grow closer, so there is a sense of belonging in the city administration,'€ she said, adding that closer relationships would boost the spirit of employees.

However, leadership expert Chairul Muriman said he was not worried about Ahok'€™s blunt style, adding that it would not harm him as long as he stuck to his willingness to defend the public'€™s interest.

'€œHe will survive even though he has offended many people. Although the public sometimes does not approve of his attitude, they will eventually realize that he has their best interests in mind,'€ he said.

Ahok said he deliberately let the public view the decision-making process. '€œWhen people watch the meetings, they will learn the truth,'€ he said.

He said that he also got feedback from citizens through comments on the videos. '€œPeople help when they criticize me and give suggestions on programs I'€™ve discussed,'€ he said.

Ahok'€™s decisions and remarks also often irritate his superiors. He once opposed a suggestion by Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi to replace Lenteng Agung subdistrict head Susan Jasmine Zulkifli, who faced protests from some residents because she was a Christian.

Ahok reacted to the situation by saying that replacing Susan would go against the state ideology of Pancasila and that the selection of an official should be based on his or her performance. '€œTell the home minister he should learn more about the [1945] Constitution,'€ he said.

Ahok also recently raised the eyebrows of Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo by saying that the minister had tried to use the Lebak Bulus stadium demolition plan to gain fame.

Suryo said that the acting governor should check his sanity. In response, Ahok said, '€œI am crazy. I wonder why he didn'€™t realize that sooner,'€ he said.

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