Part A Question 1
Provide a brief description of the leader you have selected and explain why you have done so His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej or King Rama IX, was the king of Thailand and reigned for over 70 years. He was known for over thousands of royal-projects, including projects to do with irrigation, land reform, medical care for rural residents, etc (Redmond, 2016). Many of these have been carried out in the grounds of his palace in Bangkok. The royal-projects were developed to improve people’s welfare. Hence, Bhumibol was deeply adored and respected by Thais. During time of his illness, people wore pink and gathered outside the hospital and wished to bring him good health. His death in October 2016 saw widespread grief across the country. After his death, the government declared a year of official state of mourning.
Bhumibol has been selected because he is my personal role-model. Analysing his leadership might reveal the extraordinary bond between him and his people as well as explain how he won the hearts of Thais.
Word count: 154
Redmond, B. (2016) ‘Thailand’s King Bhumibol Dies, Triggering Anguish and Fears of Unrest’, Daily Beast, 13 October [Online]. Available at https://www.thedailybeast.com/thailands-king-bhumibol-dies-triggering-anguish-and-fears-of-unrest (Accessed 22 November 2018).
Part A Question 2
Analyse the leader using two concepts drawn from Block 2 According to Keith Grint (2005, cited in Jones, 2018), ‘leader’ refers to who a person is and ‘leadership’ refers to what a person does to motivate some followers to act towards achieving a common goal. This means not everyone who are in leadership positions are accepted as successful leaders. This essay analyses King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand’s leadership skills by using the ‘Transformational Leadership’ approach to explain how he transformed opium field in Thailand into a prosperous farming in 1960s. This essay will also use the ‘Authentic Leadership’ approach to look into how he lived up to his first royal-command in May 1950 for over seven decades on the throne (Handley, 2006).
A ‘Transformational leader’ is a leader who wants to achieve higher outcomes, hence motivates followers to do more than they originally do (Burns, 1978, cited in Sherriff, 2018). King Bhumibol worked against drugs and transformed opium cultivations to food crops farming. In 1960s, Thai military was in charge to end a problem of tribesmen* (Appendix 1) deforested from slash and burn agriculture, and cultivated opium poppies to process to heroin, by getting rid of opium and arrest them. Yet the problem continued, until in 1967, Bhumibol visited the tribe village, he saw the problem and asked if there were other crops that could be an alternative to opium. The tribesmen said they were afraid if they could not afford their living. Bhumibol said that there was no need to stop immediately and he would provide other crops to grow instead. In 1969, he established a royal-project by investing in some land to establish a research station, where he grew many economy-crops that can grow in a cool climate with 1,400 meters above sea level and could generate enough income for the tribesmen’s family. After that, the royal-project introduced different types of fruits and plants to the tribesmen with technical support and a marketing strategy. Eventually, the opium farming stopped, and the lives of the tribesmen started to improve (Ono, 2017). These days the same area produce many types of crops to supply the markets under the brand ‘Doi Kam’. ‘Doi Kam’ is also a shop developed by the royal-project, where various kinds of products and crops from the tribesmen’s village and nearby are sold. This royal-project is still being practiced widely among the farmers, nowadays- around 85,000 people are involved (Kowitwanij, 2016). This shows that Bhumibol was a ‘transformational leader’ by successfully transforming many lives of criminal drug farmers to be self-employed farmers that can provide employment and generate stable income. Although, Bhumibol is the king, his charismatic enabled him to communicate and connect to the tribesmen’s need. Therefore, he was able to first understand their problems and then sought a solution to improve their lives and economic well-beings. Moreover, this royal-project has transformed the Thai fruit and vegetables market and has enabled consumers to buy cheaper crops that are grown in the country, rather than those that are imported from colder neighbourhood countries. This project alone created a sustainable business for tribesmen families, cut down drugs problem for the government, which affected society and the country as a whole. Although, it seemed to take several years to end the poppy field problem, his gentle and sustainably strategy is an extraordinary method, which ended drug trafficking from its origin with no drastic confrontation.
An ‘Authentic leader’ refers to a leader who is true to their own core values. That is to say, the leader behaves and says things based on their own beliefs. The authentic leader is followed by people who have an authentic relationship with the leader (Shamir and Eilam, 2005, cited in Sherriff, 2018). In 1950, Bhumibol pledged in his coronation ceremony that he would reign with righteousness, for the benefit and happiness of Thais (Handley, 2006). Early in his reign, he travelled across the country to see and discuss people’s recent harvests and problems. The majority of Thais were rice farmers and the best way to improve their well-being was to help them reap better harvests. Bhumibol believed that he could better Thais’ livelihoods. Hence, he ran a number of experiments in his palace in the heart of Bangkok- Chitralada Palace. In trying to truly understand farmer’s lives, in 1961, Bhumibol launched a rice-farming project in Chitralada Palace. He drove a tractor, ploughed the land, observed and recorded the progress of the rice-growth that he personally sowed until its harvest. Then he passed on the way to overcome some problems in rice-farming to the farmers. In 1971, he realised that farmers were selling their unhusked rice to a rice mills at a low price and then buying back the polished rice for their own consumption at a higher price. In order to investigate this, he started a rice hulling mill experiment. Then, he encouraged farmers to build their own rice mill, using the successful model he researched in their community to stop this problem. In 1986, he found that bars of husk, which were left from polishing rice could be used instead of coal. A year after, many types of green fuel were produced from left overs of the production process from the other royal-project such as, ground chaff, water hyacinths, bagasse, etc (Handley, 2006). There are many more royal-projects, which were started by Bhumibol are still run by his followers. This supports the claim that Bhumibol was the king that was willing to get his hand dirty in trying to understand the life of his people. He was true to his values, his action followed his beliefs, which he had voiced in his pledge to all Thais in the coronation ceremony.
However, it is impossible that Bhumibol ran over thousand royal-projects alone. He had a group of followers who shared his beliefs and endeavoured to work hard alongside their king to achieve outstanding outcomes and to better the lives of the others. As, Bhumibol once said to an associated press “They say that a kingdom is like a pyramid: the king on top and the people below. But in this country, it is upside down,” (Gray, 2010).
To conclude, this essay analyses King Bhumibol leadership skills, using first the ‘transformational leadership approach’ to breakdown how he transformed opium fields in Thailand to fields growing economic crops. It then explains how he used his ‘authentic leadership approach’ to successfully reign for seven decades of service based on his pledge during his coronation ceremony to work towards the happiness of all Thais.
Word Count: 1076
The Tribesmen’s village was at the Golden Triangle, the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Tribesmen are an ethnic minority group of people that were not authorised to have Thai nationality. Yet Bhumibol did not want to scare them with military power as this might push them to join communist movements, which were a strong influence in neighbourhood countries at the time.