Peter Northouse defined leadership as a process which involves someone to influence others to understand and agree on what is needed and how it is fulfilled.
What is clear is that from the definition, some concepts on leadership can be sorted, some of them are: leadership is a process, leadership needs one individual as a leader, leadership involves a group of individuals to be led, and leadership involves shared objectives to be achieved.
In the perspective of sociologists and anthropologists, leadership in the society is formed through mechanism and primus inter pares model. It means that someone stated as an ideal leader because of competition, genealogy line, wealth, power and body and soul perfection, or even because of the age, experience, education, status and social authority owned.
Not only that, a leader has to be acknowledged by its society as the supreme leader and be the manager of the leadership and the people’s life (Suwirta dan Hermawan, 2012). From this perspective, leadership and leader are something which is formed and forms the society. Someone becomes a leader and is in the leadership because he was born as a leader, such as in a monarch or an authoritarian regime, or to be a leader because of experience, ability, hardwork or processes which make someone a leader.
As a country, political leadership concept in Indonesia has gone through some periods related to its social system. In general, Subiakto and Ida (2014) divided the periods into some social systems. They are freedom euphoria, sovereignty, guided democracy, new order, and reformation
The Great Man Theory
From the perspective of conventional historiography there is a the great men theory, where important events and social changes were moved by “big guys” (Sjamsuddin, 2007; and Suwirta, 2012). This perspective can be attached to Royalties or priyayi and fame is attached at the Indonesian leaders’ characteristic.
On the other hand, people’s concept was often identical with people from the marginal group, such as farmers, factory workers, and small entrepreneurs. This in inline with Iqra Anugrah statement in her writing in the journal of Indoprogress; Rakyat Jelata, Sejarah dan Perjuangan. She explained that condition of binary opposition between leaders and the public happened in Indonesia. She wrote,
“History and politics have told us about “the great men”, they were figures who moved the flow of time and changes, while the masses and ordinary people were only footnote, or worse, reference which is not used in the history making,”
Binary opposition between the leader and the people in this regard can be observed clearly from how the leader in Indonesia is closely related to kingdoms, especially the Javanese monarch or to hereditary aspects from the great leaders in Indonesia.
Leader in Indonesia often used hereditary factor from great leaders, or at least tried to show similar ideas of thought of those great leaders as a sign of understanding or only follow their popularity in the society. The most general example is the usage of soekarno figure, the first leader of Indonesia in political campaigns. Soekarno was often regarded as idol and ideal figure for Indonesian leaders.
Agus Sudibyo (2001) in his book Politik Media dan Pertarungan Wacana (Politics of Media and Discourse Fight) stated that Soekarno’s figure was often symbolized nationalism, popular and charismatic for Indonesian people or International, also a figure who had made contributions in the nation’s struggle’s history. Qualities attached to Soekarno was used as promotion material of Indonesian leaders and it gives impressions that a leader was often pictured with quality of being admired, loved, and deserving for others, the people.
Marginalization of Silent Group
People or marginal group was identified as those who are in the position as silent group. This group was a concept of Edwin dan Shirley Ardener ,
“Groups with lower power such as women, the poor, and colored people, should study to find in the communicative system which was developed by the dominating group.”
With an abstract conception on the silent group or the marginal group, then an idea or concept about people compared to the leader is clear. He is a marginal group which follow how hierarchical system and social structures were built by dominating group or a leader.
Not only elitism and relationship of a figure which attaches to the leaders, in their way to reach power, a figure of a leader often is represented through traditions and beliefs (culture). It is a part of traditional historiography perspective and more specifically related to religion and tribe aspects. Religion aspect is Islam, and Javanese undisputedly very dominant is exploited by the leaders and be the part of leadership characteristic in Indonesia.
Binary opposition elaborated previously between the leader and the people was a part of sructuralization in the society. It happens because there is a social discourse on how leaders should be understood in the society system. Parties with interests and power, especially over media, can make codes which communicate the concept of leaders through messages, intended messages or symbolic ones. (*)
Writer: Juanta Sebayang