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Asta Brata: The Perfect Philosophy for Leadership Theory

What is the definition of leadership?
“Leadership is how someone organizes the employee
“Leadership is the ability to make effective coordination with every member of organization.”
“Leadership is an art.”
“Leadership is the ability which can be build through process.”
“Leadership is a vision.”
“Leadership is the ability to influence others.”
Those are some answers from participants of several seminars and workshops that I ever involved in, either as a committee or participant. The number of definitions of leadership equals the total number of people in this world. Everybody can state their argument of what leadership is. Yukl states that there are many experts who have definitions about leadership (Ancok, 2012). From those six examples of answer about the definition of leadership, most of the speakers in seminars or workshops about leadership choose influence as the best answer of the definition of leadership. They emphasized that the essential part of leadership is influencing. I ask my own self about it, is leadership merely means influencing? In the last workshop that I joined as a participant, the speaker said that, nowadays, the essence of leadership is not influencing anymore, because the context of influencing   seems slightly negative. Influence means that leader is someone who can force people to do something that he or she wants. Leadership nowadays is the art of inspiring. How someone make his or her followers be inspired by his or her vision in leading and make them want to achieve the goal that has been stated by the leader. For a while, I agree with this thought, but I ask myself once again, is leadership merely inspiring?   
            In search of the definition of leadership, I realize that we can’t press the definition in to one word that may simplify the meaning because of reduction. Like other psychological constructs, leadership is a complex construct that is shaped and influenced by time and space, or we could say, culture. Culture itself is a complex variable that emerges as one of the issue to be recognized in social sciences, especially psychology.
            Talking about culture which is more complex and abstract form than leadership, culture is defined as a complex concept embedded in many aspects of living and life. Some aspects involve material things, such as food, clothing, and houses. Some refer to societal structure form such as government organization and community structure. Others refer to individual behaviors such as religion and science (Matsumoto & Juang, 2007). However sometimes, people easily “force” the meaning of culture  into narrowed context of  country and race (Berry, Poortingan, Segall & Dasen, 1999; Matsumoto & Juang, 2007). When we discuss about cultural differences as a country, race, or even widen as east and west, then, we can say that almost psychological theory comes from the west. Nearly all leadership theories and research are conducted in western countries. Here are some of the common theories about leadership that come from west;
Table 1           
Theory name
Conceptual preposition
Transformational leadership
The awareness of followers to work beyond the expectation as an effect from leader’s attitude and behavior
Burns (1978); Bass (1985)
Push the followers to work with the leader by a process of transaction of benefit and cost with.
Burns (1978); Bass (1985)
Charismatic leadership
Leader has a charismatic trait as attribution of his or her attitude
Conger and Kanungo (1987)
Serving followers become the prominent responsibility of leadership and the essence of ethical leadership
Greenleaf (1977)
Leader increase the follower intrinsic motivation through create spiritual meaningful condition in work field
Chappel (1993); Fry (2003)
Source: Anggoro, 2012

From the table above, in brief, we could say that the leadership theories from the west seem like a good theory to be studied. But, is it adaptable from Indonesia?
Leadership is a phenomenon that became a cross-cultural interest and also engaged scholars working in  various disciplines (Mumford, 2011). Psychology is one of the studies that work on leadership. Talking about leadership in our local value, Indonesia, particularly Java, has a local value that can be our theory of leadership which more adaptable and proper to our society because it emerges from our own richness of philosophy. The name of leadership philosophy in Java is Asta Brata.
Actually, there are four tenets about leadership in Javanese Philosophy. But Asta Brata is the most complete, ideal, and proper to be analyzed in contemporary condition (Simpaka, 2012). Existing as an ideal concept of leadership, it is stated that almost no one can have all the traits as a leader (Simpaka, 2012). For me, Asta Brata is a perfect philosophy for leadership theory.
Etymologically the word Asta Brata came from Sansekerta language. Asta means eight, Brata means behavior or guidance. Asta Brata means eight natural elements that symbolize the leadership character (Simpaka, 2012; Yasustra, 2011). The eight natural elements that symbolized the leadership characters are earth, sun, fire, ocean, sky, air, moon, and star.
As a star which gives light in the dark, a leader should show guidance, direction, and inspiration for the followers. As a sky which symbolizes the infinite area, a leader should be someone who is clever, have a wide knowledge and could solve problems. As a sun which always gives energy for living creature, a leader should be someone who can give motivation to his followers. Each natural elements stands for leadership character that a leader should have. I will discuss each of it further in the next paragraphs.
            Historically, Asta Brata term came from Manawa Dharma Sastra bible, a Hindustan bible in Sansekerta language. In the bible, it is stated that an emperor should act based on eight Gods and Goddess’ trait. Asta Brata became the direction of what a leader should have at that time. But when Islam entered the Java Island, that wise and philosophical value from God’s and Goddess’ trait transformed into eight natural elements because Islam is a monotheist religion which only admits one God.
            Asta Brata as a wise knowledge, exists on several variation in several bible and scripture. The big transformation from God and Goddess’s trait to eight natural elements is on the Pustakaraja Purwa  scripture (Yasasustra, 2011). 
            From three source that I read: Anggoro (2012), who analyzed Asta Brata from five bible and scripture; Simpaka (2012), and Yasasustra (2011),  who explains Asta Brata from Pustakaraja Purwa scripture, I try to synthesized and explain Asta Brata as eight natural element in my own understanding:
1.         Earth
            Earth is a place for living creature to stand. Earth is strong, can hold all living being which live on it. Earth is generous or charitable; it gives chemical substance which is needed for plants to grow, gives food for human and animals; it gives everything that it has for living creature that stand on it. As the earth, a leader has to be generous and strong. Give all what he have for his followers, be a place for them to lean on.  
2.         Sun
            Sun is always give energy to every living being on this planet. It shines brightly as a source of life and makes all living being live and develop. This analogy means that a leader should give motivation to followers every time and everywhere. Giving the energy consistently will unconsciously lead the followers to achieve the vision of the leader.
3.         Star
            Stars give beautiful light far from the sky in the dark. Star can be the direction for those in need (e.g., sailor). A leader should be a direction and guidance for his follower. In becoming a direction and inspiration, a leader should have a principal and hold on to it  so followers also follow the leader’s principal.
4.         Fire
            Firm and fair, destroy and burn everything that touches it. A leader should be like fire when he or she faces trouble. A leader should destroy the trouble without any consideration of  relationship or relative. Firm in governing, brave to take the decision, and even fired the trouble maker.
5.         Ocean
       Ocean is an estuary for every river. No matter whether it is clean or dirty river, ocean accepts and process it to form a wide volume of water and become an essential part of the earth. A leader should be someone who has opened his eyes, opened his mind, and could be a patch for every followers’ opinion. No matter if it is good or bad opinion, leader should accept it in order to show respect but he will process the opinions and gain a new knowledge from it. He realizes that others’ opinion is good for him in making a decision.
6.         Sky
       The horizon is only illusion. Sky is an infinite firmament. A symbol for wide knowledge. A leader should be someone who can add new knowledge to followers. A leader should have a competence and good skill which can be transferred to its followers.
7.         Moon
       Moon appears at night. Give a calm light in the dark. A leader should be someone who can candle a light for his followers. Give a hope in the dark, a friendly and cheerful person who can make the followers happy to see him and give motivation although a lot of burden.
8.         Air
       Air can be wherever. Its form makes it possible to be in every place. A leader should be someone who can be felt by his follower. He is not a king who just sits in a throne. He is a king who involved in work, in facing the problem. Care for his follower.

From the explanation above, we can conclude that Asta Brata is very complex and complete philosophy in explaining the leadership components. I was really admiring this value since the first time I knew it, but my question is: is there any leader who can have all the traits? It is stated that because Asta Brata is very ideal, no one can have all the traits (Simpaka, 2012). Compared to the western theory of leadership, Asta Brata has more complete and concrete concept. Asta Brata explains that a leader is not only someone who is charismatic, but  also own  wide  knowledge and goodness to be a model. A leader is not only a servant, but an air who can be felt by all layers of the society, but he will also become fire when there is a mistake. A fire that burns mistake without consideration of relationship and condition. For me Asta Brata is a perfect philosophy for leadership theory.



Ancok, D. (2012). Psikologi Kepemimpinan & Inovasi. Yogyakarta: Erlangga.
Anggoro, W. J. (2012). Pengaruh Kepemimpinan Berbasis Ajaran Asta Brata Dan Efikasi Diri Pada Komitmen Organisasi (The Influence of Asta Brata Leadership and Self Efficacy toward Organization Commitment. Yogyakarta: Thesis Faculty Of Psychology, not published.
Berry, J. W., Poortingan, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (1999). Psikologi Lintas Budaya: Riset dan Aplikasi (Cross-Cultural Psychology: Research and Application). Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2007). Culture and Psychology fourth edition. New York: Thomson.
Mumford, m. (2011). A Hale Farewell. The Leadership Quarterly 22 , 1-7.
Simpaka, B. (2012, April 15). Kompasiana. Dipetik September 30, 2012, dari Hasta Brata; Delapan Sifat Unggul Pemimpin:
Yasasustra, J. S. (2011). Asta Brata: 8 Unsur Alam Simbol Kepempinan (Asta Brata: 8 Nature Elements of Leadership). Yogyakarta: Pustaka Mahardika.

Asta Brata: The Perfect Philosophy for Leadership Theory Asta Brata: The Perfect Philosophy for Leadership Theory Reviewed by regismachdy on May 09, 2013 Rating: 5

1 comment:

aulia_elf said...

makassih kak egiss tulisannya menambah pencerahan nihh.. kebetulan q lg pngen tau ttg leadership (y)

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