Portrait of a Leader

Ahead of her time

Mieko Nishimizu sat in silence, absorbing every word on her laptop screen.

It was the 16th of December 2006.  The sun had not yet risen over her home in the British Virgin Islands. And she’d just received the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s last Kasho – a simple announcement abdicating the Golden Throne and handing over the responsibilities of Druk Gyalpo to our new King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

As tears welled up in her eyes, she reminded herself that she had anticipated this announcement, not in 2008 as most of us expected, but much earlier, on the National Day of 2006. And that she had been prepared.

She had been prepared, because she had been captivated by the quality of His Majesty’s leadership ever since she first visited Bhutan in October 1997. And she had long determined that His Majesty, being the great leader that he was, would “… know when to leave, and to act on that knowledge when the time is right – and to do so for nothing other than a higher purpose, bigger than life.”

During the year that followed the last Kasho, Dr Nishimizu – a former vice president of the World Bank, and self-styled “leadership mentor” – poured over that and the other royal decrees issued in the course of His Majesty’s 34 years of reign. The result was Portrait of a Leader – Through the Looking-Glass of His Majesty’s Decrees, a tribute to and a celebration of an extraordinary leader.

In Portrait of a Leader, Dr Nishimizu reproduces 51 of His Majesty’s decrees in the original Dzongkha versions and their English translations. And, because of their historical significance, she includes three Kuensel articles. But the book is more than just a compilation of the royal decrees and newspaper clippings. Instead, she draws on her personal experiences and powerful insights into the rare world of successful leadership to organize and present the decrees according to what she calls eight dimensions of leadership.

Dr Nishimizu introduces each of her eight leadership dimensions – foresight, humility, head-and-heart conviction, good management, emotional intelligence, sensing the closure, empowering the people, and the perfect departure – with a crisp account of the importance of that leadership dimension. She then illustrates how the royal decrees clearly signal that His Majesty was “truly ahead of the times” on every one of the eight dimensions of leadership.

On “head-and-heart conviction”, for example, she writes that the royal decrees confirm that His Majesty’s “body, speech and mind” are perfectly aligned, and that “The focus on the sovereignty and the people of Bhutan – along with an unvarying aspiration for their happiness – is evident throughout.”

On “true power” she details His Majesty’s “focus on devolution of power to the people” including the decentralization of authority to local governments, devolution of executive powers to an elected cabinet, establishment of constitutional bodies, drafting of the Constitution and the introduction of parliamentary democracy.

And on “humility”, she refers to His Majesty as the complete “servant-leader.”

Dr Nishimizu’s carefully crafted portrait of His Majesty as a leader ahead of the times is ultimately a gift to the people of Bhutan. She concludes her preface with a solemn wish “that the people of Bhutan and of nations beyond, both of today and of morrow, would look to His Majesty as their role model so that they too can exercise their own leadership.”

Today, the 11th of November, is the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 55th birth anniversary. It is an auspicious occasion. And a fitting time to reflect on, and draw inspiration from, His Majesty’s golden reign … so that we too can exercise our own leadership.

Leadership of the Self


About 1,300 graduates are taking part in the annual graduate orientation programme. And like last year, and the year before, the opposition party will not have the opportunity to meet them.

Last year, I blogged about what I would have spoken about had I been able to meet the graduates. And over the weekend, I’ve been thinking about the wide range of issues that might interest this year’s graduates. But one topic stood out: His Majesty the King’s recent Convocation Address to the students of the University of Calcutta.

As the students in Kolkata prepared to enter the real world of work, His Majesty the King had urged them to live their lives guided by the values of kindness, integrity and justice. To exercise “Leadership of the Self”, His Majesty commanded, is to become better human beings. And that to bring change in the world – to eradicate poverty; to reduce inequalities; to reverse environmental degradation; to improve healthcare – we need to actively seek out “Leadership of the Self”; not leaders to lead the masses.

His Majesty the King’s message is even more relevant for every one of us at home. And it’s particularly pertinent for the 2010 graduates, our future leaders, for whom I reproduce His Majesty’s address in its entirety.

[Continue Reading…]

Haa mela

Yesterday, the thousands of spectators who had gathered in Haa to celebrate Imtrat’s 48th Raising Day were treated to a memorable programme of sensational parajumps, equestrian displays, motorcycle stunts, dog agility, gymnastics and martial music.

But what really enthralled the eager crowd – locals and Indians alike – was HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck unexpectedly riding “Tipu Sultan”, an army thoroughbred, at a full gallop, attempting to pick up tent pegs with his lance.

The banner features our dashing prince on the young charger.

Implementing the Constitution

For the people ...

Several people have asked me for an English translation of the expression of gratitude that I had offered to His Majesty the King during the inaugural ceremony of the fifth session of the Parliament. A busy schedule, arising from the fifth session, distracted me from translating the statement.

But yesterday, after posting the entry about the signing of our Constitution, I suddenly decided that the translation had to be done immediately. Here it is …

Expression of Appreciation to His Majesty the King

Introduction. It’s been hardly two years since the introduction of democracy in our country. Democratic Constitutional Monarchy has started off well, and as such, our country has received considerable international appreciation and acclaim for a successful transition to democracy.

But more importantly, our people are already enjoying the benefits of the new system of government.

We have been able to achieve a great deal of development within such a short span of time, because of the blessings of the Triple Gem; the support of our guardian deities; the prayers of our clergy; the good fortune of our people; and because of the wisdom, foresight and guidance of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Most importantly, it is because of the noble deeds and exceptional accomplishments of His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

To most people, democracy means that the complete powers of governance are in the hands of the people. And, that is correct. But in order to administer these powers on behalf of the people, our Constitution accredits a range of institutions. These are, for example, the National Council and the National Assembly, the ruling party and the opposition, the Lhengye Zhungtsho and civil servants, the judiciary, and the Constitutional Offices. The respective powers, roles and responsibilities of these institutions are enshrined in the Constitution.

But of all these institutions, that of the Druk Gyapo is, by far, the most important. According to Article 2 Section 1 of the Constitution, “His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo is the Head of State and the symbol of unity of the Kingdom and of the people of Bhutan.”

All of us are fully aware of His Majesty the King’s noble deeds, actions and achievements. So on behalf of the opposition party, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude by recalling a few of His Majesty’s accomplishments during the past two years. I thank the Honourable Speaker for allowing me to do so.

One: land. In accordance with Article 2 Section 16 (b) (The Druk Gyalpo, in exercise of His Royal Prerogatives, may grant … land kidu and other kidus), His Majesty the King has, during the last two years, traveled throughout our country to grant audiences to people living in our remotest gewogs and villages, and to personally experience their living conditions and greatest difficulties. [Continue Reading…]

Day of destiny


On this day, two years ago, His Majesty the King, by warrant under His hand and seal, sanctioned the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

To commemorate the historic event I visited the Tashichhodzong earlier today. In its Kunrey – the sacred chamber where the Constitution was signed and officially took effect – I offered butter lamps and prayers, and reflected on how we, parliamentarians, have served or failed our Constitution so far.

Thanking His Majesty

Earlier today, His Majesty the King was received in a traditional chipdrel procession to the inaugural ceremony of the fifth session of the Parliament.

My statement, expressing the opposition party’s gratitude to His Majesty, is available here.

Superman and the carpenter

Flying kisses

Business Bhutan carried an interesting story last week. It was about a young student’s fantastic encounter with His Majesty the King.

Here’s another story…

When Galek came home from school recently, she excitedly announced that she had met His Majesty the King. She explained that our monarch had visited Thimphu Primary School that day. And, she recounted every detail of the royal visit, from the stories that His Majesty had told them and the soelra that they had received, to the songs that they had sung and the flying kisses that they had exchanged.

“Our King told us a story about a carpenter”, broadcast Galek. “A rich man ordered a poor carpenter to build a house. And when the house was complete he unexpectedly gave it to the carpenter. The carpenter was very happy. But after a few years, his house started crumbling. The carpenter regretted that he had not built the house well. The moral of story is that we must always work hard and work honestly!”

“When our King was a young prince”, she continued gushing, “His favourite superhero was Superman!”

Later that evening, before her bath, she carefully placed two invisible objects on the dressing mirror. And, immediately afterwards, she plucked the invisible objects off the mirror and gently put them in her pocket.

Seeing her exaggerated movements, her perplexed mother inquired, “What was that all about?”

“Flying kisses”, answered Galek. “Our King blew us flying kisses. I caught two of them!”

She went on to explain that the students had blown flying kisses to His Majesty the King. He had collected all of them, promising to use them for energy while trekking across high mountains and low valleys to meet our people who live in remote villages. In return, His Majesty had given them flying kisses.

About a week later, Galek’s mother opened her closet, and discovered that her daughter had secretly decorated two portraits of His Majesty the King with her prized stickers

“The flying kisses are there,” she pointed. “They remind me of Superman and the carpenter.”

Precious gifts

His Majesty’s birthday gifts to the people of Bhutan: a vibrant media and a strong judiciary for a successful democracy.

Birthday celebrations

Sombaykha Dungkhag

Sombaykha is the latest of our country’s 16 dungkhags. It was established barely two years ago to serve the two remote gewogs of Sombaykha and Gakiling. The offices of the dungkhag, which consists of three makeshift houses, are located in Sibthang along the banks of the Amochu.

Last Sunday, on 21 February, farmers from Gakiling and Sombaykha, descended on their dungkhag to celebrate His Majesty the King’s birth anniversary.

This week’s banner features the dungkhag office. More photographs of the festivities are in the gallery.

To protect and to serve

Tashi delek!

Tashi delek!

Yesterday, during the National Day ceebrations, His Majesty the King conferred red scarves to Dasho Sangay Khandu, Dasho Bharat Tamang, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, and Dasho Dr. Tandin Dorji for their dedicated services to the tsa wa sum.


While conferring the important award, His Majesty commanded that their scarves, which represent the Buddha’s garment, must constantly remind them to serve the people with humility and compassion. And, that their swords must remind them to always defend the security of the people and sovereignty of the nation.

This is a powerful reminder to all of us – but, especially to politicians – who enjoy the power, prestige and privilege of the patang and kabney.