Quran mentions Abraham and the prophets of his period as example of good leaders. “And We saved him and Lot and brought them to the land which We blessed for the peoples. And We bestowed upon him Isaac, and as a grandson, Jacob, and We made all of them righteous. And We made them leaders who guided people by Our command, and We sent revelation to them enjoining the doing of good works, and the observing of Prayer, and the giving of alms. And they were worshippers of Us alone.” (21:72-74) These verses point out that a leadership beneficial to people provides freedom of conscious, freedom to engage in social services, and economic freedom to benefit the society. A beneficial economic system should help facilitate the attainment of these objectives. People must be able to earn enough and then be free to spend their hard-earned livelihood for the benefit of their close relations and fellow human beings.
In later period, Moses and Mosaic dispensation guided people, receiving enlightenment from their Creator. “And We did give Moses the Book—be not therefore in doubt as to the meeting with Him—and We made it a guidance for the children of Israel. And We made from among them leaders, who guided the people by Our command, whilst they themselves were steadfast and had firm faith in Our Signs.” (23:24-25) True leadership on earth seeks and follows heavenly enlightenment with conviction of heart, standing firm against opposition, persecution and oppression.
Quran gives the example of Pharaoh and his colleagues as one of the oppressive leaders. “We rehearse unto thee a portion of the story of Moses and Pharaoh with truth, for the benefit of a people who would believe. Verily, Pharaoh behaved arrogantly in the earth, and divided the people thereof into parties: he sought to weaken a party of them, slaying their sons, and sparing their women. Certainly, he was of the mischief-makers. And We desired to show favor unto those who had been considered weak in the earth, and to make them leaders and to make them inheritors of Our favors, And, to establish them in the earth, and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts that which they feared from them” (28:7). Arrogance, creating divisions and oppression are mentioned as the negative aspects of the leadership of Pharaoh. These are the traits that lead to disorder, chaos and wars. “And We made them leaders inviting people unto the Fire; and on the Day of Resurrection they will receive no help” (28:39-43). Wars in these times bring destruction by fire as a result of flaring divisions among people.
In response to the arrogant and oppressive ways of Pharaoh, Moses is directed to be civil and courteous in his dialog and dealings with Pharaoh, eliciting the contrast between beneficial and harmful leaderships. “Go, [Moses and Aaron] both of you, to Pharaoh, for he has transgressed all bounds. But speak to him a gentle speech that he might possibly heed or fear.” [20:44-45]