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Crisis in Leadership?

For the Romans,, gods and men, a statue was the ultimate tribute. Here we have Apollo-beautiful, gifted, poetic, healing powers, excellent athlete, lots of followers but could not establish long term relationships. Ran after everything. As a way of remembering Roman emperors, there is a list categorising them under Mad, Bad or Dangerous to Know. Many of them came to a sticky end. which means that the trials and tribulations of leadership are nothing new. In fact, throughout the ages, it has shown itself to be attractive, seductive, treacherous and an entry to the upper echelons of society.

What drives people to enter these unpredictable areas? Is it ambition, lust, greed. or as many try to tell us: a desire to do good?

Democracy was started off by the Greeks, who considered that getting the wisdom , experience and resourcefulness, of 30 good , upstanding men, would guide society and bring about prosperity, peace and stability. Democracy means ruling of the people by the people, meaning that decisions made would be for the best interests of the general population, not including slaves., of course. The idea was revolutionary. The Romans tried it, having tired of their 6 kings, and it was working well until the most ambitious Julius Caesar. who delighted in the exercise of power , riches and being acclaimed, so much so, that he declared himself tp be a god, not just because he was, supposedly,. descended from the god, Mars, but because, he considered himself to be absolutely fabulous. . Despite this leading to his assassination, the idea took hold, and his successor, Augustus, his adopted son, became the first emperor.

The emperors had a good run and lasted about 500 years, which is interesting as our democracy is only about 350 years old, dating from the American revolution of 1765 and the French Revolution of 1789. It is still a fairly new concept, but is it in danger of slipping away and allowing a succession of strong-arm . autocratic leaders seize power? Would we mind, if it promised prosperity. and stability?

According to Time magazine, 2024 means that more voters than ever head to the polls, in at least 64 countries, plus the European Union, representing a combined population of 49% of the people of the world. More will follow next year.

Sounds good, but just the simple fact of holding elections does not mean that they are either fair or free. Or that the candidates have the best interests of the general population . Taiwan's results will inform their relationship with China for the next 50 years. Russia, Iran, Bangladesh and Pakistan are not exactly known for their upholding of Human Rights and Freedoms. In the USA, we have 2 ageing narcissists. One showing signs of ageing and the other, thinks that he is running for the post of Emperor of the world..

What has given me pause for thought was a recent visit to South Africa. Having lived in Africa for about 12 years in the 70s and 80s, I am aware of the importance of tribal differences. However, it was dispiriting to learn of the massive inability to move forward.. All, I spoke to, from 5/6 different African countries, attributed this to poor leadership. 85% of 10 year old Nigerians are not able to read or write. The continent of Africa has huge resources, especially a young and growing population. Most of the workers I came across in South Africa are emigrants from the surrounding countries, Fertile Rhodesia/Zimbabwe is facing famine. Uganda, which should be one of the richest countries in the world, is totally disorganised. Sudan still experiences massacres, village burning. Rwanda, where the UK wish to send unwanted emigrants, is wild west country, with massacres and murders still a commonplace occurance. The Congo is deeply divided, Corruption is rife. Even Gabon and the Ivory Coast have serious problems. South Africa allows these newcomers to work, but does not give them official status, which can lead to them working on the dark economy. 50% of the total population lives below the UN Poverty level. This means, living in a shack with no running water, toilets, spasmodic access to electricity. There is 35% unemployment. Inflation spans from 5% to over 20%. But at least, having seen what has happened in Zaire, Zimbabwe, Sudan, the South Africans are aware of the dangers of taking retributive steps. .

There is a circle of Social and Political Development, which keeps re-occurring down the ages. It starts with:

  1. Chaos, crime, massacres, war, uncertainty, short life span.

  2. . This , it can take time, leads to the emergence of some strong personalities and/or a belief system

  3. This personality/Belief system seizes power and brings stability, punishes crime and encourages economic activity , which brings prosperity.

  4. . Things take a turn for the worst as one personality emerges, takes power, establishes themselves, their followers and family as a type of royalty, chosen by god. This brings rituals, events, sense of belonging, and people express their allegiance to the .king/queen..

  5. After a while, there is murmuring in the ranks of the nobility, who are not happy with the distribution of wealth and power and they decide to question the authority of the royals. Sometimes they are quickly dispatched and then one day, the royals are toppled

  6. It is decided to share power. -lots of idealism, a few murders and executions, but a system of power with a Senate, Council, judicial system, based on Law and precedent emerges.

  7. Alas, the nobles cannot agree and there is much jockeying for power, seizing of wealth, executions on the grounds of treason until

  8. Revolution, started by the lower and most populous groups, who have not worked out ideology. but seek revenge. Various groups attempt to seize power, back to Chaos and the cycle restarts.

  9. Having an independent Justice system. can alleviate many of the unintended consequences. The Romans , Machievelli, the story of King David in the Bible and Lord Acton have all warned that Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely/ Others add money to the equation: Potentia et pecunia corrumpunt. However, besides politics, the most obvious place to see the execution of power, with all its perils, is in the modern office. Greater power and riches are to be had here and there is less scrutiny. I was aghast to learn at a lecture by Price Waterhouse, that getting promotion does not hinge on your qualifications, experience, loyalty, reliability or dependability. Instead, it is largely influenced by the persona you cultivate. What is your general reputation? Scary but true. The modern business leader , well versed in self promotion advances with cunning, and guile,

Coming back to leadership in everyday life, it is supposed that the effectiveness of leadership is informed by the value system of the candidate. Worryingly, the Wall Street Journal published its report showing that fewer Americans than ever before prioritize family, hard work, patriotism and religious faith. These were, not so long ago, the core of the American way of life. . It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that the value system of much of the world, has become self-centered, shallow and greedy. .

However, Big Business is aware that poor leadership can be costly and experts like Robert Zeigler and others, have set out some guide lines for prospective leaders. Applicable to business and politics.

  1. Learn to research issues carefully and extensively. Listen to a variety of opinions. Do not wing it. Establish a reputation of being informed..

  2. Speak up to authority, but politely and always treat your own team with respect.

  3. Encourage the development of team members, bring in new blood, encourage diversity of opinion. Promote high performers.

  4. Before making a decision, work out the intended/expected results, by which the intended actions can be measured.

  5. Be open to review, but do not become startled into inaction by over-analysis.

  6. Never use embarrassment, belittlement, sarcasm or exposing flaws of colleagues in public. Instead have quiet, one to one, chats enabling the team member to set out their own goals. You can guide but not impose. Goals should be attainable and there should be some reward .

  7. Deal generously and graciously with dissidents. They are not the enemy. In fact , their views could be valuable.

  8. Remember the great philosopher, Don Schlitz, who wrote the song The Gambler You gotta know when to hol 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. , Wish I knew how to add a link to YouTube. Kenny Rogers has a great version.

  9. Be aware of what is going on in the world around you.

  10. Be generous...with your time, money and friendship. We are at an interesting point in our own economic and political situations. It is important that we all participate.


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