Leadership in the Context of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
“let’s call a spade a spade, not a gardening tool!”
“A person’s true character is often revealed in time of crisis or temptation”. These words were uttered by the Canadian clinical psychologist and professor with his research career encompassing four stages including learning theory, social cognition, existential psychology, and positive psychology. These fields within social sciences are in my opinion the pillars of behavioral science. Behavioral science, in turn, is the very foundation of leadership and followership studies.
So why do I mention followership in the same phrase as leadership? It is simply because leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin. There cannot be any leadership without followership and there is no followership without leadership. As a Malawian proverb goes, “He who thinks he is leading and has no one to follow, he is only taking a walk”. Followers must follow with love, conviction and belief and not force, otherwise, no real results can ever be achieved.
So for those leaders – whom I rather call pseudo-leaders – individuals in positions of power in one fashion or another, leaders, who take the obedience of their followers for granted, as they have either forced, manipulated, cheated and or used ‘Matism’ and nepotism to get on top, and as for those leaders who see their position as a license to act in unchecked self-interest, enriching themselves using companies and organizations as a stepping stone and metaphorically stepping on others, without the slightest sign of sympathy, empathy and authentic care for others, this should be food for thought, and perhaps they ought to start on a value system-altering journey, and if too entrenched in their behavioral pattern, simply step aside and make room for real leaders who are altruistic and part of the core of an organization acting in solidarity.
Solidarity. The word solidarity has its roots in the Latin word ‹Solidum’, semantically referring to a ‘whole sum’; ‘Solidus’ ‘solid’, which refers to a ‘core’, an ‘oneness’, ‘cohesion’ and being part of one ‘entity’. In my previous OP-ED and the introduction of these series of columns, I presented a short poem of Saadi Shirazi, the Persian polymath who pointed out that all people are of the same body and we cannot live without each other, let alone thrive, progress and ultimately reach enlightenment and spiritual elevation via gaining knowledge, which is the true definition of ‘happiness’.
The conundrum here is that the concept of leadership as a social construct and social contract has been misrepresented. The concept of leadership is still being manipulated by those who have no solidarity and empathy for others and promote the maxim of ‘Each Man for Himself’, justifying their appalling anti-human and sociopathic behavior, oppressing others economically, physically, psychologically and otherwise.
Our perception of leadership. The way the vast majority of citizens in the world regardless of their culture, nationality, religion or ethnicity perceive and understand leadership is based on power dynamics. This paradigm has been in existence since the antiquities. Yet, with the dawn of sophisticated research and the science of psychology, behavioral science and efforts by individuals such as Edward Bernays, the father of propaganda and a nephew of Sigmund Freud (using his writings on social influence), the idea of Power-Leaders started to take hold of people in an elusive way, often using sub-nominal messaging, creating an allure about people with power and wealth, overshadowing acts for the common good. Leadership was no longer an effort for the betterment of the fellow man, but a way for self-gratification, as a band-aid for their own inadequacies and insecurities, by compensating this sense of helplessness through excessive material possession, power, call it Mammon, over others, that sometimes borderlines sadism.
The poor Sociopaths. When I see an abusive and toxic boss, someone who is trying to bully, intimidate and use others in order to keep him or herself on top, I see a weak, damaged individual, albeit dangerous, who truly is in need of help and therapy. And yet, most employees and colleagues give them room to maneuver enabling them to remain in their positions as if they are suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome. So, for all practical purposes, if an employee or a group of employees are abused by a toxic leader or boss it is almost equally THEIR OWN FAUT, since they do not oppose these quasi and pseudo-leaders by not mustering up enough courage. Standing up against pathological behavior and tyranny is not only a moral imperative but a civic duty. For silence against unethical and anti-social behavior is nothing but kicking the can down the road with a catastrophic end.
These words by Martin Niemöller, the German Lutheran Pastor was written just after the Holocaust, against apathy leading to catastrophes.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Remember, courage is not a state of the absence of fear, but still doing the right thing even when fear is almost paralyzing one. And no, having excuses such as “I have a family to feed”, or “I have a mortgage”, etc., is not a justification for silence and inaction. It simply demonstrates the highest form of cowardice, which without exception and to the tune of inevitability, always leads to one’s destruction and misery, starting with an amputated soul, leading to spiritual enslavement.
What has all this to do with the Coronavirus?
Next week, in part one, I will in a tangible way explore how authentic leadership manifests itself and how we can slowly but surely change our stars. Stay tuned.
If you have any questions and or would like to see the sources of what is being posited here, do not hesitate to contact me.