Leadership -There has to be a better way?


 If the term” leadership comes up in a conversation, it is likely to evoke a strong reaction. It would seem almost everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, we are tending to witness widespread negative connotations to its effectiveness today from such discussions.

Comments such as “Where are the leaders from yesteryear?”, “We lack leadership in this country” and “We do not have confidence in our leaders in this organisation” can be regularly heard. We have entered into an era where a collective approach to decision making is demanded. It seems to have led to a wave of populism, detracting from good leadership being practised.

There can be no doubt that the significant casualty for leadership has been the erosion of trust; this has occurred across the spectrum. People will no longer follow where mistrust is present. Lack of consistency of behaviours and action has added to its demise.

Why is it that something we have relied on its principles for thousands of years has rapidly diminished in the eyes of people and seems to be in such a parlous state? It should be noted that the term leadership is not solely the domain of politicians but concerns many other sections of our society.

I advance the proposition that we no longer seek leadership in its current form. That is, the conventions that have been traditionally used are no longer acceptable to people. There may even be an element of us only accepting leadership on terms that suit our requirements.

 The momentus world events we have witnessed in recent decades necessitates a different approach, more in keeping with how we live today.

In recent decades global, rapid movements have taken place in economic expansion, technical innovation and social change. The changes seem to have caught governments and organisations flat-footed regarding how to lead their countries and respective organisations into the future. It would appear many appear to be trapped by a sense of inertia brought about how the world now operates.

The advancement of technology has changed how we communicate with each other with the reduction of traditional face to face interaction, creating an alternative dynamic. The dissemination of information is almost instant, creating an environment for people to express their respective opinions never witnessed previously.

The introduction and development of social media have profoundly impacted how we communicate and interact with one another. While we can point to several positives regarding its presence, it has created several challenges to leadership. Its unfettered ability to distribute material that may not be based on fact and purely opinion has produced much instability worldwide. For leaders from all persuasions, strategies are required to handle these situations. Please make no mistake that this is now a permanent part of our landscape.

One of the more pleasing aspects of social change has been the realisation of historical issues that have produced inequality in various situations. These have occurred both in our national life and practices that are no longer acceptable.  Positive leadership by individuals and groups have been responsible for those advances.

The individual leader will only be successful if he or she can grasp the principles of respect for all, equality, empathy and the ability to demonstrate the consistency of their behaviours. Only then will they be able to build a platform of trust which is sustainable.

Asking the question “How do you want to be led” might be the key to unlocking the key to the answer, which to this point, has evaded us.

The other part of the equation will be to instil a sense of `mutual obligation regarding acceptable behaviours and accountability from audiences.

Opportunities will present themselves to introduce meaningful change, which will introduce leadership models in keeping with today’s world. In 2023 we will see the beginning of one generation’s transition to another when the Baby Boomers head into retirement. While we may lament the loss of experience but perhaps it may remove some views which have been halting progressive change.

Rebuilding and redefining leadership status is one of the world’s most significant challenges of our time. It will not be achieved overnight, but taking the words of anthropologist may hold some truth.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Always remember that you are unique, just like everyone else.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

Margaret Mead

Being a realist, I am aware not everyone will embrace the sentiments expressed here, but as my title states, “There has to be a better way”?

Kenneth Wood

April 2021