Oh Not Trump again!
Why is it that someone like Donald Trump does seem to appeal to something good in people? Is it his decisiveness, his calling things as they are, his stated commitment to do whatever makes most sense – whether it does or doesn’t is another day’s work? However frightening the future looks under his leadership, there is something fresh about his ‘commitment’ that he will do what HE thinks is right and best whether that is pleasing or acceptable to everyone or not. I know this is equally frightening.
I could take the same question from the opposite side around Fidel Castro. Why does someone who overthrew a regime that turned a country into a playground for the U.S. and its people into prostitutes and slaves, stir up so much hostility in so many? Could it be because we don’t want to hand over that kind of power to any one person? That we prefer so-called democracy, which we know doesn’t really work at all, but are reluctant to let go because of the illusion that we still have power to decide?
Democracy my Eye!
Personally I believe our multi-party, image based and media dominated form of democracy is fundamentally flawed but that is not where I want to go with this. I want to ask about leadership and versions of it that we tend to equate with autocracy or dictatorship. Ultimately what we need and are after is some kind of process that will lead to the best direction or way forward for whatever entity or institution we are talking about. Both in politics and business there seems to be a pretence at consulting and involving people while the real power and decision making lies elsewhere. In both cases, the political and the business, it is the worst of both worlds. People feel manipulated but feel they have no choice but to continue playing the game. Decisions are made without getting the valuable contribution of people.
That Rock and Hard Place
It can, however, feel like being between that rock and a hard place. If we go to the rock-side of so-called democracy, we fear we will end up in chaos, rabble-like power that will take us over some nearby cliff in a frenzy of headless people power. The hard place of dictatorship looks equally frightening and handing the world over to Donald Trump looks like taking us even closer to the cliff-edge. What to do? Damned whichever way we turn.
Take heart. The answer is always the same. It is to refuse to go the either-or route and insist on and stick to both-and. What this means is that we do both. We involve people to the maximum and listen to them and take on board their views and needs. And, equally, we hand over the power to take decisions to one person or group with the right and the responsibility to do the right thing. We give them the right to decide and do what they deem best in light of what has been agreed as being right and best for the institution and beyond. (This, in fact, is the Cuban version of democracy!)
A Very Heavy Load!
Would this not put a huge onus on the leader?
Yes, it would and that is what leaders are for and is what great leaders have done. And they do it not just because they have been given a mandate for a few years to take some decisions but because they represent what has been agreed is right and best and are entrusted to enact this far greater and much deeper mandate. This goes way beyond following populist lines that will ensure re-election or endorsement but gets to and touches people in ways that allowed a Fidel to do tough and unpopular things when needed in the greater interest of the overall.
This also involves the leader being always in touch with people and with what they want and need and equally in touch with themselves and with their own deep values and aspirations. It is this dynamic that leads to directions that truly are right and best. Less polemically, a bit like Gorbachev and Mandela achieved. It is this criterion for decision making which emerges from this way of thinking. NOT just what people want. NOT just what a leader wants. But what is right and best…for everyone. This is the wonderful calling of the leader – to be in real touch with his or her people and their needs, aspirations and welfare and equally in touch with their own deep aspirations and values as a human being. It calls for a new way of leading, for a new way of managing to be human.