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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We face a catastrophic crisis of leadership

The 2015 Survey on the Global Agenda revealed that 86 percent of the respondents strongly agree the world is facing a ‘leadership crisis’. In the top worrying global trends survey respondents cite ‘deepening income inequality’, ‘persistent jobless growth’, ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘the weakening of representative democracy’. 

It is eminently clear that we are living in an epoch of unprecedented global peril. Violent extremism is on the rise. Poverty, inequality and haplessness are ubiquitous. Infectious diseases are re-emerging and non-infectious diseases are surging. The catastrophe associated our addiction to carbon looms large. The universal march of freedom and civil liberties is halting. 

Unequivocally, we are seeing a catastrophic failure of leadership from the family to the global stage. The calamitous dearth of leadership is reflected in the pitiful state of the human condition everywhere. The youth are staggered by the gusts of jobless growth. The old live in despair overwhelmed by the pace of change in world that is changing at a dizzying pace. 

In Africa, we occupy the front row seat of dysfunctional political leadership exemplified by runaway official graft and state incapability. Citizens are either delusional or indifferent. Power hungry politicians lie, cheat and use violence to cling to power. Citizens have decomposed into subjects and leaders have metamorphosed into monarchs. 

I challenge anyone to name an individual or society who can rise to grapple with the common tribulations that confront our civilization today. We are long on egotistic bluster and geo-political power games but woefully short on global consensus and leadership. 

That notion that the principles of leadership are immutable and based on timeless truths is fundamentally questionable and specious. Talk to the leaders of the cold war era or the ship builders of Glasgow and they will tell that this epoch is a bewildering in its volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Leadership in this moment is in every sense unlike models of leadership in the eras past. 

The perils and opportunities that define this age – volatile, globalized hyper connected epoch – demand that we question the foundational notions of existing models of leadership. Look at our pitiful galaxy of so-called leaders today, these men and women deserve nothing but derision and infamy. They souls are darkened by greed and self-idolatry. The unprecedented global peril underlines the catastrophic crisis of leadership at multiple scales – from the self to the global stage. 

Leadership today must be about collaboration and consensus building. Leadership is about collective creation, rather dominant inspired individual visions. Leadership in our time is about generative listening, tuning into the future seeking to emerge. 

The leader in this age is not the omniscient alpha male with a baritone standing at the head of following humans.  The leader in this age is the person who in collaboration and through consensus guides from the side and inspires all of us to dream, learn and become our best selves. 

We can only hope that such leaders will emerge to answer the call of history.

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