Lack of good leaders is not just an American or British disease. Nor is it only the fault of those who would lead. Leaders need followers, peace-loving people who understand the need for authority. But the followers have discovered Democracy. Now the voters, and that includes those who cannot yet vote but rightly think they should be able to, are out for blood – in Hong Kong, where the pursuit may have painful consequences; in Russia, where such behaviour is outlawed.
‘Liberalism,’ says Mr Putin, ‘is outmoded, finito. We don’t want any more of this human rights rubbish.’ Of course Mr Putin is wrong, unequivocally so. So why do I have a sneaking feeling that there is a tiny element of truth in some of what he says? I want liberty, freedom of speech, choice for all, without question. But they all require restraint or their excesses will destroy society. A community that caters more for the lowest of our instincts than for our aspirations to create and appreciate the finer things of life is already on the road to self-destruction.
New media like Facebook have precipitated the popular insurrection. Facebook is now symbolic of the real power of media. Where we might have said ‘I saw it in the newspaper, so it must be true’ we now say ‘I saw it in the social media, so it may be fake’. It is not positive, decent use of the media that has caused the trouble but rapacious use of the facility to promulgate fake news. What does that tell you about what is needed in leadership today?
First, it says that we need leadership that is moral. The world is fast losing its moral compass. That used to be part supplied by religion. For some it still is, at least on the Holy Day. For others, religion has warped into a worship of money. That denies morality. Morality is an old-fashioned word, but watch for it to come back into circulation. I dare say it will even appear in annual work appraisals some time, initially rather cynically, I expect, but later, maybe with meaning. Morality about money, about climate, about truth, about our treatment of other people, about future generations – morality of all these is essential if we are to sustain humanity.
I have a sad summary of our perspective today: ‘The more we can see into the future, the less we care to look.’ Are we fearful of the decisions we must make for those who follow us?
Second, we need leadership that gets to the heart of the matter. Much of our communication today is jargon, designed to impress, mislead and, eventually, sell a product, service or idea. I recently attended a Famous University’s basic seminar on cybersecurity. I didn’t expect to understand everything that was said, or even perhaps most of it, but I found myself completely flawed from the first sentence. Later, I studied the charts that had been shown. At the time they had been illegible, with over 300 words on virtually every chart. On examination off screen, they were quite understandable – completely different from the words spoken by the presenters. If the charts had been shown as communicable pieces, all would have been clear.
In this case the heart of the matter was what they needed to communicate. If only they had said it! And that is the problem with today’s communication – it is fundamentally unsound. I don’t know who writes the instructions for handling one’s bank account but they have not learnt that success means that the client can actually do it. Or does it – from their point of view? If the answer is ‘no’ we are in deeper trouble than even I thought.
In his seminal article ‘Why democratic government is showing strains in the US and UK’ in the Financial Times of 27Jun19, Martin Wolf provides a clear picture of why society is in decline in both countries. He lists fifteen possible reasons why things are going wrong politically, socially and economically. They are all interrelated. I strongly recommend that you read this article if you have not done so. It is the best bit of common sense I have seen in a long time. I would sum it up as ‘fundamentals are being ignored’.
The fundamentals I refer to are  the purpose of our existence,  the way to achieve fulfilling and rewarding lives without their being at the expense of everyone else,  the best use of our resources both personal and collective,  the way to contribute to a future for our followers that helps but doesn’t spoil them. It is time we started asking the next generation for their answers to these questions. They need to know.
Life is complex now. We have made it like that, or if not actively done so, then allowed it to happen. Unless it is ruled by these fundamentals, its complexity will destroy our ability to live together.
If the population of the planet was still just a few million it might not matter.
As it approaches 10 billion it is key to survival.