Before I start, I apologise....RANT ALERT.
Is it not fair to expect our leaders to be the custodians of good leadership principles?
Seriously, is it really that naïve to expect honesty, integrity, fairness and a smidge of emotional intelligence from the people in charge?
From Presidents, heads of state and politicians to the likes of Barbara Judge, the chair of the Institute of Directors or the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, it would appear – if allegations are true, that ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene is more likely to be on their bedside tables than the words of Stephen Covey, John Kotter or Patrick Lencioni.
What goes around comes around.
A recent BBC Newsnight investigation has revealed some atrocious behaviour in Westminster with JB accused of bullying and BJ has recently resigned after the IOD HR department found allegations of harassment to be true. Who knows what will become of the current President of the United States.
Of course highly important positions of power bring incredibly difficult challenges to handle. That is the very reason the roles are so highly paid and only the best people for the roles should be granted them.
My point is this; ‘the best people for the roles’ should be able to lead effectively. According to 40 years of detailed studies into this field, Messrs Kouzes and Posner still find honesty, integrity and the ability to ‘do the right thing’ among the most admired traits of great leaders.
Why then does it seem these traits are sorely lacking in many of our leaders today? How do these people find themselves in positions where they can abuse the power they are given to the detriment of other human beings? Why is selfishness and a lack of mindfulness so prevalent ‘at the top’?
Will they never learn?
There is a current trend in the world of Human Resources towards equality, fairness and diversity and the voice of students in America to tighten gun laws has been heard loud and clear. Yet Donald Trump can stomp on people at will, the whistle has been blown on sexual harassment of Clerks in Westminster and Jamie Carragher can literally spit in a child’s face.
Is it just that these things have always happened but that today’s increased media noise in the world amplifies them? Is it that humans find sensationalism so addictive, we crave opportunities to cheer at the gallows? Or is the world actually, changing for the worse? Do people really care less about fellow human beings than their own success and glory these days?
I suspect both are true to a degree. Modern society condemns medieval cries of ‘burn the witch’- but is happy to publish and cheer on ‘Snowflake’ abuse of millennials.
Where is the kindness? Where is the humility to rise above being abusive?
I believe the changes required must start at the top – and the middle – and from the ground up.
Everyone one of us (human beings, that is) must see life as an opportunity to develop. To build our own emotional intelligence at work, at home and in public so our interactions with other human beings bring about positivity.
We need to create virtuous behavioural patterns, not vicious ones that bring disgust, harm, death and destruction. We all have our part to play but change is required at the top. That’s not a political statement, by the way, it’s a human statement. We must make our leaders aware that they have a deeply human responsibility to uphold exemplary behaviours – including making mistakes – but having the humility and courage to admit mistakes, go vulnerable and then work hard to make things right.
After all, that’s the only way to build trust.
Tony Kerley FCIPD FIntLM teaches Exemplary Human Resource Management as well as commercial Leadership and Management skills for the 21st Century at Westminster Kingsway College. He has also run multiple successful business and consults to all sectors through www.contigoassociates.com