In a recent Leadership Training that I had conducted for the Insurance Sector, I opened the session by posing the “usual” question- “Who is a Leader?” to my well groomed, seemingly well informed multi cultural crowd.
And I got the “Usual” answer- “Anyone who takes people towards the realization of a common goal”. Probably they had learnt this clichéd response in school. Out of genuine curiosity, I enquired- “Any Goal, or should it be a Good one ? ”
And pandemonium broke loose.
“Good?. What is Good for someone is bad for someone else. It’s very subjective. So let’s leave “Good” out of the equation”- they chorused unanimously.
I was in a dilemma now. “Good ”and “Bad” are not subjective concepts. They are based on age old universally accepted principles. Well, some people do tend to mince their views about the two extremes of the continuum and convince themselves that Gray is acceptable. But deep inside our souls, we all know the difference between White and Black.
Lying, Stealing, Cheating, Oppressing, Being Unfair, hurting and killing unarmed/helpless/innocents……. These are bad things
Helping others, Being honest, fighting for a good cause, working with integrity…. These are good things
Someone takes people towards the realization of common “Bad Goals”. Does that make him a Bad Leader?. Does that make him a Leader at all?. What do you mean by “Ethical Leadership ?”. Can there be unethical Leadership?
After a lot of deliberating, I felt that there should be only two classifications- Leaders or Misleaders. When I aired my views, my trainees disagreed. Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush….. they came up with a long list of infamous names. Didn’t people follow them?. Weren’t they inspiring? – they challenged me vociferously.
Let’s take the case of the late Mr. Osama Bin Laden. I have never met him or spoken to him. All my paradigms are based on Media reports. And I am not 100% sure (to say the least) that the media is unprejudiced and fair. But since we don’t have alternatives, let us accept blindly what Fox News has to say.
Bin Laden couldn’t tolerate the state of affairs of the people in Palestine. He felt that America is the reason for their troubles. He decided to punish Americans for this. He rallied people to fly commercial airliners into the world trade centre. Many innocents died. He inspired people to do similar acts in different parts of the world.(Courtesy Fox News and their fans)
If we go by the standard definition of “Leader”, We will have to agree that he was indeed one. Got People to follow and achieved his goals through them…didn’t he ? But didn’t he also go against many age old values that we all accept, respect and try our best to comply?
Lying– He used the concept of Jihad to rally people around. Islam unequivocally denounces violence against innocents. Permission is given to fight only against those who dole out injustice and tyranny. And there are clearly laid out rules regarding the nature and extent of response. The Who, Where, When, What and How are inscribed on stone. He broke most of them. His battle was anything but Jihad.
Wrong Targets– He didn’t attack those who were responsible for his grievances. Hundreds of innocent men women and children lost their lives in the attacks
Though his intentions may be justified (standing up for the oppressed), his reactions were flawed, the outcomes of his reactions were disastrous and the means employed to achieve his goals were based on an excess of false rhetoric.
Even if a section of the world do consider him as a Leader, they will realize their folly the day they allow their logical adult brains to win over their blinded animal brains. Sharing the pain of the oppressed will not for ever go along with condoning the insane crimes of the so called Avengers. So let all of us who can think clearly shelve this concept of “Bad Leader” and go by the new dichotomies- Leaders or Misleaders.
To be fair,the same holds good and even better to all the so called celebrated Leaders around- George Bush, Gaddafi, Netanyahu, Tony Blair, So and So and …………No wonder *&^%! and OSAMA spells almost the same.
Unless their goals and means align with the age old principles and values treasured by our consciences, let us not dare to affix the title of “Leader” to anyone.
And let us all search hard all around to find someone who really deserves this title. Let us choose someone who the unforgiving tommorows will revere. And if we can’t find one… let’s try our best to be one. This world really needs some Leading.
Have a nice Weekend.