Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

What is leadership?


In this complex world of ours, the traditional and antiquated concept of leadership that revolves around the individual has become inadequate for the management of modern societies. This old conception of ‘leadership’, which took root eons ago when the peak of complexity was the mere management of tribes, chieftains and their thieving kin, needs a thorough reassessment. In those days, the overall material condition of societies was so rudimentary its technical management was more or less left to divine intervention. Today this form of leadership undermines the genuine understanding of situations whose complex dynamics are threatening the very existence of humanity.
This archaic version of ‘leadership’ with its even more prehistoric fixation on the notion of a ‘hero’ must be deconstructed if we are to tackle the complex reality of our global village. To start with, we need to differentiate between leadership that is based on the effort and capabilities of an individual and that of a group. When an athlete is dashing to break the hundred meters record, it is her and only her ‘leadership’, that is fully in charge of the given task, save the Almighty.This of course is the obvious case or in the lingua of mathematics, the trivial case. On the other hand, when the task at hand is the proposed landing of the two-legged animal on the moon, the kind of leadership required for the project, besides being more scientific in its orientation, is also of a higher degree of complexity. In this complex case we can hardly ascribe the notion of ‘the hero’ to any one individual, including, the ultimate moonwalker. Naturally, such a complex project is pulled off by a multitude of individuals working together. In this case, for example, many of the significant contributors were not even physically present, as they had passed away centuries ago, leaving their discoveries for our utility!
But our prehistoric psyche,which is still geared to ‘hero worshiping’, craves for the revering of individual faces. For the majority of people on earth the whole idea of the lunar mission cannot be appreciated ‘euphorically’ unless it is personified like that of the runner. In fact, since most individuals cannot relate to the success of such complex project ‘emotionally’, they need to project the success of the whole mission, albeit falsely, on few individuals and the globally entrenched interest gladly obliges, after all it is this vacuous ‘hero worshipping’ that sustains many global businesses; the likes of the killing industry (the military, …), entertainment (movies, …) etc.  In this case, for example it is the moonwalkers rather than those who had spent their whole life working in space science/technology that are popularly celebrated. This is one of our pathetic primordial nature and there isn’t much we can do about it, especially at the level of the beast (human mass)!
But grave problems arise when such fixation is let loose on modernity, rife with usual and unusual complexities. Almost all meaningful affairs in our mode of existence defy complete understanding by any one individual, even the best of the best amongst us. Consider the case of the “Chief’ of the most complex human society ever organized. This land sports, amongst other things,WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) like no other on our planet. Its destructive power can easily wipe out humanity from the face of the earth many times over, if done properly!
Now suppose there appears a particular and peculiar ‘Chief’ on the scene, who one fine evening decides to amuse himself and probably a mistress or two, with massive fire balls over the grand metropolis of the world. Or his flight of fancy for the night might simply be, to beat old Nero in his own game! Whatever his faulty reasoning, it is obvious the fate of humanity hangs by the thread of his sanity, which doesn’t mean much given modern man’s predilection for ‘big pharma’s’ palliatives, obediently peddled by the ever present shrinks! This Neanderthal system of ‘leadership’, which we are conditioned to worship, we believe, cannot realistically lead/ protect us in the long run; not from the vagaries of nature nor from a mishap that can easily send us to eternity on the proverbial one-way ticket! 
The above is just to illustrate that complex systems must be immunized and insulated from the childish fancy of hero-worshipping, mostly centered on individual leadership. Our complex world needs a mature and appropriate system of collaborative leadership, be it in the realm of politics, economics, science/technology, culture, etc or in short, overall human governance. It is such acknowledgement that can save us from leadership craving psychopaths/sociopaths/megalomaniacs of our world. After long years of intensive research on the matter, our resident experts of the Kebele pub houses have conjured up the following dictum: “He who craves leadership doesn’t deserve it, he who deserves it doesn’t crave it.” Good Day!