Simply holding a position of power does not make a leader
What if I tell you that every human is a leader?
I’m sure many of you would agree with me, as we humans are truly leaders in our areas of work, livelihoods, and taking our lives forward. For centuries, the corporate and business sectors and the military have been training up their personnel to become leaders so that everyone carries on the legacy of progress. This isn’t new. However, that leadership is meant for contributing to the progress of society, of the human race.
However, how would the leaders perform or show their true leadership skills during a crisis? Good question.
This pandemic has come as a crisis that we have never seen in our lifetimes. It has shown us how important the roles of national leaders are. First and foremost, the national leaders, elected by the people, needed to understand and realize the damaging ability of coronavirus when it sprouted and transmitted to human bodies in China.
Many leaders, like common people, thought it was a normal flu that would go away after a few days.
When it reached Italy, most of the national leaders were still unsure about what to do; they still couldn’t fathom what was coming. But when the virus started killing the Italians, many heads of states understood that this virus wasn’t just a localized one; it was going to globalize itself and may infect billions.
These groups of leaders took immediate measures in order to protect their people, even in the face of an economic meltdown.
Many elected leaders still didn’t foresee the pandemic. The reason was simple; they lack vision; they lack the ability to anticipate the future; they were still prioritizing the petty gains in their local politics. The people responsible for their monitoring and analyzing mechanisms haven’t performed very well. Even if they did, the leaders didn’t care to listen to them.
One unique example was the US. The president was talking all day, but he was seen not sure about what was good for the people, how to save the citizens. He was seen indiscriminately blaming anybody and everybody except himself. He was also seen always arguing with the media. On the whole, he didn’t seem to know what message he would send out among the citizens.
One just cannot become a leader by holding a position in the seat of power. Leadership has its own ways of speaking for itself. Leaders don’t fight with the citizens.
The Filipino and Brazilian leaders were the examples of the ones who were not really prioritizing the safety of the people.
On the other hand, if we look at the prime minister of New Zealand, she is always in touch with her people and advising them what to do during a pandemic and how to save themselves. She, in her social media videos, looked very informal but totally in control about what to say. At the same time, she was also informing the people of the safety as well as the financial measures that her government had taken in order to come out of the crisis.
Right now, there are a handful of leaders like her. The Australian prime minister, the German chancellor, the Taiwanese president, the Canadian prime minister -- all have displayed brilliant compassion towards the people they lead. They were all trying to save lives.
Leadership can not only save lives, it can also save the economy and businesses. The pandemic has devastated businesses and companies across the world. People were losing jobs and those who had jobs were feeling scared to go to their workplaces. An enormous number of employees still face an uncertain future.
Most of the companies were quite harsh in laying their employees off; they didn’t show an iota of compassion towards them. This is where leadership comes in. The wise CEOs and business-owners across the world, and there are many examples, have radiated compassion through their actions and messages, and those companies are, I believe, likely to sustain throughout this calamitous time.
The CEO or the MD is the leader of a business fleet. He or she needs have the vision, on his or her toes with wartime positive spirit, have the situation analyzed, create a crisis-time business continuity plan, have the mental health of the employees in mind, ensure the health and safety of workers, take extra measures to ensure health and safety, make sure that the employees get their salaries on time, create an environment so that the sick can seek proper treatment, and communicate compassionate messages to the employees.
These are what the employees expected from their leaders during the crisis.
Many business leaders across the world have successfully displayed their compassion towards employees, but the majority have flunked.
There were many companies which actually increased the salaries of their employees so that the workforce was much more motivated to work during this gruesome crisis. And that worked. These leaders were quite successful in saving their businesses.
It was the quality of leadership that mattered during this all-encompassing crisis. We would certainly see the definition and nature of leadership change from now on. The leaders who fail to shower compassion towards the lot they want to lead will surely not be welcomed any more.
We hope the journeys of the true leaders will begin now.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a communications professional. For his other works, you can visit ekramkabir.com.