04 December 2014

I AM often asked if there will ever be a woman Prime Minister in this country. My answer to that is always no. The current system is stacked against women, regardless of whichever party they might be in. It is difficult for women to become Prime Minister on their own merit.

But it is interesting to me that people, many of them men, should keep asking me this. I think it is because people are so tired of the lack of talented leaders in this country that they want a different type altogether. And it might as well be a woman.

We only have nominal leaders, not real ones. We have people who are put in positions of leadership whether they have the talent for it or not. And unfortunately, most of the time they are decidedly talentless.

For instance, true leaders would have some vision of where they want to take the country. But more importantly, they would be able to articulate that vision over and over again so that people know that they are consistent and committed to it.

Instead, not only do we not know what the vision of our leaders are but they remain completely inconsistent, chopping and changing as they please. This confuses people, and yet they have the gall to blame others for that confusion.

Real leaders step up to the plate when things go wrong. They have personal values and principles which drive them and they are not afraid to stand up for themselves.

Thus, if anyone says or does something which they find abhorrent, they will speak out, even when the offender might be someone on their side. To them, when something is wrong, it is wrong, regardless of who does it. It is not wrong only when people they don’t like do it, and right when people they like do it.

Sadly, what we often see are leaders without principles, ready to follow wherever the loudest voices are. They actually believe that loud is might and soft is meek, and therefore are ready to sacrifice the majority for the interests of a few. Over time their consciences become hardened until they sleep soundly at night despite the many wrongs they are committing daily.

A true leader speaks no words but his own, because those are the only ones that are authentic to him. He will not speak the words of others, especially without vetting them first. He has no need for disturbing visuals, as if he was speaking to a class of illiterate schoolchildren who would not understand a single word he said otherwise. He would be wise enough to know that to manipulate people’s emotions through images is the lowest trick in the book.

No leader worth his salt believes his own public relations or basks in false glory, boosted by artificial means.

A leader needs to be clear-eyed about his own popularity, and to be humble about it. There is nothing more grotesque than a leader puffed up with pride and hot air.

Such a leader would get away with it if there were nothing to compare him with. Unfortunately within his neighbourhood he has counterparts far more visionary and certainly far more humble than he.

Unfortunately too, we live in an age where we can follow what other leaders do very closely. And then we find our own wanting.

Leadership by example is not a new concept. But what examples are our leaders setting? When they can be humble, they instead have hubris. When they can be kind, instead they are uncaring especially of the poor and marginalised. When they have the opportunity to do the right thing, they don’t. When they can be gracious, they are not.

Is it any wonder then that people learn from these examples to be arrogant, uncaring and even corrupt? When we look at the number of incidences of people being simply unkind to each other, sometimes violently, doesn’t it make us wonder why it is happening?

Could it be that unkindness is all that they see from our leaders and they therefore equate that with power over others? Rather like abused children who become abusers themselves, abused citizens are just as likely to do the same.

It is totally weird logic to say that violence in the form of draconian laws is the only way to ensure stability. This is a bit like saying that if we beat our children every day, they will become obedient. They may indeed cower in submission. But they will grow up twisted and unhappy.

Perhaps it is time we abandoned the colonial system of having our leaders chosen by only a few and chose them directly instead.