Ever since human beings started gathering together in couples, families, tribes, clans or nations, there have been leaders – someone whom everybody looked to for direction in terms of what the group should do.
Over the centuries, there have been good and bad leaders. Good leaders have allowed themselves to be held accountable for their actions as they have led their people to a more secure, better reality, and bad leaders have refused to be held accountable as they have led themselves to a more secure and better reality at the expense of the people they led. It’s that simple.
Right now, the world is experiencing the biggest leadership crisis it has ever had. That doesn’t mean today’s leaders are necessarily worse than their predecessors but, because the world is now more connected than it ever was, the impact they have beyond their own borders is significant. For example, previous leaders never had access to the tools that today’s leaders have which give them the capacity to influence views and events around the globe. Such tools give today’s leaders a bigger voice than they possibly deserve. Imagine if Donald Trump never had Twitter …
It is hugely ironic that, as the world has evolved to a collective consciousness that has set the stage for collaborative leadership and leadership with a higher purpose, some of the leaders that currently dominate the headlines – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and our own Jacob Zuma – display none of the characteristics or qualities of this new generation of leader that the world so desperately needs right now.
These leaders share one thing in common – regardless of what they say, they’re in it for themselves first and they avoid holding themselves accountable to the people they are supposed to be leading. Some of them may say they do, but they don’t. They do what suits them and not what’s in the interests of the greater good of their people.
Now what happens when the person at the head of a country, community or company doesn’t hold him or herself accountable?
It will take a little while, but soon those they’re leading also start refusing to be held accountable for their actions.
Now that presents a problem. You can’t expect accountability from anyone else until you’re prepared to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and statements. This applies to our work and our family life. If you’re not prepared to be accountable at work, you’re not going to be able to hold your staff accountable. If you’re not prepared to be accountable for your actions in your home, you’re not going to be able to hold your children accountable for their actions. You may be able to pull rank simply because of your position, but you have no moral authority and will get grudging respect to your face while you are despised behind your back. And your children will grow up with damaged values …
Leaders, managers and parents have failed to understand this most basic principle of accountability. Accountability all starts with you. You can’t think it should apply to others but not you – that you’re somehow exempt from being held accountable. Sure, it’s frustrating to see political leaders get away with theft, but they do so because the people they lead don’t hold them accountable.
Circumstances currently playing themselves out in South Africa right now will provide a case study of how not to do things. It will probably take a lot more time than most good, upstanding citizens would like it to take, but we need to hold our leaders accountable when they refuse to do so of their own accord. Things would be much different then.
Instead of allowing the behaviour of current bad leaders in the world or in your company to cause you to become discouraged, rather allow them to inspire you to not be anything like them. Use their examples as an example of how NOT to do things and make sure you bring about change for the better for all around you.
I urge you not to sink to the levels of small minded leaders in it for themselves but to join me in demonstrating greatness as you lead others.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.