Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Leaders We Deserve - A Reality Check

Many articles and blog posts are written on leadership. Often interesting articles. And I read them and the embedded advice. Articles focused on an ideal world. Articles mostly aimed at businesses. Well meant articles, yet, in my opinion, jumping too short.
Also, and daily, I hear that we are all connected. It’s true. The connected world of virtual social networks. Information available at our fingertips. Cocreation and Cooperation on a global scale. And information is happily shared, even personal, private details. Ecstasy about the perceived limitless possibilities of the connectedness through social networks. And it culminates in “Everyone can now lead”. Can it get any more naive?
Beautiful new world, or is it? … emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.
A reality check:
When you are on virtual social networks, you are the product. Meanwhile some people at least understand that concept. Yet, you are not just the product. You are shamelessly exploited. Every piece of your data gets scrutinized. You are under permanent surveillance of the service provider (fill in any name of these tech companies). And of course you are under permanent surveillance of the governments. You are the victim. You are a data slave. And you are definitely not a player. If you believe you and the other victims can lead anything, start critical thinking please.
Remember the “Arab Spring”? The so-called “Facebook Revolution”? That doesn’t do justice to the people. If anything it was a revolution of people and for people. Unfortunately, people naively using facebook and twitter, easy targets for surveillance. People, who admirably fought for their rights. Yet, they never had a chance.
We cannot just ignore the reality and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s a different game being played by our assigned leaders.
How does it look like:
It’s a complex environment. And complex environments are by their nature fragile, ambiguous, uncertain, and volatile. And we experience this every day. Yet, only few people seem to understand what that means. The rest seems to be in a neverending dream.
We are in a world where states and state leaders play geopolitics. We are still in a world where the name of the game is world domination. We are still in a world of aggressive behavior and winner takes all. A zero sum game. Technology is used as means of power. We are still in the world of the “old guard of leadership”. Leaders in charge in Governments and corporations with no character. If necessary they walk over dead bodies. It's nothing personal they say.  And it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Unless the game is changed.  
This game is played at different levels.
The big players are the US, Russia, China. They play in a different league than the rest. And it’s about using power. Power to secure resources. Power to control the access choke points. Power to control the strategic positions. There can be only one … meanwhile these three are creating precedents. The world is divided into spheres of influence. Of course, there are some runner-ups eager to play a role as well. Those are still kept in check.
Example Ukraine: This game started already a longer time ago. It began with Ukraine becoming an independent country. Something Russia never liked. They accepted it grinding their teeth. And it was clear that Russia would never accept Ukraine one day becoming a NATO member. Russia would never give up control of the Krim peninsula. That would be a major strategic mistake. After all it used to be part of Russia.
The western leaders didn’t seem to understand the situation. Or they couldn’t care less. Russia was no longer a superpower. Whatever Russia said in the past was dismissed. Until now when Russia acted upon their interest in that power game. And no one really cares about the people. They are just used. In this case and in all other cases. Like Syria. Pieces on the game board.
Take a look into corporate world. Look at the big players. What’s different? Nothing. It’s part of that domination game. Just have a look at the wording used. Very similar and often the same like in the military. Or what did you think for instance “strategy” comes from? Dominating the market. Being the undisputed market leader. Conquering markets and market share. Hostile takeover. Does it ring a bell already? The patent wars. Seed patenting, GMO, to effectively taking control of the food chain. Whatever could be used to destroy the competitor will be used. Whatever could be used to control the masses, mass media for instance, ... you get the picture.
It’s an economic system condemned to growth. Businesses must create a steady growing profit. Hence, businesses must grow. Market share must be conquered. You must outsell your competitor. Hence, reach the overall  growth and profit goal of the company. It cannot be done with just the friendly approach of the savvy and helpful salespeople. Your competitors do the same. There are many out there. They want to win the same prize. The real game in sales is between you and your competitors. And the goal is to knock out your competitors. Frontline sales gets quite another meaning, doesn’t it?
That’s reality. That’s the game being played. A massively multi level multiplayer role playing game. The question now is for how long more this game can be played.
The most important question is however to you: Is that the world you want? Is that the world you want your kids to grow up? A world where leaders don't give a damn about sustainability. A purposeful system where a few are having it all. And meanwhile millions of newborns and kids die starving. That tells you what the priorities of the existing leadership are.
Mankind got always the leaders it deserves. Always. Check history. Yet, I think there is no need for history repeating itself again. I think there is another way.  And for that we need a different breed of leaders, true leaders, people with character and the courage to lead. Leaders taking responsibility for others serious. I think these potential leaders are already out there waiting.
It’s up to you. You can either accept the status quo of our world, or, you can do something about it. Emphasis on do, an action verb. The question is whether the pain is already big enough.
Leadership is a choice, albeit a tough one. And you choose.

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