Word from the CEO

Yolan Friedmann

The world has many challenges facing it right now, and life is not easy for almost anyone anywhere. No matter how diverse the problems are, they are all characterised by a single factor: a deepening and widening lack of ethical, honest leadership. From the Ukraine – Russian war; to corruption and the collapse of South African SOEs; the lack of service delivery; human-induced climate change; the poor management of the COVID pandemic, and the shocking decisions in the USA to reduce a woman’s right to govern her own body whilst at the same time reducing the limits on carrying handguns in public in New York, leading to “a significant increase in handgun license applications” (Observer, 6/27/22)….  The list is endless. One can hardly think of a political or institutional leader with the faith and trust of their people right now as communities increasingly lose hope that their futures are safeguarded by those they elected to protect them.

How did we find ourselves in a global crisis of the decline in the legitimacy and credibility of leadership almost everywhere? In nature, leadership is earned, after hard and often damaging battles are won, where one’s right to lead is earned by a show of strength, tactical brilliance, commitment and courage. All of which only has meaning because it demonstrates one’s ability to protect, safeguard and ensure future life in the herd/pack /flock you will lead. And leadership is temporary. For once you fail, once you are weak, once you cannot defend, protect, feed, lead or secure the future of your followers, you are out. You do not retain your position through a rigged election or well-funded campaigns, and you cannot continue in a position of power if the future of your followers and the survival of your species is at risk by your actions. Selfishness is not rewarded, and personal gain is punished in a world where leadership is a great responsibility awarded to only the finest and for only that time in which they can prove their worth to the larger group. Every single day.

So how does the most intelligent species of them all find itself in a position where our leaders may well be our downfall and the biggest risk to the future of humanity?  Of all the distinctions between humans and the rest of the creatures on this planet, this is the one that puzzles me the most. It is as if we have lost our ability to understand the most basic of all things required from our leaders and to choose them based on millennia-old criteria that really only focus on the survival of the species as the prevailing goal of all leadership.

In nature, leadership is determined entirely by the willingness of followers to be led by that individual. And what makes other animals fall into line and follow their leader? They will follow a leader they can trust to keep them safe, fed and protected; a leader that has their back at all times, a leader that acts with the best interest of the whole; and can demonstrate on a daily basis their ability to sustain the future of their species. This may require tactics like nurturing relationships, creating alignments, choosing allies, fending off enemies, following ancient traditions and demonstrating power through elaborate rituals or combats. And winning the position of leadership will most often then mean less sleep, more courage, a willingness to fight and often. Facing risk, enduring injuries, and often being quite alone.

It seems to me that human beings are doing it quite wrong when it comes to the most fundamental survival tactics of all times: that of choosing our leaders. And the proof lies in where we find ourselves as a species, with all our hardships and difficulties, all of which are entirely manmade. How did the most developed, intelligent species on earth get this one survival tactic so wrong? It is time to revert back to the hardwired expectations of leadership that are engrained in our DNA and to choose a new generation of leaders to demonstrate the kind of behaviours that will sustain our species. At the end of the day we really are just that: another species on this planet. And one which seems to have lost the instinct for survival that is so strong in the wildlife that surrounds us.  It’s time to look around and learn.

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