Follow-the-leader can be a dangerous game

2012-04-09 07:00

Chris Moerdyk

I think it would be pretty safe to say that not many people in the world today have too much faith in their leaders.

So many political leaders, business leaders, sports leaders and even church leaders have been exposed as greedy, corrupt and quite literally exposing themselves, that society is battling to find someone to trust.

The real problem, however, is that when leaders set bad examples, there are vast numbers of followers who just blindly follow suit.

I got an e-mail from a reader a few days ago, about those policemen who died in a road accident in Amamzimtoti 10 days ago.

He wrote: "Perhaps those policemen would not have died had they been wearing seat belts, as required in law.

"It annoys me to see police drivers flaunting the law every day, by disregarding this important and very visible law. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the Road Traffic Act that permits police not to wear seat belts whilst driving. When I challenge police drivers at red robots about not wearing seat belts and illegally using cellphones while driving, I'm either ignored, or get abuse in return."

It goes beyond that.

When I was in the corporate world I worked for a company that spent vast amounts of money on rah-rah programmes to inspire employees and improve attitudes and productivity.

They all failed dismally. Why? Because the big bosses didn’t feel the need to participate. They put themselves above it all with the result that not a single employee actually bothered to take it seriously.

Leaders need to lead by example.

Policemen who feel they are above the law, disregard stop streets and don’t wear seat belts are not leading by example. Sure, they can argue that they don’t wear seatbelts because they need to be able to get out of the car fast. But, no-one knows that. All they see are the people who should be upholding the law, breaking the law.

Politicians sitting in their big fat cars belting through heavy traffic with blue lights flashing are not leading by example. They are simply displaying fat-cat power, arrogance, disdain, superiority and heavens know what else.

If companies that quietly come to an arrangement with a senior executive who has been caught with his hand in the till and who agrees to leave quietly in exchange for a hefty golden handshake so as not to tarnish the company image with controversy and court cases, are not behaving like leaders.

They are behaving like cowards and criminals in fact, because not reporting a crime is a criminal offence.

They are not leading because everyone on their staff knows full well that the fellow who suddenly resigned had done something wrong.

Sportsmen and women who indulge in match fixing are not leaders. They are criminals setting very bad examples.

And frankly, those highly paid footballers who behave like drama queens on the field and spoilt, arrogant celebrities in public, are not leaders.

They are corrupters of the worst kind because children idolise them.

Role models seem few and far between nowadays.

When you analyse it all, it is quite difficult not to come to the obvious conclusion that the crime, corruption and immorality that is pervading society today caused by leaders not leading.

I think it’s time that the media stopped just referring to all and sundry as leaders and thought of a more suitable title for those who do not lead. The only word I could think of was "arse".    

  • Judith - 2012-04-09 08:47

    I totally agree with you. The lack of real leadership is producing a fall in moral standards all over. It shows up in our bad driving habits which daily cause collisions because the laws are broken; bad education because teacher don't bother to be on time or be prepared. It's there in our lack of competitiveness because failure to be productive means products are highly priced. Most of all it shows up in bad or no service delivery resulting in filthy streets, broken sewers and disease.

  • Malans - 2012-04-09 10:25

    Well said Chris. We have a massive problem in this regard. Far too few people set a good example these days and the line between right and wrong seems to be blurring. The pervading sentiment is that "it's OK if you can get away with it", even if you know full well that it is wrong. I'm afraid it is all going to come crashing down at some stage.

  • Roger - 2012-04-09 13:25

    Spot on Chris. Seeing a metro traffic policeman or woman driving with an elbow out of the window and no seat belt on sets the tone for the driving population. What exacerbates it is that if the upholders of the law do not set the example, who does? Well let's consider this: if no one does, that means that "might is right", so the taxi drivers-and others-set the standards through bad driving and aggressive behaviour. Instead of best practice we have worst practice and the lowest common denominator prevails to influence our driving habits. It then becomes ingrained and even a part of our culture. By the way in an interview about leadership, Stephen Covey (Author, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)said that the highest form of leadership is "personal moral authority".

  • James - 2012-04-09 14:15

    When your "leader" is a DNA Challenged, "Spread the wealth" Saul Alinsky Marxist you have a problem. Hence $15 TRILLION deficit + ailing Economy + huge growth in Federal "Jobs". RSA is beyond comprehension.

  • Michael - 2012-04-13 20:58

    Well done Chris Moerdyk, a great article. So true! For me, it starts at the micro level, the father and mothers' leadership roles within the family unit. A few vital components required for a leader, courage, integrity, honesty and vision, to name a few.

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