List of good leaders is receding

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Growing up, I had two sets of world leaders hovering around the edges of my adolescent reality: a set with hair, and a set without. The hairless men (they were all men) were in charge of a country cut off from the world where they locked up people for little reason, whereas the men endowed with robust follicles were known as the leader of the free world, even though they were only in charge of one country.

The names of the men without hair were fittingly short — PW and FW — whereas in the hairy group one name in particular — Bush — stood out. Hair and no hair. A free country and a captive one.

Also part of my adolescent experience was the news that some people have leadership qualities, and others don’t. I also received the startling revelation that some people, men in particular, were simply “born leaders”. Prefects were chosen on this innate ability to lead — an attribute closely tied to academic results and overall presentability, which I could only but assume were part of the leadership package. (Bad skin concealed whatever leadership qualities I may have had. I wasn’t someone my fellow pupils would look up to — or even straight at.)

I think it’s safe to say the world is experiencing a leadership crisis. They certainly don’t make them like they used to.

Much like his bald forebears, a bald man with a vegetable-shaped head had done untold damage during his reign here. In the land of hair, a leader with a yellow tint is doing untold damage there. (Our current leader has, what you might call, a receding headline, which is better than his predecessor’s, but still heading in the wrong direction.)


Britain has no leader to speak of and I wonder, is that such a bad thing? Let it run for a while and see whether things get better or worse. If leaders are chosen, at times for their looks, at other times by the money they can raise, do we need them? Are we that bad at decision-making? Or is it responsibility — the timeless appeal to sit back and say, “I wash my hands of this.”

A while ago I attended a yoga class where, unbeknownst to me, chanting was part of the offering. At the end of the class, I chanted under my breath with the rest and then listened as the instructor asked us to sit still and “send positive energy to the leaders of the world”. I sat dead still and sent all the energy I could muster. I sent it to them as a collective, not picking favourites or hoping.

Donald Trump was elected leader of the free world shortly after that and the talk of state capture in South Africa had just begun. My — our — positive energy seemed to have made things worse. I firmly believe the problem didn’t lie with the energy, but with the recipients. I think it bounced off of them.

Of late, I’m directing energy to those around me with a little going to myself. Not saying anything about the yoga class, I’ve had much better results. My life is manageable; the decisions I make are sound. As far as my immediate surrounds and circumstances go, I’m a leader in my field. 

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Hans Mackenzie Main
Hans Mackenzie Main
Writer/Columnist at Mail & Guardian

Related stories

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

Masterclasses in duck-and-dive

You didn’t need to be a genius or a prophet to predict that Bushiri would run or that Zuma would stall

Our world needs empathetic intervention — not heroes

The pandemic has reminded us of interconnectedness and that we need to see the world from various perspectives, especially in case studies

Bye-bye, Don. But is this the end of Trumpism?

If it hadn’t been for Covid-19, Donald Trump might have won the presidential election. Almost 48% of voting Americans believe in his brand of democracy, equality and justice.

The decline and fall of the South African auditing profession

Its reputation is not being helped at all by the crisis at its independent regulatory body

Will Biden and Harris help us breathe again?

The United States’ newly elected leaders, Joe Biden and Kamala Devi Harris, must help recalibrate a global politics of hope and empathy
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…