There is a global crisis of leadership. Mass migrations are underway because people are leaving badly run countries and entering equally badly run countries.
It is not surprising because of the social situation in play at all levels. It is the result of living in Marshall McLuhan’s global village in which false information spreads rapidly and pervasively.
It is not new as this quote from Jonathan Swift illustrates:
Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…
Nowadays this happens faster and is more pervasive thanks to the Internet. More troubling is the emergence of professional deceivers known as public relations (PR) specialists, or more accurately, spin doctors. The truth doesn’t need spin.
The question is: Who would put their head on the media or Internet chopping block today?
The media are not a fact-finding balanced investigative group but search for sensationalism and sales. They are self-appointed arbiters of who should win and who should lose. They are the gossips in the global village and at all levels they destroy people for the sake of destroying them.
Humans all have weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are not difficult to find, distort, or take out of context. Innuendo or inference is easy, and quickly become facts in a headline or by repetition. It is easy to destroy even the best candidate.
The internet is replacing the media as a source of information on all matters. It provides a forum for individuals and groups to attack with incorrect and insulting information.
I am not opposed to this because I believe that you cannot parse free speech. The problem is, people are unable to determine what is true or accurate. Wikipedia is a good example.
It was a good idea that quickly became perverted. For example, in the climate debate, William Connelly, a strong proponent of global warming, used and abused Wikipedia. As one source wrote:
William M. Connolley is a British Wikipedia editor known for his fanaticism in promoting the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and in censoring the views of critics and skeptics. He is the ringleader of the infamous global warming cabal at Wikipedia, a powerful pro-AGW group that has an iron grip on global warming-related articles. Any editors that attempt to introduce factual information that is against their point of view are ceaselessly harassed until they are forced to quit or are banned. Connolley--a Wikipedia editor since 2003--and the group enjoy tacit support from the Wikipedia hierarchy, who often turn a blind eye to the group's misdeeds. Lawrence Solomon said that "Next to Al Gore, William Connolley may be the world's most influential person in the global warming debate."
Canadian journalist Lawrence Solomon first exposed Connolley in a National Post article. The resulting damage to information and reputations prevents natural leaders from stepping forward.
One of the few committees I was allowed to serve on at the university involved selecting a new president. At the first meeting, we had to identify the type of person we wanted. Predictably, each person determined who they wanted based on what they had now, so the pendulum swings between problematic candidates. The person I wanted was too smart to apply for the job. The buildings were inadequate and needing repair, faculty were threatening strike, students were demanding lower fees, and government was cutting funding. Who in their right mind would seek such a position?
Nowadays the answer is at best a narcissist, and at worst a sociopath. One characteristic of such people is successful performance in interviews with narcissism being mistaken for assertiveness and confidence.
Psychologist Robert Lindner says it is much worse for a movement or crusade:
It is the characteristic of all movements and crusades that the psychopathic element rises to the top.
Lord Acton provided the most frequently used quote on leadership:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
However, what follows is rarely added and is more important because it changes the context.
Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you add the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.
So the crisis of leadership is what it always was and attracts the wrong people. Plato described the result:
Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.
The US Founding Fathers considered all these matters and created the first modern nation with a built-in structure to accommodate these problems. They were under no illusions. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Or John Adams who wrote:
"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."
Despite this, people become leaders because democracy provides the ideal environment for a narcissist or sociopath. It is made easier because attacks on potential leaders stop the smartest and the best stepping up. As Adlai Stevenson said:
“In America, anyone can become president. That’s one of the risks you take.”
It’s a terrible system, but better than the Canadian system where I am ruled by a prime minister I did not choose, who was appointed by a small group who were in turn chosen by 39 percent of the people.
Worse, all this occurred because it is what the media wanted.