A leadership crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic

A leadership crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic

German chancellor Angela Merkel. Image for illustration purposes only.
German chancellor Angela Merkel. Image for illustration purposes only.

As the pandemic has swept around the world, many countries have realized that they are led by mediocre, malicious, or downright clumsy individuals. Today, there is a leadership crisis, one which hinders the reaching of a comprehensive global agreement to fight back the ramifications of the pandemic. Very few leaders have risen to the occasion, let alone those who have demonstrated a real ability to motivate and stir society in the right direction, towards a safe haven.

Across many nations, various citizens believe that they are governed by people unprepared for commanding and taking decisions in a risky climate plagued by uncertainty.

We do not live in the era of brilliant leaders, rather it was an improvisation scheme that prevailed and the leadership crisis we are witnessing is also manifested in the inability to achieve something that is crucial in a situation like this: a common front. The problem affects humanity, but so far, in many cases, individualism and selfishness have prevailed. Creativity is also necessary, but so far the response has been more tinged with authoritarianism.

The leadership crisis: for some, a dilemma that does not exist

Many governments have spoken of the “economy vs life” dilemma when referring to the mandatory quarantine measures taken, including the abrupt suspension of economic activity. For many, common sense leads to the assumption that there is no dilemma: life is a supreme value, and the decision to preserve it must prevail above everything.

The fact is that most leaders are leaders only in certain circumstances. If reality plays a trick on them, they no longer know what to do and, in many cases, they try to recreate a situation which they are accustomed to.

There are extreme cases, such as in the United States, where citizens are advised to “stay out of the news” as not to get stressed and try to continue their usual lives. On the other hand, in Ecuador, with hundreds of dead on the streets, people wanted to continue to deny the gravity of the situation.

Galloping corruption

If in the public sector mismanagement prevailed, in the private sector, we have seen how some companies took advantage of the situation to try to maximize their profits. This has led some states to regulate the price of certain consumer goods, such as masks.

Europol has also discovered more than 2,000 websites marketing fake and even dangerous drugs believed to heal against the novel coronavirus. In addition, computer crime has exploded. Thus, one could say that a chunk of the private sector has taken a reprehensible direction.

On the other hand, in some countries, deep corruption within the state has been highlighted. In Colombia, for example, where hundreds of thousands of people are in their 40s, and as hunger among the population reached a record high, some government officials have increased the price of essential goods.

Lack of authority and creativity

Many world leaders today have power, but no authority over their people. The leadership crisis manifests itself in particular in the mistrust that many societies show towards those who govern them. Sometimes, because they see them as corrupt, sometimes because they don’t show particular virtues, and sometimes because of their blatant clumsiness.

In the current crisis, most governments have followed a plan, with no real plan. Previously, quarantines were decreed and their variations were only the result of the desire to reactivate production from an innovative perspective.

It is obvious that the situation has taken everyone by surprise and that we are only beginning to react to it, but there are still no signs of creativity among many leaders.

Some companies have even been more proactive than many governments. In Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), for example, some “gangs” have decreed quarantine, due to the reluctance of President Jair Bolsonaro to do so. In other countries, individuals have started to produce breathing apparatus, disinfectant gels, or masks to make up for lack of those essential commodities.

The current situation has tested the ability of leaders and many are not leaving it unscathed. One does not yet know how the world will get out of this situation at the end, but changes in the configuration of power are to be expected.


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Yassir Nahil
Mr. Nahil is a professor, writer, and researcher in governance and competences engineering at the Faculty of educational sciences, Rabat, Morocco.