Citizens in so many countries are frustrated and even angry. Sometimes, and in reasonably good faith, these people have gone to election polls to vote on progressive policy which hopefully address issues of inequality and greed in the past. They put their faith in the said good intentions of party leaders, only to be disillusioned over and over again through selfish and inconsiderate leadership – government officials lining their pockets with the spoils of tax money, a lethargy (even negligence) in service delivery and incestful positional appointments that display no process transparency or honesty. Regional and local leadership seems either powerless or incompetent to carry the concerns and feelings of ordinary people to a central government forum and even if issues are raised, the pleas for help and action seem to fall on deaf ears. In “ignoring” what the population is saying, leaders are out of touch and end up not dealing with a “country reality” that is potentially becoming toxic. These same leaders live in a rarefied air that keeps them cocooned from the underlying emotional reality of day-to-day life in the cities and rural areas of the country. They are out of tune with country emotion.
People are patient up to a degree, then “enough is enough”. The marches, riots and uprisings in so many countries point to a growing dissatisfaction of this disregard for the “voice” and heartbeat of citizens. People are tired of unethical behaviour, mismanagement of central and regional funds, bad example and an apparent deafness to their concerns. They want good leadership – a leadership that cares, invests tax money in infrastructure development, health, education and other projects, with the ensuing creation of jobs and further opportunity. They want service delivery – a government doing collectively for the citizens what they can’t do alone. They want to be able to trust the good intentions of those in power, especially the police, and be able to observe some level of servanthood amongst the “civil servants”. They want good leadership.
When leaders in government don’t listen to the country emotion, don’t act on concerns, selfishly look after their own interests and turn a deaf ear on the pleas for help from their citizens, they breed a toxic environment. In such an environment, people lose hope, lose confidence and lose the will to play their respective parts in contributing to the economy and growth of the country as a whole. These destructive habits in a country’s government create a culture in which people stop questioning how and why things are done and merely try to muddle through life, hoping that one day, harmful attitudes, policies and practises will eventually be resolved. Frighteningly, because leaders in government sense the need to protect themselves and cover up for toxicity, irregularity and bad leadership in the higher echelons, they systematically discourage attempts to improve and grow the underlying culture, further exacerbating the poisonous nature of this culture.
The leader that doesn’t listen is emotionally unintelligent, selfish and arrogant. The leader that has a heart to listen, who cares and realises his/her servant role, however, can take on the emotional reality of the country and lead the country into a different future. This listening leader realises that emotional intelligence competencies are necessary to capture the hearts and minds of the citizens to get the country’s people collectively working towards development and growth goals. The leader thus fosters emotionally intelligent leadership widely and deeply at every level in government structures to systematically develop norms and a culture that support truth and transparency, empathy, integrity and healthy connectivity. The values embedded in the Constitution are upheld and compliance is encouraged. Any misconduct is dealt with swiftly and in accordance with the law and judicial system. Fair and transparent practises become normal behaviour and confidence is re-instilled in the population.
Government leaders need to listen. The above-needed transformation begins with officials who are open to the truth, who can understand and act on the emotional reality of the country and who can engage its people in a compelling vision of their own future.