Leadership elements: Do you have what it takes when the lights go off?
Leadership elements: Do you have what it takes when the lights go off?
You look out over the horizon and see nothing but devastation. Your once beautiful city lays in ruins from (insert disaster). Behind you, you hear a rustle of uncomfortable feeling so turn on your dais, the hood of a burnt out police car. You sigh as ten thousand people stare up at you, all waiting for you to speak because it was you alone who managed to save them. Where by geographic location or medical vaccination, in secret over the last week you’ve been hiding them away to stave off the cleansing and now they await your orders. But here’s the question. Who are these people?
It must have been like in the school yard as a child when you were picking a team for a ball game. You could choose your friends and be assured you would play the most since you were the best player or you could choose the seniors and know you would win the game because they towered over everyone by a foot. The former knew you were the star and waited for your marching orders, the latter would forget you existed and never pass you the ball.
Of course there was always option c when you asked your big brother to sit on the sideline and watch so the bigger kids were forced to play nice and pass the ball every once in awhile.
So who did you save? Did you choose the girl next door who bats her eye at you when you take out the garbage. Perhaps you chose all your neighbours. Deny any of them and the others would immediately know, right?
Perhaps you were thinking ahead to the winter and the next spring and said to yourself, I can’t just choose my friends. I have to get people I can trust will work. Billy just likes to drink beer all day.
Of course, you have to trust they can work and trust they’ll work for you. Having your big brother standing next to you with a baseball bat may help for awhile, but you don’t have long to prove to your followers that you deserve to be their leader. Humans have a certain knack at weeding out the weak leaders.
Making the decision for whom shall live or die isn’t an easy task, but if you only have so much room in your bunker or so many vaccines to pass out then you better have a robust system to choose your people. Look around at your friends and neighbours and you will see a diverse collection of skills and characteristics. Do you choose your mother? I will tell you that I would certainly choose mine, but as for yours …
Like any professional sports coach or manager will tell you, you could have a dream team, but if they don’t pass the ball to each other then they’re a bunch of superstars playing by themselves. You need to craft your team with everything in mind. Every contingency has to be considered and then you have to your relievers available for every other contingency that you didn’t consider.
In economics you learn a very important rule that you should base your team making on. Imagine you have two criminals caught for a crime. Whether they committed it or not is irrelevant. They can either each say the other did it and both go to jail, both say nothing and both leave as free men or a combination of the two in which one walks and the other rots. Their team would be stronger if they both stayed silent, but fear and greed inevitably leads one if not both to point the finger. When you sit on your throne wondering who to choose, remember it’s about the best outcome for the team. You need people who will work together instead of charting their own course because in the end you have to trust whoever has your back.
Does size matter? Most certainly. The bigger your enclave the more problems you’ll have. A group of ten can be policed far easier than if you have ten thousand. The more you have however, the looser you can be on your requirements. Conversely that means if the crowd standing behind you is only ten people, they better realize that laziness, greed, and fear are no longer in their vocabulary.
As I said earlier, as the De facto leader, you are the only one. You are the dictator of the day and trust me, in the beginning, there is no question as to whether a democratic state will work. But here’s the thing, it isn’t like playing king of the hill on a snowpile. Being the King isn’t about who can push the most people over the edge or how you can entrench yourself at the top. People need leadership and that position is earned. You don’t wake up one day as a leader. It isn’t handed to you. How many times have you looked at your boos and thought, wow I’d follow you even if I didn’t work here. You’ll know if they’re a leader if you answer that question with an affirmative.
So, do you deserve it? Are you ready to make the hard decisions? Because some day you’ll have to kick someone off the proverbial island or have to choose how many people is an acceptable loss to save the rest. Sure you’ll have to decide petty squabbles of who gets the top bunk, but then you’ll be deciding who gets a bunk at all and who has to stay up all night. You’ll be providing the basic needs for what could be an entire civilization.
You are now a salesman. Others may call it something else, but at the end of the day, you are going to be selling your ideas to people. You will have to make them WANT to do what you ask of them. In fact, you have to sell it so well that they come up with the idea before you give it to them so they can have it waiting for you at your touch base meetings. Oh, you don’t like meetings? Too bad. In the new world order, you aren’t grunt on the front lines and the only way you can make informed decisions, is to be informed. Furthermore, you’ve been elevated to a position where you know a bit about everything. You better be a quick learner. And then become a teacher.
Ever taken one for the team? You’ll have to get used to it. As the leader, every poor decision whether you made it or not is now your fault. People will be looking at you and waiting for you to fail. And fail you will, but then you will have to stand tall because that’s what makes you the leader. Those selling skills you learned? They’ll come in handy when you make people love you all the more for taking it in the ear for them and coming out stronger. A strong leader means a strong team and when the team is strong you just might survive.
Remember to leave your own petty squabbles at the door and from this day forward the only sleep you get is between shifts because you always have to take the night shift… and the day shift. You’ll be on call 24/7 until the day you all pretend you’re safe and decide to revert to democracy and then your biggest task is to graciously let that authority pass to the next leader THEY all see fit.
Day one of the new calendar isn’t going to be easy. People are going to hate you even as they thank you for saving them. You are going to get a crash course in leadership and politics in the first few minutes of your fledgling civilization. Wear the mantel well and treat it just a bit like a shackle because otherwise someday someone will fall to that laziness, greed, and/or fear and decide their dinner knife looks better in your back than on their plate.
Did you choose the right people? Will you be supreme leader in ten years or chart the course to safety? It’s not something people want to think about in Western civilization, but look to the east, middle east, and Africa and you will see it isn’t just something you read in novels. And though this situation was rife with danger, there is nothing keeping you from making these decisions today. Perhaps you own your own company or manage some part of it. Do your people follow your orders because they want to or because they’re paid to?