“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This quote summarizes what leadership truly is. Also, it is why we, humans, succeeded in evolution, so far.
If we go back to the beginning, when we first came into two feet in a much wilder world than today’s (or may not), we could see the only reason why we thrived is that we learnt how to cooperate. Cooperation was a need to survive and, of course, we weren’t the only species to realize about that. But probably, we were the one that managed to cooperate in the most effective way. Neither were we, the only species to develop some kind of leadership. Leaders are present in almost every group of animals we can think of. And naturally emerge because some kind of coordination is needed … to survive.
Coordination is needed to survive
This said, why we humans often forget what brought us here? That’s an interesting question.
These are probably the most difficult times in the last century: climate change, pandemia, economy struggling, lack of resources… It seems we are facing a perfect storm as never before. And yet, individualism and lack of leadership are everywhere (probably with some remarkable exceptions). Exactly the opposite of what brought us here in the past.
One possible explanation is fear. Our reaction to fear, indeed. And this again takes us to the beginning of our evolution. We were compelled to defend our status quo and the most of us don’t like changes.
Changes can be risky so fear comes out, as our primary reaction
Because changes equal risks and risks can equal death. Then, fear comes out and our first reaction is thinking in terms of winners (I want to win) and losers (I want you to lose, so I can win) to keep what we have. That could explain some strong reactions against migration, helping refugees, sharing resources and others. At the same time, our named leaders are mainly managing the now, probably taking little risks and probably worried about their own future.
The point is that we need some truly inspiring leaders to keep us moving forward despite fears boosting cooperation. Leadership is about having the vision, spread the word, taking risks and, the most important thing, having the needed support to walk the talk: lead in a way that makes others join. That “for me to win you need to lose” attitude and short term vision that some of our leaders have (not only talking about politics but managers in some companies too) did prove wrong in the past and still is getting things worst in the present.
In this point, maybe the important question we all need to ask is: how can I contribute to improve cooperation? How could I have the right impact to help us move forward in these difficult times?
Will we survive if we don’t work together?