Leadership: Character + Circumstance #4 #cong21


Leadership is not lacking in the modern world. It just happens to most often be exercised by individuals other than leaders. The pandemic gave us many examples of contempt by leaders and leadership failures. Neither will serve us well in the coming decades.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Not all leaders exercise leadership
  2. Technology will make no appreciable leadership difference
  3.  “Do as I say not what I do” politics and leadership is increasingly not tolerated
  4. All elected positions should have a constitutional right for citizen recall.

About Colum Joyce:

Colum Joyce was born in Connemara and worked for 20 years with DHL where he served as the chair of the DHL Global E-Business group and the Europe / Africa sub-group.

After completing a 5 year rural assistance project in Connemara he moved back to Brussels. There he is an advisor to the EU Commission and engages in research on subjects such as climate change, Carbon taxation, logistics, system resilience, environmental policy, and consumer behaviour. His latest study is called Consumer 2030: The Dark Carbon Challenge.

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By Colum Joyce

Leadership can be broadly defined as the ability of an individual or a group to formulate positions, design actions, and influence followers or other members of society/organizations to carry out required actions and conform to the outcomes.

There are multiple types of leadership as is illustrated in the diagram below. Most leadership involves one or more of these depending on the situation/society within which it is being exercised.

Leadership is distinct from a leader. Not all leaders exercise leadership. This may be due to a lack of personal capacity, political circumstance, or coercion.

As governance structures are more or less societally specific great differences exist and will remain in the future. Pressing existential issues such a climate change are likely to erode the ponderous democratic processes of liberal democracies in favour of policy and process models that more closely resemble the rapid and rigorous policy responses seen in China.

This will inevitably impact the type of leadership style and content necessary to address the emerging issues being faced nationally and globally. How that change is managed is likely to be one of the most pressing and divisive socio-political issues of the next decade. Tailored local restructuring and not global governance convergence will be the hallmark of the future sociopolitical system.

Any idea that technology will make a meaningful contribution to governance and leadership in the coming decade is doubtful. Artificial Intelligence is too immature, data is too sparce, governance too lax, leaders too technically illiterate and platforms / exiting embedded interests too strong. This is best illustrated by the fact that global “leadership” supported by the most advanced technologies cannot even arrive at a simple agreed price for carbon or agree on a carbon tax for aviation or transport.

And of the future? If Covid should have taught existing and aspiring leaders anything is that there is a distinct social intolerance for “Do as I say not what I do” politics and leadership. What is sauce for the goose is socially expected to be sauce for the gander. Example, not exception should be the behavioural norm in politics and organisations. It may be time, based on the evidence of the last 18 months, to introduce a constitutionally embedded recall mechanism that adds a new level of governance rigor to leaders and leadership.

Perhaps then deeds will more consistently match words.

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