[May 13, 2020] Watching the news on television and reading local newspapers, I have become saturated with health professionals, politicians, and pundits that are encouraging fear. It matters not where I go for information or about what is happening anywhere in the world; there is a steady drumbeat of dire predictions that the world is about to come crashing down on us.Note
This blaring of doom and gloom is not new. Thomas Jefferson, in 1774 often complained about local, small-town leaders who could whip up the population into a frenzy over the smallest things. They are “peddling fear” and he thought they should know better and be more honest and straightforward about their thoughts on government.
We often hear about existential threats. Climate change will eventually drown us all if something is not done immediately. China will rule the world with its dominating economic system and military expansion. Disease and pestilence will wipe out the human population unless action is not taken to solve some specific problem. The steady stream of “news” about what will happen next appears to be unending.
What is most disconcerting to me is that senior leaders in all realms of our society and at all levels are participating. Whether it is a politician from Washington D.C. or a councilperson from my township, I hear that I’m needed to instantly engage myself to end a problem I don’t understand. It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand, just rally around the cause, and all will be good. I’m being misled, and I know it.
This effort is a regrettable leader trend that will have unpredictable future outcomes. Distrust of leaders has been building in the West for many decades now. Some say our leaders have betrayed our trust and are acting selfishly and “what’s in it for me” attitude that purveys all segments of our communities. Poor leader skills have added to the problem.
There is a crucial lesson for leaders. Be responsible. Tell the truth. Be humble. Those leaders who spread fear (as well as hate and panic) lack the most essential leadership principle. Leaders must be principled, transparent, loyal, open, and trustworthy if they are to be believed. Those same leaders have a simple choice. Be part of the problem or be the solution.
Note: This article is part of a long-running series on leader trends. I recommend the reader use the search feature to hunt them down on my website. On another note, I often write about “fear” and its impact on people (see a few at these links here, here, and here).