Venezuela: A Leadership Death Spiral

By | May 27, 2015

[May 27, 2015] Nicolas Maduro (successor to Hugo Chavez), the Socialist President of Venezuela, is blaming “terrorists” for the country’s deteriorating economy, soaring crime rate, and thousands protesting in the streets.1 When leaders are insulated from the realities of what is happening around them – usually by well-meaning followers – combined with a strong ideological view of the world, it is common to find them in a leadership death spiral where their decisions are no longer based in reality.

Today we find Venezuela in such a death spiral of leadership and things continue to get worse daily. Some economists are saying that the country is “running on fumes” and that only through intervention by the International Monetary Fund can it remain afloat.2 There are, of course, many complex reasons for their problems and failed leadership is clearly at the forefront of the country’s problems. For those of us most interested in how senior leadership can fail, here’s where we can look for a clear example.

I’ve written about the failure of Venezuela here at on several occasions (links here, here, and here). Venezuela remains economically afloat through a combination of selling oil from its vast reserves and increasingly on illegal drug trafficking. The world aware of the Venezuelan leadership turning the country into a global cocaine hub.3 Typical of socialist countries, Venezuela operates it economy, not through the hard work of its citizens, but from exploiting natural resources; in this case oil and cocaine.

Venezuela is in the hemisphere of the Americas. It is practically on our doorstep. Bordering Columbia, Brazil, and Guyana, these countries must devote parts of their military to interdict drug trafficking across their adjacent borders. Interestingly, Venezuela devotes a large part of their military to assist drug trafficking by narco groups. What happens in Venezuela is very much in the interests of the United States and the rest of the Americas, especially Central and South America, especially Mexico. The fact that the U.S. has no comprehensive strategy on Venezuela is a big problem for the entire region.

As students of senior leadership, we will be able to see the country of Venezuela slowly deteriorate while the world watches. Very few will be willing to assist because they know the country’s leadership for what it is; ideological, immature, and unpredictable. When it fails everyone will lose.

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[1] In the past President Maduro blamed “profit hungry businessmen.”




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.