The Big Leadership Challenge: Saving the Human Species
Published on: 05.05.2020
By Ravi Chaudhry
Member of the 2020 Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition Jury
Author of “Quest for Exceptional Leadership: Mirage to Reality” &
Chairman, CeNext Consulting, New Delhi
It is worth reflecting how something that did not exist till a few months ago has acquired inconceivable power to humble the entire might of a US$ 85 trillion planetary economy. Nothing that the futurists could imagine had prepared humankind for such an overarching clutch that would leave seven-and-a-half billion people, so hapless and helpless, with such a sense of finality and fatality.
People in every nation are confined and isolated. Powerful governments find themselves incapacitated. The best-managed corporations are equally debilitated. The veneer of impregnable supremacy has overnight developed cracks in virtually every domain. Students graduating from universities stare into a stark future. It is no solace they join a few billion others who have been shut out of their livelihoods.
All of us who believed we knew the answers to all life’s questions – suddenly find that the questions have been changed. And yet, the erstwhile beliefs and prejudices continue to hold sway. What we know has become an impediment in being open to what we do not know.
Given our current state of well-entrenched mistrust, narrow nationalistic ambitions, insatiable greed with scant regard for others, and only a notional interest in preserving our planet, our human race is finding it tough to meet the challenge of this invincible adversary.
The adversary is not the issue. We may secure a temporary respite. But soon another one will appear, in the same incarnation, or may be a different one with even greater ferocity. And then another one.The issue is whether we realize that these epidemics, as also the acts of war or terrorism, and the typhoons and tsunamis, are not accidents or results of planetary configurations – but more an invitation from the human race, stemming from our collective deeds and misdeeds.
In effect, it is a wake-up call to completely transform human life – with a complete revamp of human relationship with nature, as well as relationships among humans. It is about saving the human species.
The key question is whether we can collectively recover from this calamity to build a new edifice of life on this planet? Or will it be back to governance as usual, fully aligned and in sync with elite capitalism?
Based on humanity’s consistent snub to address climate change concerns, there is no imminent prospect of a cogent global approach to any planetary issue. In fact, there is a palpable fear that this may be used as an opportunity for leaders of authoritarian regimes as well as many so-called democracies, to strengthen their control. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is unlikely to be a priority now, even though the numbers of the poor and the deprived will continue to swell.
This is perhaps the best opportunity to replace the current structure of post-world War II global institutions with a new post-COVID configuration of global organizations, collectively controlled, with no veto power. The best course would be for a strong group of leading nations within the G-20 to come forward with new proposals.
The rays of light that provide hope are the ones emanating from a rapidly-growing mass of civil society and business leaders and new groups of volunteers that are miraculously sprouting all over the world, generating a new agenda and new contours of leadership in the post-COVID world. These are the people determined to demolish the Coronas of today and tomorrow – the millions of new heroes embracing this 13-word unambiguous message: The obstacles to containing the Coronas lie not outside, but within our hearts.
The Corona crisis is a unique moment to redefine our notions of progress and prosperity. The ladders we use are all stacked up the wrong walls. The leadership today has two options – adapt and embrace change, or else be forced to give way to a new generation, brought up on Greta Thunberg paradigms.
The dominance of the role of the corporation is incontestably perceived as a major handicap in transitioning to a better world. To shift from ‘shareholder primacy’ to ‘planetary primacy”, an offside, part-time ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) must give way to the emergence of ‘socially responsible corporations’ (SRC) – a tangible shift from CSR to SRC.
Irrespective of how efficiently we scramble national economies back on track – we cannot ignore that no country or region can hereafter be an island of seclusion; we will either all grow, or we will all perish.
Incrementalism and a mere tinkering with policy frameworks would not work. A transformational shift is necessary in the way nations are governed. Resolution of the global problems can only come through a sense of ‘shared global responsibility’ which is possible only if accompanied by ‘shared power’. Sovereign viewpoints need to yield to global perspectives, anchored on the ‘shared belief’ that there is more that unites the world than what divides it. Shared initiatives, in an environment of trust, with give and take attitude, are the only way forward to save the human species.
Of course, it is difficult, but it would be relevant to recall Edwards Deming’s words: “Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival.”
Ravi Chaudhry is a new-age counsellor and consultant to global corporations and governments, on ‘Strategy, Agility, Mindfulness, and Governance’.
He’s also a member of the panel of judges that will select the winners of the 2020 Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition in the categories of the Youth and Adult competitions.
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