Thursday, February 11, 2010

Graceful Savagery! How We Retire Our Leaders

As the legendary Basdeo Panday desperately soldiers on feet ajar, one in the grave, the other on a banana skin! I am surprised that most commentators are themselves alarmed he won’t go riding silent and graceful into the sunset.  
Beyond this immediate dramatic interplay between people and a leader lies the larger painful reality that Island Politics has not yet found a healthy way to retire its leaders.  Almost to the last one, we force each to either die with boots on or go as a pathetic disconsolate. 
The rapturous When I Come to the End of My Way is not an inspiring epitaph or of sufficient comfort to anyone who has whiffed from the chalice of power and is asked/forced to breathe ordinary air again. And yet that is the easy part; it’s not only about the power thing!
Perhaps if we pause long enough to have leaders interrogate us we will hear them asking: Is it fair/just to force a leader to give up his/her position without first understanding what that position means/represents to him/her? 
Of course leaders are themselves partially to blame for their ultimate inglorious endgame because they come offering bestowals of themselves with altruism and self sacrifice for greater human good as the legitimate front, with little or no self disclosure of their urgent underlying psycho-logic needs. 
On the other hand the public is to blame also. Not only for believing the altruistic rationalizations and platitudes leaders offer; but also for embracing leadership services offered without stopping to ask hard questions re what psycho-biographical underpinnings and deep seated emotional/identity needs leaders may be desperately seeking to satisfy under the guise of ‘service.’ 
Truth is, the worthy cause a leader champions seldom adequately explains his/her passions. On the contrary, the cause often provides justification for hidden powerful emotional states of inward hunger the leader is being overwhelmed by and must satisfy/reconcile. 
For example when Basdeo Panday speaks perennially of the people’s struggle to which he is so committed those who understand him to mean what he says are fooled as much as he also fools himself. The people’s struggle to which he is ever so committed is never the cause in itself. Panday is better understood as being in fact more committed to a psycho-logic quest surrounding his sense of self and internal validation. In other words the quest/cause is his search for meaning and value to his existence. The people’s struggle is his euphuism; a vehicle for his deep seated psychological needs – Needs which he discovered find fulfillment in pouring himself out on behalf of people; because in turn he derives greater satisfaction from having people beholden to him. 
Until we are willing to understand and grapple with the real needs of leaders and are also willing to engage in searching out transactions that allow them equally satisfying emotional substitutes, it is not only unfair; but graciously savage of us to force them into retirement without understanding we are in effect asking them to ride off into self proclaimed insignificance, psychological invalidity and emotional purgatory.  Small wonder most prefer to die with their boots on, in pursuit of continuing to yet fulfill their psychological needs than accept and lend validation to their own ‘unvaluableness’ and loss of self.

Dr. Raymond S. Edwards President/CEO, MOHDC Raymond Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion: is an international development consultant and executive Leadership behavior specialist.

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