As Tunisians, we have lived for over twenty years under a toxic regime with a destructive organizational leadership style. Due to our lack of exposure to various leadership styles, we are, once again, very susceptible to fall prey to similar practices. Our citizenry still lacks the intellectual maturity, political wisdom and open dialogue found in more mature democracies…
Our country cannot survive a democracy learning curve as most industrialized nations who have undergone radical changes and social and political instability. We do not possess the resources, infrastructure, or petro-dollars to endure a civil war or an extended period marred by waste and low productivity. As citizens of this tiny and tender nation, we have to be vigilant and sentient. We will not withstand another destructive, toxic, and despotic leader. ZABA was an egotistical maniac set on pursuing his own agenda. He was destructive because he led us to poverty and loss of human dignity. He led through control and coercion, rather than persuasion and commitment. Tyranny, dominance and despotic control were his qualities. Through the jasmine revolution we rid ourselves of this venomous waste, yet the danger still lurks. The men and women that comprised his well-organized and well-funded system still, by in large, roam and terrorize our streets. They are the ministers, the clerks, the customs, the teachers, the mayors, the police, the shop owner, and everyone in between.
So allow me to shed some light on what constitutes a lethal and destructive leadership, in the hope that this time around, we might be better educated to identify, and deal with it, if it appears again.
A few of the characteristics of destructive leaders are their selfishness, narcissism, and personal need for power. These noxious leaders never follow through their promises for their peoples’ well-being. Anything done in that arena is simply window-dressing and pure theatrics. In the case our departed fallen leader, the long-term well-being of the Tunisian society was never part if his plan.
Other common symptoms of destructive leaders include empowering a very small circle of loyal followers, and precluding development, sound structure, and the absence of horizontally ordered executive organization. Destructive leaders are traditional in their thinking – command and control not empowerment and delegation is a preferred modus-operandi. Effects of such destructive leadership are seen in economic, social, and political outcomes that compromise the quality of life and freedoms of citizens, something all Tunisians are all too familiar with. Control can be overt, as when secret or political police spy on citizens or opposition groups, or it can be subtle reminders to citizens of imprisonment and isolation when appeals for unity around a cause fails to materialize, as the case of the 26-26.
Other less obvious symptoms, which were exhibited recently during the early transition period, are:
- Dictatorial behavior: Leadership that does not allow disagreements based on insecurity
- Personal agendas: Recruitment, selection, and promotion are based on an internal political agenda. For example surrounding one’s self with loyal subjects at the expense of others who may be more qualified for the job.
- Political compensations: Promotions and perks not linked to job performance, but to loyalty
- Inefficient use of resources: Budgets are allocated between departments or regions based on regionalism, favoritism, and power centers. Example: between Sidi Bouzid or Sousse
- Too Much Talk: Plans are heavy on talk, but not enough action. All too familiar with the M.I. lately.
- Lack of Collaboration within the government and with departments.
- Back stabbing and bad-mouthing of outgoing members. This is a practice we have seen lately in the Tunisia.
My fellow Tunisians, we must not tolerate bad behavior and destructive leaders. We will have wasted a perfect revolution. The blood of our friends has not yet dried. We must not forget the last 23 years. We must collaborate, educate, and build cohesiveness among all segments of government and our society. There must not be division in our ranks that will weaken us and strengthen those seeking to control our destiny. As Gandhi said “we must be the change we want to see”.