a reminder that democracies are very fragile configurations
Following Jonathan Swift’s satirical example of a “modest” proposal, this paradoxical article examines the question of having leaders for life. Throughout, it employs the tools of satire to outline the presumed advantages of a leaders-for-life system, revealing that, in reality, it is fraught with danger. In a circuitous way, the article makes clear that having leaders for life is an invitation for social unrest and economic decline. By presenting a number of examples of leaders for life, it becomes clear that the overriding concern is the ever-present danger of the abuse of power. Without the existence of term limits, there will be an increased prevalence of rights abuses, secret or arbitrary arrests and detentions, restrictions on freedom of expression, and police brutality. Furthermore, it is suggested that kleptocratic practices are par for the course.
In addition, the article describes how aspiring leaders for life try to circumvent democratic practices, by choosing ways of intervening that makes it appear as if citizens have choice. In this day and age, leaders who want to stay on for life tend to resort to more indirect methods to get their way. They have realized that banning opposition parties, dismissing the legislature, locking up, or even murdering opponents, doesn’t make for good public relations. It is noted that although it may appear that having leaders for life seems to be a thing of the past, the motivation to do so is still very much alive. Leaders in many countries, attracted by the sirens of power and wealth, will go at great length to keep their positions. Given the ease by which countries regress, this article is also a reminder that democracies are very fragile configurations.
INSEAD Knowledge, 2020
"Fairy tales for today’s executives"
This working paper looks at how fairy tales—when applied to the realm of executive leadership—act as a shortcut to moral lessons, illustrating the dangers of leadership and various ways in which executives can derail.
Published on 6 Mar, 2015
"How to groom organisa- tional stars"
This working paper addresses nascent stars: What makes those that turn into butterflies so special? What makes them so successful? What are the qualities that turn them into top performers?
Published on 5 Jul, 2010
"Profile of Vladimir Putin"
This paper compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to effective business executives, studying his performance through the same lenses used to assess CEOs of large corporations, and reviewing the degree to which his various constituencies are satisfied with his performance.
Published on 6 May, 2005
"Dreams as entry points to executive subconscious"
This working paper addresses how leadership coaches should also pay attention to their clients’ dreamtime to help executives with their journey into their own interior.
Published on 14 Feb, 2014
At this critical junction in the history of humankind, leaders that are proficient in magical thinking aren’t going to solve our problems. Creating alternative realities is not the answer. We need a very different kind of leadership―leaders who can resist the calls of regression and whose outlook is firmly based in reality. We need leaders who analyse and draw conclusions from, or use their own experiences as a development tool, face their strengths and weaknesses, and critique their own experiences in order to build new understandings.
Published on 30 Nov, 2020
"Psychological profile of successful CEOs"
In this interview, Kets de Vries draws on three decades of study to describe the psychological profile of successful CEOs, exploring senior executives' vulnerabilities, which are often intensified by followers' attempts to manipulate their leaders.
Published on 17 Nov, 2004
"Leadership by terror: Saddam Hussein"
This working paper investigates leadership by terror, a form of leadership that is both an ageless phenomenon and a contemporary problem.
Published on 1 Apr, 2003
"Leadership lessons from Alexander the Great"
This article explores what makes for effective leadership and what contributes to leadership derailment, using Alexander the Great of Macedonia, as an example.
Published on 1 Jun, 2003
"Profile of a group leadership coaching approach"
This paper describes the unique leadership coaching approach which focuses not only on what is directly observable, but also on out-of-awareness behaviour.
Published on 1 Jul, 2008
"Identifying and dealing with SOBs"
This working paper explores ways of identifying and dealing with SOBs—Seductive Operational Bully—from an organisational and individual perspective, and recommends a clinical orientation to organisational diagnosis and intervention.
Published on 1 Jul, 2012