Leaders at Play

In the old days, when leaders were not leading, they could play as they pleased. They were generally free to do what they wanted when they wanted. To nap as long and as often as they were tired or sleepy.  To indulge in games or in sport whenever they were inclined. To drink heavily, no matter the occasion or time of day. And, especially, given leaders mostly were men, to carouse – to bed as many women as they desired whether morning, noon, or night.

Now though things are different. Now leaders, especially in liberal democracies, have no choice. They must watch themselves at every turn. They must remember the technology – remember that their every move, their every sound might be recorded for posterity. They must remember the culture – remember that the culture no longer keeps secrets. And, above all, they must remember their followers – remember that today’s followers don’t look up to leaders. They see them as equals. In fact, many if not most followers lie in wait for their leaders – wait to pounce on their every misstep.

Consider the Brits. As I write their prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been obliged to grovel on account of his ill-timed partying. And, as I write, among the most prominent members of the royal family, Prince Andrew, a son of the queen, has been publicly humiliated, stripped of his military titles and royal patronages on account of his involvement in an American lawsuit charging sexual abuse.

Not a good look. More to the point not a good look for leaders at a time when people who are not in positions of power and authority have little tolerance for people who do.  Even under the best of circumstances – which these circumstances are not.

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