How Weak Political Leaders Use Fear to Fan the Flames of Bigotry
I have been reticent to write about this whole New York “hallowed ground” mosque issue, because it is such phony issue. My belief has been that it would succumb to the weight of its own dimwitted stupidity, but I guess I was wrong.
In reality, the issue is not anti-Muslim, it is anti-American. The idea of blocking the development of a mosque (actually, it isn’t even a mosque, but a Muslim cultural center) in the area of the 911 attacks is the very antithesis of what America has been and should be about. It is the wrong message to send to our friends, let alone our enemies.
However, the way some of the “leaders” in this country have taken up the mosque issue deserves some examination because it provides a good learning lesson about life and business. Those boneheaded, moronic leaders who claim a Muslim center should not be allowed in the general area of ground-zero “out of respect for those killed in the 911 attacks” are making a cynical appeal to the dark side of fear and bigotry.
Fear is the weapon of last resort used by weak, unimaginative leaders. In fact, using fear as a leadership technique is the debasement of leadership itself. Fear is what you invoke in your enemies (and competitors), not those you seek to lead. Anyone who seeks to use fear to establish credibility as a leader is deserving of only one thought – loathing! Leadership based on fear is a folly that always ends in failure.
Strong leaders, on the other hand, thoughtfully work to alleviate the apprehensions of followers since they realize that fear brings paralysis to performance. Fear confuses, it does not clarify. Fear narrows the vision of those affected and that inhibits solutions to broader issues. As Franklin Roosevelt, one of the great leaders of the 20th century noted in his first inaugural address to a panicked nation in the grips of a great depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
I don’t want to dwell on the mosque issue, except to point out that those moronic, political leaders who incite fear and paranoia for personal political gain make a mockery of America’s Constitutional (and First Amendment) promises of religious freedom and tolerance:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
Certainly, we must respect the feelings and emotions of those who lost loved ones in the 911 attacks, but we should not do so by sinking to the mindless inhumanity of the attackers. Let’s not forget that not only were Christians killed in the attacks, but so too were Jews, Hindus and yes, Muslims. For political leaders to focus fear on one faith not only violates the principles upon which America was founded, but gives credibility to those in the world who seek to paint America as anti-Muslim.
Wordsworth wrote, “What is fear but voices empty? Whispering harm where harm is not. And deluding the unwary, till the fatal bolt is shot!”
It is discouraging to see that rather than seizing upon the opportunity to show the world that America is safe, secure and strong in its belief of tolerance for diversity of belief, many of our political leaders stoop to fear mongering; only to satisfy their own self-serving, cynical ambitions. So, what else is new?
And the Moral of the Story …
It is bad enough that we have to deal with this type of shallow and superficial leadership from our politicians, but it’s even more devastating because it has direct parallels in business; maybe even your business where you have to deal with it directly in your career.
There are far too many business leaders who believe that fear and intimidation are effective tools of management. They rely on these primordial instincts in an attempt to bully their employees into following their dictates, rather than building compassion and parallel interests to earn their loyalty. These leaders think of fear as motivation. But what they fail to realize is that employees can be led to a destination, but they can’t be sent. Worse yet, fear is contagious; it spreads like wildfire through businesses. Soon, fearful employees become unhappy employees who do only what has to be done, not what needs to be done. This is the path to ultimate disaster and business failure.
If you work for one of these fearful and intimidating leaders, it is important to recognize that such a philosophy is the refuge of the insecure and weak. There is no reason for you to fear such weakness. The reality is that those who use fear as a tool do so because they are manifesting their own insecurities. As Frank Herbert, the critically acclaimed American author has written, “I must not fear. Fear is a mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. Where fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” That’s not a bad philosophy for all of us.
From those political leaders who have shown their insecurity and lack of any real character, we should take a lesson of what not to be. As a strong leader the only fear we should fear is that we fall into the trap of feeling the need to use fear to lead. And, that would be a moronic thing to do!