IF you really want to know a person’s true character, carefully observe how they cope with life not just in times of happiness, but particularly during crisis.
As a rule of thumb, the same principle applies to leaders of every shape and size — whether in public affairs, civil society or the corporate sector.
Candid Comment bREZH MALABA
The Covid-19 pandemic has separated the solid leaders from the clueless charlatans. In Zimbabwe, the public health emergency has been a stark reminder that there is no substitute for competence, good governance, accountability and responsive leadership.
In all facets of life today, bogus leaders have been exposed. And I am not referring solely to political leaders — although there is no denying the fact that their deficiencies have been spectacularly catastrophic. Even in the private sector, we have seen jittery and panic-stricken captains of industry running helter-skelter like frightened schoolboys. The implications are dire.
Some companies are being tossed in all directions by the unrelenting waves of a public health emergency that has escalated to a global tsunami. But as anyone who has steered a boat or a ship through choppy waters would know, a captain’s steady hand is crucial in moments of crazy turbulence.
Already, some lazy and selfish company executives in this country are cutting corners and desperately scrambling for an easy way out. Employment contracts are violated with impunity, workers are sent on forced leave and retrenchment has become a buzzword overnight. These are the same companies whose managers had no qualms sending entire workforces into a 21-day lockdown without a cent in the pocket. How do they expect families to survive without money for food, rentals and healthcare? Some companies have done commendably well in cushioning their employees in these tough times, but they are in the minority.
Covid-19 is increasingly compelling us to come to terms with the grim realities of organisational behaviour in a dysfunctional economy. If companies and their senior executives had no viable plan for the enterprise before the pandemic erupted, it would be wishful thinking to expect them to suddenly emerge with a bright strategy in the middle of the crisis.
A crisis teaches us a lot about ourselves. At the beginning of this disease outbreak, Health minister Obadiah Moyo repeatedly assured everyone that Zimbabwe was ready to handle Covid-19. Many believed him.
They had to, of course, because in the absence of hope, life loses all meaning and we plunge headlong into the apocalypse. Today, there are very few people still willing to trust the minister. Trust is a key trait of successful leadership. Nobody trusts the authorities these days — not even the pampered elites who would rather establish their own private Covid-19 hospitals than embrace the scary idea of sharing a roof at Wilkins Hospital with the wretched povo.
The coronavirus crisis demands courage, solidarity, compassion and clarity of thought. Real leaders must step up to the plate.