Power Drunk Leadership

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A by-product of leadership is power. The danger with power is that it is intoxicating. Like wine, the more you have, the more you desire. This is the reason why the term ‘power drunk’ is used to describe leaders who abuse their office or position.

Sepp Blatter, current President of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has just been re-elected for a fourth term. He has been in power since 1998 – a total of 13 years with another four year term to go. Blatter has had many allegations of corruption levelled at him during his presidency, but like the proverbial cat, he always manages to land on his feet, as well as see off all opposition to his reign. He has even managed to get himself re- elected unopposed after his challenger withdrew because of alleged corruption charges a few days before the election.

I have my reservations about leaders staying too long at the top because there is always the temptation/tendency to stay beyond their expiration date. The US presidents are allowed a maximum of 2 terms {8 years} in power to prevent the perpetuation of a dictatorship. This is because the longer you stay in a leadership position, the more comfortable you become and the more you identify with it. Leaders who become dictators are individuals who become so identified with their leadership position that they find it difficult to see themselves without it. Consequently, they fight to stay in power at all costs even when they are all fresh out of ideas and vision.

Blatter has managed to emerge a winner from the last farcical few weeks of presidential campaign but it is FIFA’s reputation that suffers. It is safe to assume that not much will change in the next four years despite Blatter’s promise to sanitise the organisation.

3 replies on “Power Drunk Leadership”

It is a good article you have written. The question therefore is how does one stay true to what is right when in power. How do people ensure they are humble, listen to the plight of the people they lead and try to help with good governance where needed.
They could always use the Mandela model of ruling for 4 years then appointing a good successor and going home.
The genuine problem with a long stay in power is the possible erosion of been held accountable. That is when the risk of a dictatorship becomes closer to reality. Thus a good leader must seek to be held accountable and continually effect good governance as well as be transparent. And also know when it is time to finish and be willing to vacate the post.
As for the FIFA problem, it would have been better to have postpone the election. Do an independent inquiry into the corruption allegations on a transparency platform. Publish the result, effect the recommendation of the
outcomes. And Blatter should be man enough to accept the findings, and if he is implicated (do the decent thing and resign). But that is in an ideal world.
It is a good article that is thought provoking, and you ought to be commended.

Thanks Vince. Yeah, Blatter can learn a lot from Mandela but his self interest will prevent him from doing what is best for his organization.

Prof, as usual, your passion for the subject matter is very apparent. I’m not sure what’s really going on with FIFA, but I certainly agree that long-term power can get very messy and aimless. It’s also strange how there was suddenly only one person running for such a popular and seemingly important position. Dictatorship in FIFA? Oh my.
Why do we keep giving the ‘drunk’ leader the upper hand?
Maybe it’s time to look at us, the followers, who empower leaders to become drunk. If a bar is closed, no drinks can be served, right? It will take some doing, but I think the concept of what leadership should include- a fresh start- needs to be driven harder into people’s minds. Maybe people aren’t desperate enough? People are praying in agreement enough? There has gotta be a way to detoxify the inebriated.
Thanks Prof.

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