November 12th, 2014
05:51 PM ET

Is world lacking leadership?

By Shiza Shahid, Special to CNN

Shiza Shahid is co-founder and global ambassador for the Malala Fund. The views expressed are her own. This is the third in a series of articles from the World Economic Forum on the key challenges facing the world in 2015 as part of their Outlook on the Global Agenda. The views expressed are her own.

A startling 86 percent of respondents to the Survey on the Global Agenda agree that we have a leadership crisis in the world today. Why would they say this? Perhaps because the international community has largely failed to address any major global issue in recent years. It has failed to deal with global warming, then barely dealt with the failure of the global economy, which has caused such severe problems in North America and Europe. Meanwhile violence has been left to fester in the Middle East, the region our Survey showed is most affected by, and concerned about this problem. So why are we suffering such a lack of leadership?

Well, as our governments have grown, their mechanisms have been plagued by decades of factional alignment, dynasty and deep corruption. In China, for example, 90 percent of people surveyed by Pew said corruption was a problem; separate studies found that 78 percent of Brazilian respondents and 83 percent of those in India regard dishonest leadership as a serious issue.

The deeper you go into these endemic failures, the harder it is for anyone to emerge as a strong leader; one is forced to play the game the way it’s built – which is inevitably in the interest of the system, and rarely in the interest of the people. In many countries, the only people with the institutional power to break through are strong military leaders or radicals like Narendra Modi in India. Yet, given the rise of independent and social media, populations with democratic experience swiftly become disillusioned with the excesses of these military authorities.

Why is this happening today, when we’ve had universal suffrage for over a hundred years in many countries? Perhaps we’ve finally realized we can do better. We have a surge of incredibly smart, enabled people coming out of education, building great companies and showing us the radical pace of innovation; this could explain why Survey respondents ranked business leaders second only to non-profit organizations in our Global Leadership Index. By contrast, when we look at our governments and international institutions, it is tempting to only see ritual, politics and little progress, and to wonder if these systems are just holding us back.

Indeed, the only people to rank lower than government leaders in our survey were religious leaders. Fifty-eight percent of respondents had concerns that religious leaders would abuse their positions, and 56 percent thought that they were unlikely to be of help in addressing global problems. I think there’s been such a swell in religious violence recently, with the rise of terrorism, that people are becoming wary of religious leaders and are pushing for religion to be a personal matter.

The question, then, is what skills do our leaders need to win back the confidence of their populations? The Survey respondents identified several virtues: a global interdisciplinary perspective; long-term, empirical planning; strong communication skills; a prioritization of social justice and well-being over financial growth; empathy; courage; morality; and a collaborative nature.

Looking at the person emerging from this profile, it’s not enough to simply be inspirational; the best leaders know they must mediate, listen and include the opinions of others before making a decision. Execution, team-building and delegation are key, as is the ability to remain positive in the face of adversity – the power of optimism is inspiring in itself.

Ultimately, these leadership qualities have to be cultivated. In the Survey, four out of the five regions prioritized training, coaching and mentoring as the best way to develop tomorrow’s leaders. There is a consensus that improved education of our polity will result in better leadership. African respondents also highlighted a need to involve youth more strongly in leadership development.

I met Malala Yousafzai when she was 11. She was from a remote part of Pakistan that not many people knew about, even when the Taliban took over. Six years later, they shot her for speaking up and she survived, which somehow made her into one of the most powerful moral figures of today. Now she is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

This shows us that we need to foster a culture where people see integrity and empathy as key character traits, where talent can rise up. Then the power of ordinary people will grow, great things will happen, and great leaders will emerge.

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. It's just an opinion

    Governments regardless of their underlying foundation fail due to Actins disease which is; Power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely. Until social constructions solve this equation the idea of civilization will fail. As long as power can supress people based upon arbutrary rules this will be the case.

    November 12, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
  2. Ferhat Balkan

    Corruption will always be a problem as long as we allow money into politics. Every election year, more and more money is spent on political campaigns ($4 billion this year). Much of that money comes from campaign donations invested in by corporations who have a huge steak in Oil, Weaponry etc. These corporations then call in favors from these politicians when the time is right to have things run their way. This is where corruption comes from. This is how the people loose their rights and corporations win.

    November 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
    • Philip

      What a crock of BS, Ferhat. Ever hear of inflation? A 2006 dollar is worth what a 1972 nickel was worth. Get it? Probably not. Even automobiles are cheaper now than they have ever been.

      November 13, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • banasy©

      I agree, Ferhat. The stupidest decision made by the SCOTUS since Dred Scott is Citizens United.

      November 13, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • Philip

      Only 20% of US work for major corporations, Ferhat. So much for your theory.
      Small businesses are the backbone of America. Not major corporations as the official story claims. And fools dummies. Fools them into voting for lying passed men. And a crooked woman or two.

      November 13, 2014 at 11:54 am |
      • banasy©

        This isn't what Ferhat stated at all.

        November 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
    • math class

      A candidate in 1972 could raise 1 million dollars and purchase as much TV airtime as it would cost 20 million dollars for a modern candidate to purchase.
      Elections, cars and gasoline are less expensive. Not more expensive as Ferhat suggested.

      November 13, 2014 at 6:00 pm |
      • Clyde

        He said candidates spend more and more every year, WHICH IS TRUE, you bloody retard. And it's not coming from people chipping in 5-10 bucks you bloody moron. God DAMN, you're stupid.

        November 14, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • banasy©

        Save it, Clyde. He simply does not care.
        Citizen's United was an awful decision.

        November 14, 2014 at 11:57 am |
  3. palintwit


    November 12, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
  4. Thomas

    We need more stuff !

    And we need it faster ?

    November 13, 2014 at 2:18 am |
  5. THORN

    Interesting that of all the leadership characteristics mentioned, honesty wasn't among them. We have plenty of leaders and they are all taking us over the cliff, see ya at the bottom.

    November 13, 2014 at 9:53 am |
    • Philip

      Universities don't even offer classes in honesty. Neither do most parents.

      November 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
  6. chri§§y

    Agreed @ Ferhat and @ Thorn!!! And sad as i am to say this, it is our own damn fault. We dont hold them accountable. They work FOR us, a fact that theyve somehow forgotten. Mainly BECAUSE we dont hold them accountable! Every citizen in this country, especially those that have been paying taxes have a right to call their representatives in Congress and tell them what they believe is in their best interest on the things Congress is or in most cases NOT doing when it comes to bills etc. Also we as a whole, do not educate ourselves before voting these people in! And every election less and less people even go to vote! Thats a problem!!!!

    November 13, 2014 at 10:41 am |
  7. Philip

    What a stupid question; Is world lacking leadership. There are world leaders everywhere! Thousands of political leaders. Thousands more religious and business leaders...just like thousands of tons of food that gets thrown away or consumed by overly obese nations: The problem is not in how much food or how much leadership is available. The problem is in the crooked way we go about distributing food and leadership.

    November 13, 2014 at 11:03 am |
  8. chri§§y

    Ya know @ Philip you keep on and on with this obesity issue thing. Have you done any research on the things that the FDA allow manufactures of processed foods to put in them? Theres saturated fat in most products in groceries and fructose syrup, and a number of other unhealthy things. Meanwhile the things that are healthy are so overpriced people cant afford them! Even school lunches arent very healthy! I know you and i are old school...meaning we were producing our own fruits, vegetables, baking bread etc but this country has become alot more populated over the years so many dont have space to grow their own! And families now having both parents working means less time in the kitchen and gardens. You should try a little compassion for a change and stop being so harsh! Ya might then be able to really make a difference!

    November 13, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • Philip

      Scuze me? I know all about why birth control pills are made of estrogen. Why PBA plastics mimic estrogen that causes GID. Why Chemtrails kill live bacteria that naturally fall from a cloud of dust 33,000 feet up. Why steroids and hormones are allowed in all of our foods but only in a few of our MLB baseball stars. Why neuritoxic flavor enhancers cause migraines. Why men go impotent.
      Yeahp. Know all about that stuff, Chrissy.

      November 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
    • Philip

      And what are you talking about, Chrissy. I only grew up on a farm. By the time I was 15 was eating the same crap as everyone else and still do. What I don't do is mind altering drugs/pharmacy products that interfere with REM sleep and so cause indigestion. A tuned up digestive system can handle all kinds of bad foods with no problem. And maximize what little good foods are ingested. And I cry a lot so my heart stays soft. I come here to balance out. Am here for me. Not ya'll. So ya'll can kiss my ass. Giz a rats azz if you believe me or not.

      November 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
      • banasy©

        You shouldn't wear your heart on your sleeve.

        November 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
      • Philip

        And you shouldn't bite my ankles.

        November 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
      • banasy©

        I'm not. I'm just giving you the sane advice you gave me on another blog.

        If you do not want people to actually answer you, a diary would be a good purchase for you.

        November 13, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
      • Philip

        That wasn't me. That was Barndaisy. Just like it wasn't Donna.

        November 13, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
      • banasy©

        PED, oh, it's well know Barndaisy is a moron, while Donna is not.
        So I've got that going for me, anyhow.

        November 14, 2014 at 11:56 am |
  9. Philip

    The problem is NOT major corporations. The problem is prospective leaders having huge personal and family stakes in major corporations easily fooling the average voter into THINKING corporate interests play a role. It's politicians PERSONAL interests that are at fault. So that dummies blame corporations rather than politicians who mobilize US troops to protect personal fortunes.

    November 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • banasy©

      And how do those prospective leaders having huge stakes in those corporations fool said people?
      By throwing money into the campaigns.
      Which is what Ferhat said in the first place, and you disagreed with.

      Citizens United is an abomination.

      November 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
      • Philip

        No. Not by throwing money into campaigns. By throwing words into the ears of pharmacated voters. Telling them things they like to hear. Things like you can cheat on your wife and still be considered faithful to America. BS like that. People eat it up.

        November 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Philip

        I mean like, it didn't cost womanizing Bill Clinton one red cent to recruit you and thousands of women like you to have ya'll rallying support for him. Waving your little flags around. Wearing no bras. Getting pounded at DNC pep rallies. Cute little campaign apparel. He MADE money off of you and your support. It didn't cost him anything.

        November 13, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
      • banasy©

        No, by throwing money into campaigns. You are incorrect.

        Actually, in 1992, I voted for G.H.W. Bush. Ignorant assumptions are ignorant.

        November 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
  10. chri§§y

    @ Philips 11:54 post, that is the primary reason that there are such a large number of people unemployed or underemployed. And the reason for this: is the ridiculous tax code in this country that Congress refuses to change!

    November 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  11. chri§§y

    Now THAT 12:00 post @ Philip was spot on!

    November 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Philip

    Is pope lacking leadership? Seriously.

    November 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • Philip

      I mean, it's not like the pope is Joseph Smith and can put some Coke bottle glasses on and Holy See an angel named Macaroni.

      November 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    While the world is lacking decent leadership, it is subject to bullying by the U.S., Great Britain and France!

    November 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
    • Philip

      Perhaps veto power should be stripped from them that those nations have over all other U.N. nations, Joey. Israel abstaining, of course.

      November 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • banasy©

      Not JIF @ 2:08.

      November 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
  14. Philip

    Not MILF at 5:10. He he

    November 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
  15. chri§§y

    Wow! So theres no having a civil conversation with you at all eh @ Philip? Well party on a bitter old man all by yourself!!!!

    November 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
    • Philip

      Not bitter, generally. Just in the face of such overwhelming ignorance. And not just yours, either. America got bit by the dumb bug. It used to be the love bug, but that got out of hand.

      November 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
      • banasy©

        I'm not overwhelmingly stupid enough to post my full name, DOB, and SSN on a public blog, and expect the NSA to protect me.

        I've only ever seen one person do that.

        Any idea who that might be?

        November 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Philip

      Like your comment trying to explain why people don't grow their own food anymore. It has nothing to do with there not being enough arable land to go around. It's because our financial system is designed to keep the same families of people wealthy and owning land. For centuries. Their humble servants dwell in condos and apartments. In houses that have tires attached and in government housing projects. Stacked on top of each other like cans of sardines. Except for trailer homes, unless a tornado. 🙂

      November 13, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
    • Philip

      And to be sure, I assumed it was banasy saying what you said. Had I been aware it was you would have toned it down a notch or two. Like the Joker deals with Batman more treacherously than he deals with Robin. 🙂

      November 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
      • banasy©

        Yes, because it is so very difficult to drag your eyes up to read the name of whomever is addressing you.

        November 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  16. chri§§y

    @ Philip and your 6:22 post...ISNT that pretty much what i said? And you sure sounded bitter when you said "you didnt give a rats azz if i agreed with you or not" or when you said "y'all can kiss my azz"!

    November 13, 2014 at 6:41 pm |
    • Philip

      No. You never mentioned cabbage not being able to grow in carpet on floors in the barrio. You said nothing about corn not being able to grow out of asphalt or only a few upside down tomatoes in an apartment home. It takes about 40 acres of fertile farmland to support a family of four, Chrissy. The vast majority of Americans have never even owned an acre. So we are stuck with the food "they" feed US. But will be alright if we just stay away from using drugs that cause indigestion. Really.

      November 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
  17. chri§§y

    Lmao ok i guess that was somewhat of an apology!

    November 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm |
    • Philip

      What I like most about some of you Americans, and counting present company aka Chrissy and b'banasy, is that we tend to not drag yesterdays ...ahem, misunderstandings into today. Not that we don't do it from time to time. Just that we tend to cut each other some slack at the start of each blogging session. And then those furry creatures with fangs catch the jet we are travelling on through blogosphere. Not that trolls aren't entertaining too.

      November 13, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
    • Philip

      I am apologetically challenged. Not just a mean old man. My mother almost fainted the first time she heard me apologize to my dad. I was 12.

      November 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm |
  18. chri§§y

    Lololol ok that last post was freakin hillarious @ Philip (in black) and @ Philip (in blue) @ it REALLY you??? Lmfao!

    November 13, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
  19. chri§§y

    And you wont hear me ever say it takes 40 acres either lol. We did it with 5 acres and we were a family of 6.

    November 13, 2014 at 7:53 pm |
  20. chri§§y

    Boy no kidding! The NSA has failed for over half a century to protect the citizens of this country! But boy oh boy they can spend, spend, spend! And @ Clyde...please dont include Gods name in your damnation. I do agree with your post btw with that exception. 😉

    November 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
    • Clyde

      @Chrissy, I meant no disrespect to God, but that poster is damned to walk around stupid. God knows.

      November 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • little data

        God is all powerful, Clyde. Nowhere in the bible does God claim to be all knowing, you moron.

        November 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
    • little data

      It's not the job of the NSA to protect American citizens you stupid ass.

      November 16, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
  21. chri§§y

    Lol understood @ Clyde. And as i stated i agree with the rest of your post a whole he!!uva lot!

    November 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
  22. chri§§y

    Not too mention @ Clyde, that poster is the same one that calls all americans stupid and ignorant. All except him of course.

    November 14, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
    • little data

      Accordting to the 14 million dollar US adult literacy survey, the average American IS stupid, @chru$$ty. What you got to prove otherwise? NOTHING!

      November 16, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
    • Philip

      Americans are stupid, Chru$$ty. Get a clue.

      November 16, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
  23. Pat

    Trump's admiration of Putin is badly misplaced.
    Putin is like the farmer refusing to irrigate his fields, and picking the low hanging fruits of crops around the perimeter.
    That is weakness disguised as strength, just like Kim Jun.
    Military prowess is useless except to protect meager success. Bountiful fields reduce the need for military to protect.

    July 2, 2018 at 10:55 am |
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