As Tunisians, we have lived for over twenty years under a toxic regime with a destructive organizational leadership style. Due to our lack of exposure to various leadership styles, we are, once again, very susceptible to fall prey to similar practices. Our citizenry still lacks the intellectual maturity, political wisdom and open dialogue found in more mature democracies. Our country cannot survive a democracy learning curve as most industrialized nations who have undergone radical changes and social and political instability. We do not possess the resources, infrastructure, or petro-dollars to endure a civil war or an extended period marred by waste and low productivity. As citizens of this tiny and tender nation, we have to be vigilant and sentient. We will not withstand another destructive, toxic, and despotic leader. Past leaders were interested in pursuing their own agendas. They were destructive because they led us to poverty and loss of human dignity. They led through control and coercion, rather than persuasion and commitment. Tyranny, dominance and despotic control were their qualities.
They were selfish, narcissistic, and in need of power. These noxious leaders never follow through their promises for their peoples’ well-being. Speeches and declarations are simply window-dressing and pure theatrics.
Destructive leaders concentrate power within a very small circle of loyalists, and avoid all forms of open and transparent teams. Destructive leaders are traditional in their thinking – command and control not empowerment and delegation, is a preferred modus-operandi. Effects of such destructive leadership are seen in economic, social, and political outcomes that compromise the quality of life and freedoms of citizens, something all Tunisians are all too familiar with. Control can be overt, as when secret or political police spy on citizens or opposition groups, or it can be subtle reminders to citizens of imprisonment and isolation when appeals for unity around a cause fails to materialize.
Other less obvious symptoms, which were exhibited recently during the early transition period, were:
- Autocratic behavior: Leadership that does not allow disagreements based on insecurity
- Personal agendas: Recruitment, selection, and promotion are based on an internal political agenda. For example surrounding one’s self with loyal subjects at the expense of others who may be more qualified for the job.
- Political compensations: Promotions and perks not linked to job performance, but to loyalty
- Inefficient use of resources: Budgets are allocated between departments or regions based on regionalism, favoritism, and power centers. Example: between Sidi Bouzid or Sousse
- Too Much Talk: Plans are heavy on talk, but not enough action. All too familiar with the M.I. lately.
- Lack of Collaboration within the government and with departments.
- Back stabbing and bad-mouthing of outgoing members. This is a practice we have seen lately in the Tunisia.
You can leave a company whose CEO is a bully, and you can ask for transferal out of a department who director is autocratic, but what other options, other than public outrage, for when your country leaders exhibit destructive traits?