What happens when contact with reality is lost and the public ends up thinking more reasonably than their leaders?
Being a leader implies more ability and power; leaders are indeed more skilled and powerful than people around them and those who enjoy or suffer from their leadership; if leaders wouldn't be better than others at what they do, they wouldn't be leaders at all and we would have some other social structure, but one based in some for of strong or weak leadership is what we have.. Leaders usually have more culture, skills, intelligence, practical thinking and experience than others, and that is what makes them better at taking advantage of different sorts of situations and thus, they can climb up the social ladder until they reach the top. Common people expect that from their leaders and ordinary individuals always implicitly or explicitly want to know that those in charge are prepared for what they are supposed to do. What they understand as being prepared is another matter but people need to know that they are in good hands and more often than not don't even question what their leaders do; instead, they let them do whatever they say they have to do because they trust them in a way similar to the trust put in the hands of a doctor when he comes after someone falls ill in the street and says so; people just trust the man upon revelation that he is a doctor, nobody even needs to see an ID card to prove that for a fact.
That's the kind of trust that people usually feel for leaders they love or, even if that is not the case, for those leaders that form part of a system that they respect: In the last election in your country perhaps your candidate of choice did not win, but since you trust the system, you accept that person as your own. The less efficient the system becomes at delivering results for citizens, also the lesser the acceptance of leaders will be. The degree and quality of acceptance of a leader thus depends on the kind of acceptance of the system of power among those that are being led.
The normal occurrence in a leader-subordinate relationship is that people will trust their leaders and these will take decisions based on their greater understanding of things for the common good, while thinking ahead and in the future. The trust of the people comes directly as well as thorough their respect as subordinates or citizens for the rules defined for the system that contains them as a society, company, army or any sort of corporation. The normal occurrence is that people will trust the human nature of their leaders but is that confidence in the state of things really warranted?
Despite a common belief in democracy or any other power distribution system - i.e. monarchs in the past were supposed to have been anointed by God - empirical experience demonstrates that such trust must not be considered axiomatic. If you were a good religious person during those times, the legitimacy of your kings, queens and emperors became unquestionable from the moment that they and your religious leaders as well said that it was the will of God to have those personas at the helm. However, the results of their efforts at administering the affairs of each country lacked a lot to be desired at best, in many occasions, and it was because of that and the impossibility to control any of their actions what led ultimately to the surge of democracies. So, if what was once and for thousands of years an allegedly flawless power system, guaranteed by God himself proved so imperfect that it ended up disappearing, we cannot say that what we have is perfect either. In some cases, democratically elected leaders may not be able to provide solutions and in other cases, they might even be part of the problem.
And one of the biggest problems that we have in any democracy is that the behaviour of leaders and citizens is prescribed by law, but laws do not necessarily represent the common good either by mistake or intention. It is important to understand that there is a difference between what is legal and what is right, because sometimes laws are created or become the instruments for inefficiency or evil, plain and simple. The second issue is that despite what is said, we are not all equal. Indeed, the more powerful a person is, the lesser the law will really punish him if he does something wrong. True, a president might resign like Richard Nixon after a scandal, but remember that President Ford essentially pardoned Mr. Nixon shortly after his departure. Mr. Nixon never went to jail for the Watergate scandal, and only a handful of political leaders of such level ever saw the jail bars for even more serious things.
Simply put, powerful leaders tend to evade the law with varied degrees of success because even if it is not openly admitted today, they still believe for a number of reasons that they are as much above the law as five centuries ago princes and kings did, only that due to democracy, their hands are somewhat tied. Common citizens cannot evade the law simply because they don't have the power to do so. Maddoff went to jail for what he did, but President Bush, who was ultimately responsible for creating the conditions that led to the disaster that shot down Mr. Maddof, as well as for watching that people like this former market Guru and others like him, did not. No one did anything against a clearly incompetent chief of stat who also began several military campaigns around the world, did not manage to end just one of them successfully and caused the deaths of thousands in-between. You crash your car and hurt someone, and you have a really big problem in your hands; you are chief of state, kill scores, and as long as you keep some degree of power, you will be okay.
These examples prove that people should not expect that their leaders will be above and beyond their nations or corporations all the time. But since nothing is free in our world, what just doesn't work not only produces the obvious effect of not having one thing working; instead, in different fashions, other problems connected to the fact that a thing is not working arise. Lack of quality in leadership cannot be measured outside a context: If a country has a bad president or prime minister the problem is not just that things will remain slow for a while. The real problem is that competitors of that country will take advantage of the situation. If things are measured in an isolated manner, like an experiment in a lab, the whole dynamics of the problem remain hidden even if the observations are made rightly. Take for example what happens when you play football (the real one, meaning "soccer" for our friends in the U.S. who wrongly assume that their "football" is the only football): If you are playing alone and you miss the target - i.e. striking a goal - the ball will fall somewhere outside the field and you will lose a little time scouting for it. But if you are actually playing a match and you miss, then your team would have lost an opportunity and that could cost them the match itself: If your adversaries respond quickly and take advantage of the situation, they might catch your team off-balance, with players still in their attack positions and with a weak defence. Goals after blitz counter strikes are not rare in football.
The kind of organisation required to confront such situations successfully depends on the team or group leader. In the case of football, the coach is responsible for organising things in such a way as to avoid surprises of this kind and while a mistake can happen, if such lack of prevision becomes apparent over time, repeating itself, it will become clear for the public that the coach and his tactics is the problem. Some times, trainers enduring such pressure don't give in and continue thinking that theirs is the best way and just admit that perhaps they would have to change a thing or two, but results, ultimately, become the measure to judge them A clear example of this problem is seen in the case of Diego Armando Maradona as coach of the Argentine national football team: At least until just before the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, 2010, Maradona's team has proved to be the worst in Argentine football history. The public has condemned him but in his vision, they don't play that bad and only have to adjust a few things.
Maradona's job formally depends from what the leaders of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) say. His appointment is of course, related to a formal contract signed by him and the association's board of directors. However, the informal aspect of a coach's leadership should not be underestimated: If a team doesn't deliver good results, the interest of the public, particularly football fans that pay, will be eroded, and sooner or later, the lucrative advertising contracts will become less lucrative. In extreme cases, the lack of informal leadership ends up imposing the reality of the situation despite the legitimacy of the leader in a formal sense. This process has all the characteristics of a revolution.
The way in which informal leadership imposes itself over any sort of formal one has been analysed by us in other essays; the main point of this one is to recognise the fact that it is indispensable for such a "revolution" to take place that the vision of leadership that the leader has should become obsolete in comparison to the vision that the leader's followers have in an informal sense. In such cases, the informal power of the mass of people thinking against the formal leader becomes the de facto power, or some sort of diffuse, informal leader whose only attribution or function can and should be to replace the ailing formal leader because practical, day-to-day, executive leadership cannot be enforced by a parliament. When a leader starts to lag behind his own people, becomes redundant and thus a problem in itself; the sooner it becomes substituted, the better.