Since the 20th century, when intellectual leadership began to take on greater importance, a great deal has been written and discussed on this concept. So much so that some people think they are being original when they talk about it in their texts. In fact, all they do is repeat the same thoughts while adding semantic twists that merely serve to say the same thing, no matter how hard they try to pass it off as new.
This article discusses the concept of a new paradigm that refers to old formulas but applies them to a new period of time that has been defined by the consequences of the pandemic. Beyond this historical event, the rest of the content covers perspectives that have already proven their worth in other time periods. It is wise to be able to diagnose and apply remedies by understanding how to read situations. And that is precisely the lesson to be learned from what happened in the Basque and Galician elections in July. Leadership is now observed and defined by those who are led, who have decided on the basis of certain criteria–called ‘messages’ in political language–that will identify the leaders of the coming decade.
Election results will determine the fate of leadership, and leaders who seek to continue as such need to take notice. The message has been sent at the ballot boxes in two regions, but it would be a regrettable mistake not to apply it to other spheres, to other realities, whether business, social, or any other.
Three criteria have defined the new leadership paradigm: transparency, reliability and security.
The first, transparency, involves demanding a leader who can deliver. Charlatans who use words skillfully together with indecipherable and at-the-same-time seductive expressions are no longer worthy. It is no longer enough to say what people want to hear.
The second is reliability, which stems from the leader’s record throughout their leadership career. This variable emphasizes those who have met expectations, even if not everyone likes them. Familiarity prevails, even more so in the new norm. People no longer want to rely on alternatives that are unknown or based on change. Fear of surprises has taken hold; the need for constant change has been replaced by the comfort of what already exists. Years ago, the desire to change at any cost, to change for the sake of changing, prevailed in decision-making. If you don’t change, you’ll become obsolete, disappear, and so on. Today, leadership is more about security than adventure, about keeping what you have, even if it is not the best, than about risking the unknown if it causes unforeseen alterations to the norm.
And the third criterion is security, which augments the positions of reliability. Leaders need to offer security, to alleviate the fear that is ingrained in a society that has become vulnerable, that has seen how human beings are weak in the face of nature.
Putting these variables together, the conclusion is that both Iñigo Urkullu and Núñez Feijóo offer transparency, reliability and security to their citizens, and that is why they received a majority vote. Plus, their political parties, PNV and PP, are leading brands in their respective regions. Combining the leadership of the party and the individual leadership of the person who represents it in an election reveals the keys to the decisions made by the Basque and Galician electorate. I trust this party and this leader, they make me feel safe, they are transparent, they have not failed, and right now it is best not to change for the sake of changing, rather to stick with what we know, with what has worked. These are some of the thoughts provoked by Iñigo Urkullu and the PNV, as well as by Núñez Feijóo and the PP.
A final thought on a concept that arises after combining the three previous variables, which will have great repercussions in the coming decade: authenticity. What it means to be an authentic leader. It is about originality; the origins. Now we look for authenticity in the roots, not in the stems or leaves.
Authenticity must be looked at from three perspectives:
Emotionally: Knowing how to recognize the leader in their response to events. There cannot be any contradictions between what the leader does and the emotions they elicit.
Behaviorally: Humility and learning out of habit.
Socially: Seeking the success of others.
To conclude, the fact that Iñigo Urkullu and Núñez Feijóo have made such successful choices means that more conservative decisions are being made, which are turning leaders’ actions into proposals that are safer, more resilient, more resourceful, more peaceful and more reliable.
Moisés Ruiz is professor of communication and leadership at the Grado de Dirección y Administración de Empresas