Imagine someone who calls himself a leader, white male, fast on social media, just before his speech, in front of thousands of followers – survivors he calls them – who gathered to listen. His ministers (managers) standing behind him. 10% female. Never knowing what he’s about to say, but they all have a direct line with their parties (silos) who will tell them how to react later on, in line with the silo’s agenda.
Not everyone showed up because some digital natives sabotaged the ticket sales. People have to register a ticket to go see the great leader, for their own safety. It’s a beautiful autumn day with plenty of oxygen, sun, love, and mutating viruses in the air. The trees are changing colours and the first leaves are falling…Some people are experiencing the first cold and flu symptoms of the season.
The media gathered from all over the world. They all received the questions they can ask, and the answers. News anchors are waiting in their studios with stylish logos, statistics and local experts. Debating and leaking the answers hours in advance. Because they believe the survivors need that kind of info. They all look so smart and serious.
Special Forces standing hand in hand to protect the leader against all those people who ask questions, who also survived but feel that an open debate about lessons learned is needed to avoid this situation to happen again. Millions of survivors watching from all over the world. The vast majority gained a few pounds or more. Most of them more lonely than ever. The leader feels powerful and loved.
Experts & dissidents
Some event professionals, film-makers, artists – all out of work and doing this for free – took the time to create the required atmosphere. The leader’s beloved experts waiting backstage in the vodka cigar lounge, texting with media friends, still debating politics, religion, education, economics, math… Two massive black guys with a #blm T-shirt in front of the VIP door: “experts only”. A philosopher, a businesswoman, a medical practitioner, a teacher and a mathematician trying to get in, neutralised. For national security reasons. Dissidents.
The crowd and the birds stay silent when the song “Imagine” kicks in. The survivors start singing, crying, hugging, cheering. They suffered in solidarity because the leader and his managers didn’t see this crisis coming and reacted with what they know best: panic. And boy, did they suffer: they spend hours on their sofa, watching the hourly news, hiding for their bosses, starting new unhealthy habits, defending the experts on social media, and sending hate messages to dissidents.
And then…the voice of Tomorrowland. You know the one, no the other one, the lady. People of Tomorrow: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. Goosebumps. On the massive screens, the picture of Nelson Mandela (small mix-up, but survivors don’t care about history anyway).
Coldplay and Shakira
Chris Martin and Coldplay jump on stage. Warming up the audience. Kicking of with “Heaven“, Avicci projected in 3D, ending with “Viva la Vida“. The crowd goes wild. Suddenly: Shakira, Queen of Latin Music! Accompanied by hundreds of drummers: Waka waka. No black music, because Mandela was already on the screen. No K-Pop, because that’s where this whole mess started, said the leader.
The leader’s wife
The leader’s wife, behind a beautiful silk mask, starts a unique speech.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that the world is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
“It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.”
“It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, left and right, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, People who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals.”
“We are, and always will be, THE PEOPLE. This is your victory. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – the worst crisis in a century.”
In the meanwhile, media are tweeting about why this speech is NOT a copy because many words were changed.
No mask, behind disinfected bullet-proof plexiglass, looking into the prompter, with “the look”:
“Survivors! Patriots! Comrades!” Yeaeaeaeah!
“Can we guarantee this won’t happen again?” And like true patriots, condemning the dissidents, the crowd reacts: No we can’t!
The leader is happy.
“Can we gather with friends and family?” No we can’t!
Dissidents at home, in the garden in a group of 200 organised by an event agency, raise their glass. Others, outdoor in groups of 400 building resilience without a mask.
“Can we use existing drugs to lower the death rates? No we can’t!
Pharma CEO’s having a party on their yacht, start cheering for the leader. Some add: “And they can’t even sue us if we mess-up!”
“Can we guarantee results from the vaccine?” No we can’t!
The crowd feels powerful. Believing every single word. They would go to war for this leader who protects them against their worst nightmare, which he created for them.
“Can we expect the media to play its critical role?” No we can’t!
All of a sudden…a small “BOO” comes out of the crowd. Special Forces look at each other. Nervous. Where did it come from? A dissident?
“Can we save our economy?” No we can’t!
This time….BOO BOO……….and BOO again…..now the leader heard it. Sounded like a child.
“Can we visit cultural events?” No we can’t!
BOO’s again. The media starts to pick it up. Cameras are turning to the crowd, but nobody can spot the dissidents. In the parallel world of TikTok, things go crazy. Millions of messages are released at the same time with the hashtag #boo
“Can we protect our immune system ourselves?” No we can’t!
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….and then: YES, WE CAN……..it looks like it’s coming from many places. News anchors react live. Doctors on Twitter spread the hashtag #hyppocrates
“Can we protect our freedom and privacy on the internet?” No we can’t!
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….YES WE CAN….. it’s the children!!! Special Forces don’t have a protocol for this and freeze around the leader. They urge him to go inside as it’s unsafe. But he goes on. #oxymoron is trending
“Can we visit the elderly?” No we can’t!
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….YES WE CAN….from all over the crowd. Apparently, the parents are taking over too! Wise elderly people are standing before their TV screens in tears. #wisdom is trending
“Can we challenge the experts?” No we can’t!
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….YES WE CAN…….the wife of the leader runs on stage, asking the people to listen to her husband and be quiet. The leader says: “why don’t you be quiet”! Women around the world show their support for her on social. #metoo
“Can we guarantee our children proper education?” No we can’t!
BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO….YES WE CAN…….this time, even the teachers have joined. #growthmindset is trending now.
I think my point is clear now. If you think this is pure fiction, look at the final speech of Ceausescu, “The Genius of the Carpathians”.
It’s a leadership crisis
We are in a leadership crisis pandemic. That’s the essence. To me, it’s an extremely interesting social experiment, and I’m thankful for that. On a global scale, we experience the effect of strong and weak leaders on a daily basis. We experience what true engagement of people is all about. The negative effect of fear and the power of storytelling, numbers, and authenticity. The difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. The wisdom and stupidity of the crowds. All condensed in just 6 months. I love it, but at the same time, it’s devastating to see how much damage was created by bad leadership.
If I speak for Belgium: a total clusterf@#%k. High death rates per capita (+50% in elderly homes), the wellbeing of the general public on an epic low, obesity spiking, an education nightmare, an economic disaster for years to come, engagement of the population gone…and still no federal government (+500 days) or a clear leader to show the way. We are the year 2020…in a “developed” country.
I’m fine, thank you. How are YOU doing?
9 months ago I wrote on this very platform: “my next learning cycle starts today“. A learning cycle of five years. Boy, was I right. Although my plan was in fact completely different.
Some people think I’m angry, frustrated or scared and send me messages of support and hope. Thank you, but I’m none of those. Others are convinced I make fun of them because of the information I share. Information that doesn’t fit their way of thinking. Sometimes left, sometimes right (never knew that facts can be left or right, but anyway). Thank you for staying respectful. Some people advise me to “not care” or “grab the new business opportunities” because you can’t change anything. Not my nature. A small minority would love to see me go under. And there are the ones that want to ignite the revolution with me.
On a personal note: stay calm
In every major crisis – I experienced quite a few – I become extremely calm and focused. Don’t know why, but it is what it is. I seek the essence of the problem and try to understand it by listening carefully to different sources of truth before I act. An emotional hit will probably come when the crisis is over, probably by Easter 2022. I hope I can experience that with my family in the Italian snow.
To all of you and to the virus: thank you for all the lessons you teach me on a daily basis.
- To my family: we are unbreakable.
- To my team: you guys are amazing, for always in my heart.
- To my friends: you taught me a lot about the meaning of friendship.
- To the people who show their support: good karma coming your way.
- To the people that don’t like my messages: that’s ok. Feel free to give me your insights, but with respect and some humor please and please stick to the facts. It’s called freedom of speech. It’s in the constitution and a lot more people have died for it than for COVID. I have a habit of easily changing my mind when things become clear, but I need facts.
- To the people who want to see our business fail: won’t happen. You motivate us and we will jump even higher.
- To those who try to control their tribe through fear: every day is the start of a new life. You should try it sometimes. If not: I’m your worst nightmare. I know, I have to work on my fear skills, but I was imagining myself saying it Rambo-style. Scared now?
- To all true leaders(mums and dads, entrepreneurs, politicians, CEO’s, coaches, scientists, philosophers, teachers, journalists, etc.): now is your time to rise up and give your tribe a positive perspective for a brave new world. Lead the way out of this mess. YES WE CAN. Be the change you want to see in this world.