In a recent column Al Jazeer’s Marwan Bishara offered a frightening picture of a leader gone awry. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/2011222181341136101.html#
Muammar Gaddafi appears to exemplify the worst characteristics of self-interested tyrannical leadership. He has a grandiose vision of himself as a self-sacrificing hero of the people and has surrounded himself with people who support his vision of reality without question.
His rule is based on a toxic mix of delusion, denial, dishonesty, deceit, and duplicity.
Most tragically, Gaddafi seems to have no qualms about the level of violence to which he will resort to shore up his toppling empire. It is of no interest to Gaddafi who may be hurt by his actions. His only concern is to cling to power and eventually pass it on to his chosen successor.
He governs on the basis of position, privilege, and the arbitrary wielding of power. His only motivation is the preservation of his empire and his position within the organizational structure he has built to keep him in power.
Gaddafi has ruled Libya for the past 42 years with an iron fist, but insists he has no official role and therefore couldn’t resign. Otherwise, he would have done that long ago!
He thinks of himself as Zaim – a guru leader – or the king of kings of Africa as he has referred to himself repeatedly over the last couple of years.
How do you resign from greatness, he wondered! After recounting his heroism, sacrifice and courage over the last few decades.
In reality, he wasted his country’s fortunes, misused its sources and violated its people. He misspent hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues from oil.
He commands the state budget along with his family, and yet he insists he has no money, no fortune and no belongings to give away.
One is speechless listening to him telling Libyans: Go ahead take back your oil.
When toxic leadership deteriorates to this degree, all connection with reality quickly begins to fade.
It is difficult to know where to begin iaddressing the desperate thrashing machinations to which the toxic leader resorts as he begins to sense power slipping from his grasp. When reality is created simply in the leader’s own mind, those who would bring reform and change are at a loss to know where to start.
Gaddafi senior, like Gaddafi junior before him on Monday, went on rambling endlessly in Tuesday’s televised address, with little coherence, many threats and more political blackmail.
Speaking to both domestic audiences and Western decision makers, he raised the spectre of civil war, bloodbath and the threat of al-Qaeda takeover in various parts of the country.
He warned he would use all or any means to prevent the breakdown of Libya.
Over the last few days, his regime has killed hundreds and is reportedly using his air force to bomb Libyan cities, but he insists he hasn’t ordered the use of force yet.
But he did threaten to kill all those participating in the ongoing upheaval, in accordance with the Libyan law, as he put it.
Worse, he threatened to burn the land, behaving as if his rule was a foreign occupation.
For many years, Gaddafi, his family and tribe have maintained their rule through the maintenance and deformation of the very tribal order he’s been warning against.
He’s used political blackmail and financial bribes and unveiled threats of force to stay at the helm of the regime.
The toxic leader is unwilling, or perhaps in the worst cases actually unable, to see the devastating effects of his leadership upon the people among whom his leadership is exercised.
The toxic leader feels no need to consult or to listen to anyone. Only one opinion matters and the toxic leader needs only to look inside the narrow confines of his own small mind to find the answers he seeks.
The spirit of those struggling to survive in a realm governed by a toxic leader is crushed by the weight of oppression and unreality.
In the process, much of the country’s wealth was wasted. And so was any chance of development as his dictatorship suppressed pluralism, creativity and freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, unemployment in this “rentier economy” (economy which derives all or substantial portion of national revenues from the rent of indigenous resources to external clients) has shot from one-fourth to one-third unemployment year after year.
A toxic leader never assumes responsibility for the terrible conditions that have arisen under his leadership. Unquestioning support for his regime is always presented as a matter personal loyalty to the leader. Good subjects will always rally to the defense of their leader, no matter how crazed and erratic his leadership may become.
Any one who questions the toxic leader is automatically identified as “the enemy.”
While Gaddafi admitted that the police has refused to confront or shoot at the demonstrations, he called on his loyal and violent “popular committees” to defend his “revolution”, either individually or by joining forces with members of their tribes.
Mr. Gaddafi offers a sobering mirror into which people in positions of leadership would do well to gaze long and hard.
Institutions cannot afford to tolerate the poison of toxic leadership. Eventually, the people will find some small shreds of power within themselves and will begin to rise up against the oppression under which they have suffered. There will always be a day of reckoning for those who govern using the tools of toxic leadership.