Authentic Leadership

The Leadership of Pablo Iglesias: Charisma in times of Crisis

By 12 February, 2015 No Comments

“Podemos” has surged in Spanish polls all the way up to first position according to some sources, topping the two traditional parties that made-up the two-party system in Spain. This has revolutionized the ‘chessboard’ that has been Spanish politics over the past 40 years. Although the political party is only a year old, it has ‘checkmated’ the status quo. The question that politicians, journalists and analysts are asking themselves is how and why has Pablo Iglesias, an unknown professor of political science until recently, has been capable of reaching the hearts of so many citizens.

The answer that many, including Iglesias himself, offer is that “it has not been about our rights, but about others’ wrongs.” But this explication is not at all true. The great achievement of Iglesias has been to successfully channel the wrath and frustration that so many citizens feel. The wrath that corruption scandals have provoked, as their quality of life keeps diminishing moment by moment. The frustration of not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In Spain we have gone through economic crises before, and the least among us have soared for a better tomorrow.

Being born in poverty does not mean that poverty will rise in you. Poverty only takes hold of people when they have no dream, it is a state of mind. Creating a positive vision for the future is one of main characteristics of charismatic and transformational leaders. The leaders of the Spanish transition, for example, shaped the dream of an entire generation with speeches, and words of hope at the worst of times, showing empathy for those who suffered, and with solidarity. But today those who are in despair need a beacon for a better future. The epidemic of corruption that has been institutionalized in our system goes beyond the infamous ‘black cards’ or the ‘Back October.’ Corruption is not just a matter of ‘a few bad apples’, but a matter of the basket that holds them. Structural changes are needed to eradicate the culture of corruption and give way to a high-trust culture. We know from history that charismatic leaders rise in times of crisis.

One can only survive today’s nightmare with tomorrow’s dream. When there’s no hope, but cuts in social spending and expectations for welfare; when there is no solidarity, but accumulation of personal wealth among a few; when there is no empathy, but defeat; it is then, at the heart of this perfect storm, when Podemos is born. From this social tsunami, the axis shift. The political spectrum shifts from a horizontal left versus right towards a more vertical the people versus the “caste.” But, is Iglesias the right charismatic leader? Is he the next Tsipras?