As America celebrated another Independence Day, thousands of miles away the Egyptian community was coming to grips with yet another transition of leadership. Categorized as a ‘coup’ the Egyptian people demanded a change and they got just that. The military “perceived” a mandate from “the movement and voices of the masses,” based on their street protests against President Mohamed Morsi, who has been in power for about a year. To date, about 20 people have died due to post-coup riots and protests in the streets. Independence is a long and difficult process for any people, but can be especially difficult when there is evidence of an abuse of power.
Egypt is not new to civil unrest. Often at the forefront of international issues, the Egyptian people have been misunderstood; particularly from a westernized perspective. One thing that seems to be universal is an expectation that those elected to public office, regardless of the country, abide by a code of conduct basic to all democracies. There is an expectation for fair treatment, honest politics and casting a vision of economic empowerment. The people of Egypt, to the resentment of some, have cried out and just two days ago saw another government regime topple.
It’s always amazing just how corrupt some can become when they gain the slightest amount of power. Power can be a catalyst for change or the demise of a good person, depending how it is handled. Many believe that much like money, power merely exposes what lies beneath the surface. In short, it is a magnifying glass for the soul. If one is lacking integrity, moral stability or character, power will only serve to expose it. This is why any individual seeking power must consider the consequences and responsibilities.
Many know exactly how they think they should act when they are ‘in’ authority but have little respect for the chain of command. As Sir John Dalberg-Acton once said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s generally not taught in high schools, not even mentioned in most colleges, but once in the real world it is evident not many know how to handle ‘authority’. Here are a few tips to keep us all level headed:
- There is no such thing as power, just for power’s sake: Like Peter Parker’s uncle told him in The Amazing Spider-Man, “Great power comes with great responsibility.” It’s important to remember that anytime people are given a position of power, they must understand what is expected to be accomplished. Without a clear agenda, all are bound to veer off course.
- Power always needs checks and balances: Reckless managers running around free to do whatever they want in the name of results is tantamount to chaos. Gone are the days of the ‘office wild west’ approach to leadership. Organizations have learned to build in accountability systems to stop the abuse of power.
- Real leadership is about influence, not intimidation: Smart people marvel at those who think once they receive a title, all they have to do is yell ‘Follow me’ and everyone just lines up. Leadership influences others to achieve the common goal, not because they are forced to, but because they are empowered to.
- Authority starts with good self-leadership: Leadership boils down to how well individuals can hold themselves accountable to their own internal goals. Without this internal compass, people will lead themselves and everyone with them astray. In recent years many have seen what the deterioration of morality has done to society. From athletes to Wall Street, society has witnessed a serious decline.
Whether an individual is one who has just been given keys to the ‘big’ conference room, just brought home a bundle of joy from the hospital or an officer patrolling a neighborhood, they have the unique privilege of possessing authority. Take these tips, build a system of checks and balances and keep in mind what power really is all about. The job is never to become a tyrant over others. Rather seek to be the moral compass of inspiration in these seemingly lost days.
The recent uprising in Egypt has left the world waiting to see what happens next. One thing has been assured; there will be no rest until the people of Egypt have representation, and a government they can trust. As interim president Adli Mansour takes office amid another transition, the outcome of which remains to be seen. For now, Egypt’s army has suspended the country’s constitution, surrounded the palace of its elected president, put him in military custody. They have cut him off from outside communications, arrested dozens of leaders of his party, and shut down its TV networks. To those watching it looks like a coup. But it isn’t, according to its supporters. These spokesmen include Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who led the ouster; opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei; Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr; and Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States.
The Egyptian people seek and deserve an honest, capable and representative democratic government. As President Obama has said, “no transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people.” The longstanding partnership and friendship between the United States and Egypt is of great importance to the United States, and we will continue to support the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia Beach, VA)