The coronavirus pandemic has put the spotlight on the importance of public leadership in a crisis context. It is bringing out the best and the worst of leadership around the world. Senegal, as are many other African countries, is setting an example of agile and courageous leadership.
The President’s behavior and actions
With the backing of its citizens, President Macky Sall took audacious measures from the onset of the epidemic in Senegal, even before a pandemic was declared.
There has been some criticism of the government’s actions, especially with regards to not so clear communication about the imposition of stay-at-home and curfew orders. Young people (approximately 60% of the population) have never experienced restriction of movement or curfew and don’t understand what they are and what they mean. This has led to incidents of defiance and consequent abusive use of force by law enforcement.
Yes, as elsewhere, there have even been isolated incidents of police brutality; they were immediately sanctioned, and the national police chief publicly expressed his apologies. It’s a problem that all nations around the world are grappling with as police forces test how far to go in punishing ordinary behavior. In Senegal, the president has made clear what is banned, and citizens help ensure enforcement is lawful. Excessive use of force is clearly identifiable, immediately reported and subsequently sanctioned. This is not the case in many other countries whose national leaders have yet to clearly communicate what is banned and how policing should work.
The public’s reaction and actions
Senegal’s leadership swiftly set direction and pace while unlocking people’s potential. Despite the grumbling of some and claims that government imposition of strict measures to prevent the contagion’s spread will create social fracture, overall general public trust in the government and the strong sense of community responsibility and collaboration are making evident that the social logic underlying the nation’s economy of affection is saving lives.
Average citizens, big and small businesses, and informal and formal institutions are all suffering the strict restrictions imposed but they’re also energetically tapping into their reservoir of unrealized potential to achieve all they’re capable of. Here’s are just a few of the initiatives being developed in Senegal.
The 10th District of the city of Thiès has set an example of how to activate an economy of affection by deploying PANHACEA. This is an initiative that provides a working model for how to proactively inspire leadership at community level and establish an effective working partnership between formal and informal institutions to motivate individual agency in benefit of the common good.
A strategic democratic style of leadership
Senegal is demonstrating what strategic democratic leadership looks like in action. The most unique feature of this style of leadership is that communication is active upward, downward and horizontally and entails the following: concerted fairness, competence, creativity, courage, intelligence and honesty.
It takes a strategic democratic style of national leadership with vision, the courage to make tough and some unpopular decisions, a touch of coaching, and a big dose of empathy to keep a country steady and steer it through to the other side of the tunnel in the face of a storm as dark as the novel coronavirus pandemic.
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