– Dr Satish Misra
Women leaders across the globe have proved once again their consummate skills in handling crisis as it is evident in case of handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as they have handled it far more efficiently over so called “strong leaders” like US President Donald Trump for that matter Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Even as Corona virus continues to spread across different continents peaking in some and going down in other, it is increasingly becoming relevant to know about strategies adopted by different nations to meet the challenge. While some have successfully managed in keeping the damage to the minimum, there are countries that have mismanaged the crisis so badly costing heavily both in terms of financial as well as human resources.
Women leaders occupying chairs of prime minister of president in Taiwan, New Zealand, Iceland Germany, Finland, Norway and Denmark are being appreciated for their efficient tackling of the deadly disease about which very little is known and scientist world over are racing against time to develop a vaccine.
On the other hand, strong leaders who are incidentally known for their displayed hatred towards their political opponents have miserably failed to handle the disease. Name of US President Donald Trump. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson figure prominently in the list of failed leaders who have proved to be utterly inefficient. All these leaders, without exception, are conservative in their ideology and authoritarian in their approach. They all have come to power by playing on national sentiments.
While Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi and Putin rank first, second, third and fourth as their respective countries the US, Brazil, India and Russia have the maximum number of Covid-19 affected patients. Out of the world over total of 11, 572, 041 corona virus cases, the four top countries account for little less than 50 percent. At the same time. out of the total 537, 388 deaths globally, there have been 227, 473 fatalities in the US, Brazil, India and Russia which works out to roughly 41 percent.
If were to take cases of Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom then number of cases in seven countries add to 67,699, 81 as there were 297. 626, 241611 and 286, 416 deaths respectively then percentage shoots to approximately 58 percent. Almost 71 percent of deaths have taken place in the seven countries that have strong leader with macho images. They came to power accusing their respective opponents of being weak and wrecking national interests.
Now let us have a look at countries where women leaders are at the helm. In Germany, where Angela Markel is the chancellor, there have been total 197, 558 Covid-19 cases and death count is 9086. In New Zealand, where Jacinda Ardern is the prime minister, there have been 1533 cases an fatalities’ count is 72. There have been 449 confirmed cases of corona virus in Taiwan and death count is 7 and it has Tsai Ing-wen as the lady prime minister.
In Denmark, where Mette Frederiksen is leading the government in Copenhagen, there have been total 12832 cases and death toll has been restricted to 606. In Iceland, ruled by Katrin Jakobsdottir, there have been 1863 cases and 10 deaths. In Finland, where lady politician Sanna Marin has been on the prime ministerial chair since 10 December 2019, there have been 7253 cases of Covid-19 and fatalities count has been 329. In Norway, where Erna Solberg has been in power since 2013, there have been 8930 cases of corona virus and death figure stands at 329.
While figures and statistics are a clear evidence of women leader capabilities to handle crisis, a question begs answer as why strong leaders who hate the other view and thus don’t brook any opposition have failed despite the fact on concentration of power in their hands.
Majority of strong leaders are ultra or supra nationalists as their claim to be furthering the vital interests of the nation. They also suffer from whims and fancies.
First and foremost, much hyped strong leaders whose macho image has been drilled into the popular minds don’t like getting advice and are loathe to be challenged which results that their officials and colleagues avoid pointing out to their mistakes for fear or reprisal or punishment.
Strong leaders are invariably convinced that they know the best and they can tackle any problem or meet challenge since they have such powers- divine or otherwise. In simple words, they think rather presume to be ‘Supermen”.
Invariably, such leaders are encircled by sycophants which makes well- meaning and knowledgeable friends, colleagues or even family members to offer a counter-suggestion. These leaders feedback system is very poor and that is why corrective measures come late and come at a time when enough damage had already been done. Another trait common among such leaders is that of talking big and listening little.
On the contrary, women leaders are relatively more receptive to sound advice coming from their friends, colleagues and family members which gives them more options. Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja is a case in point. Her handling of the disease in the state has found appreciation all around.
With no signs of the arrest or elimination of disease on the horizon, countries need to learn from the governance styles of women leaders. It is time that more and more women are encouraged to take leadership roles.
(Dr Misra is an author, researcher and senior journalist)