This article by was originally published in Dutch for NRC Live as part of the build-up to the upcoming Innovation Bootcamp, a three-day pop-up program delivered at the THNK Home in Amsterdam.
Times of crisis and uncertainty increase the attractiveness of dominant leaders. Feelings of powerlessness and the fear of losing control drive many people into the arms of assertive and charismatic leaders, hoping to be saved from the deep end of the swamp.
These dominant leaders play on our individual and collective fears: the threat of terrorism, unemployment, corruption, immigration, poverty, social inequality. They present themselves as strong leaders with a firm and uncompromising agenda. Donald Trump is the most notable example, but we can see these same characteristics represented in Turkey’s Recep Erdogan and India’s Narendra Modi. Along with their assertiveness, they exhibit dominance, narcissism, and aggression.
In business, the myth of the "Rock Star CEO" is still very much alive. These are the charismatic leaders who touch billions of people with their personal vision– the whole world connected via internet (Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook) or the colonization of Mars (Elon Musk from Tesla and SpaceX). They give us hope that humanity is capable of overcoming loneliness and even death.