The Survey on the Global Agenda 2014 tells us that people in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly worried about leadership values.

It boils down to the question of why people seek positions of power in the first place. If people want to win elections so they can serve the nation and improve lives, then they are more likely to take decisions along those lines. But there are also those who seek power in order to make money, exert influence and spread wealth to their friends and cronies.

In reality it’s more complex than that. Most people are neither one thing nor the other, so it becomes a question of degrees: to what extent do our leaders want to serve for the common good, and how much can that become tainted by the desire to do well for themselves and their families?

The more short-sighted leaders fail to recognize that the common good is actually the only real way to prosper in the long term. Because no matter how well you do, you can’t feel secure in a country in which the majority of people are struggling. In a country like that, nobody is secure.

Young people tend to have the strongest feelings on this issue. In the Survey, respondents under the age of 40 said that they were not at all satisfied with the attention governments give to a lack of values in leadership. And they have every reason to be critical. They look around themselves, see where the nation is heading and don’t want to go there. And yet they find they have no way of changing that direction, because they’re considered too young and inexperienced to be important.

Education is key to changing that, because while we can’t always change things immediately, we should at least be able to understand what is happening and complain if we don’t like it. And when enough people do that, a critical mass builds and a group of people will emerge with an agenda for genuine change.

This is an extract from the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014, published this week.

Read a blog on the top 10 trends facing the world in 2014.

Author: John O. Onaiyekan is the Cardinal and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, and a Member of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Faith.

Image: A woman waits to cast her ballot at a voting station REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly.

 

 

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