• The International

The irony of natural selection

Updated: Apr 30



Covid-19 has so far infected almost one million people across 203 countries and territories and claimed over 43,000 lives. What so many people rubbished off as the flu turned out to become a full-blown pandemic. Initially, China tried to hide it, most of Europe ignored it, and America acted like it was above it.


Photographs: iStock

Text: Conrad Egbert


But when the good 7.8 billion people of the world realised it wasn’t going to go away on its own, nor was it just ‘China’s problem’ but the world’s collectively, they turned to their leaders to make the tough decisions. This is when we saw the wheat separate from the chaff and the real leaders take centre stage.

Today on social media, where fake news spreads faster than journalists can untangle it, truth, transparency and emotional intelligence are paramount, especially during a crisis. Leaders who possess these qualities are the ones who will lead us into the new world and lessons need to be taken from the books of Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. These are the best of the lot. They may not be perfect, but they’re of us, by us and for us. They put us before their careers.


Political leaders who lack emotional intelligence, twist the truth for personal gain and aren’t proactive and driven by genuine care for the lives and wellbeing of others, will no longer be able to hold office, let alone lead us through a crisis, of which many more will come, no doubt.

Last month both Macron and Varadkar addressed their nations. Both spoke honestly and with a good amount of emotional intelligence. They announced measures that would protect not only people’s lives but also their livelihoods. Their words weren’t fluffy and full of rambling adjectives; in fact the French president went as far as to compare the ongoing pandemic to a warlike situation. But just knowing that we’d been served the truth, despite it being hot and brutal, we felt reassured. Honesty begets trust and trust creates confidence. Sometimes we just need to know.

Conte locked down parts of Italy as early as the end of February, displaying a keen sense of judgment – another vital ingredient in the making of trust. Actions speak louder than words. He eventually became the first leader to order a nationwide lockdown on March 9. Denmark followed suit two days later, and Frederiksen appealed to the Danes’ better nature by being honest and humble in her address to the nation. She said she did ‘not have all the answers’, but she was going to do her best. The influence of her emotional intelligence will most likely be seen at the end of the next two weeks when Denmark suffers less than those idiocracies with bumbling politicians in their employ.

And this is probably the most crucial lesson Covid-19 is going to teach us going forward: Political leaders who lack emotional intelligence, twist the truth for personal gain and aren’t proactive and driven by genuine care for the lives and wellbeing of others, will no longer be able to hold office, let alone lead us through a crisis, of which many more will come, no doubt. The world is changing rapidly, and it no longer expects entertainment from politicians. We’ve had enough. Besides Hollywood, there’s Netflix and Amazon Prime now. Politicians need to do what they’re paid for, which is to run the world, keep us safe and have our interests at heart, while we pay our taxes and skål to some Fredag øl with friends. That’s the deal. We also need leaders who are highly educated, cognizant and mindful of the impact their words and actions have on others. We may not need them to know everything, but we do need them to be able to empathise.

In the age of social media, we no longer have geographical borders; our phones are our windows to the world. And just like social media, we need presidents and prime ministers to be able to cross those borders and cultures and speak with sense and logic. The honest word is as clear as the rising sun; lies and political agendas, on the other hand, are not. They will only force us to build walls which in turn will divide and fragment nations and eventually bring them to their knees.

If Covid-19 has made any natural selections, it’s the real leaders. And we must all pay attention from now on, especially the next time we’re heading down to the ballot to cast our votes.