Gerald's Corner: "Putin's Lesson"

In W. Putin, we encounter "leadership" precisely in its ugliest form: disrespectful, self-referential, egomaniacal, brutal, full of negative emotions, enemy images and a desire for revenge. There is no question that we deeply abhor and reject this attitude. The Western community of states seems shocked and caught off guard. Suddenly, everything that seemed so self-evident for years is in question.

Anyone who has done conflict management training will know the exercise "Win as high as you can!". It is about deciding whether I cooperate or compete with other game partners and about the effects of these decisions. Realisation: only if all game partners agree on common rules and reliably stick to them, everyone wins. If only one of them backs out, all the others become losers and the "spoilsport" is the only winner - at least in the short term.

Putin may be familiar with this dynamic from game theory. But what does this mean for our culture, which is so much oriented towards cooperation, dialogue and justice? Can we stand up to the speed, consistency, intolerance and brutality of an authoritarian interpretation of "leadership"? What happens when contracts, rules, agreements are broken or a common foundation of values is abandoned? Outrage will not be enough. Can we put despots in their place with sanctions? How powerful can a culture defend itself that sees "power" as something immoral and anachronistic?

And what does this mean for our industry? Will leadership training in future have to re-evaluate the question of conflict readiness vis-à-vis "saboteurs"? Have we interpreted "leadership" and "cooperation" too softly, too moderately, too naively, assuming that everyone will play by the rules? Are our ideas of conflict management and win-win solutions too romantic?

In any case, Putin's behaviour makes it clear that the continuation of our values and principles cannot be taken for granted. They need robust protection and a critical mindset that can distinguish discourse from destructiveness and react decisively whenever the rules of the game are challenged. This could indeed be an accent that, while not new, currently no longer seems conservative-unfashionable at all, but highly relevant and necessary.