In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Torvald describes Nora as his possession, calling her his “hunted dove”. It serves his self-image to make helpless and weak those around him, as evidenced by his assertion that “I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes”.
He had many opportunities to see the effect his charismatic manipulation was having. He saw her compulsive need for treats, her infatuation with money and her desperate need for his approval and attention, yet chose to chide her as he would a child. There were warning signs in every interaction that spoke to her discontent, her suffering and her fears. So turbulent was his wake, he couldn’t see her drowning in it.
Research shows us that a powerful demeanour, which leaders are encouraged to use to benefit their image and effectiveness, has the result of stifling, discouraging and demeaning those around them.
The more powerful the leader, the less resistance they face, the greater their momentum. It’s an unhealthy cycle perpetuated by both the leaders themselves who refuse to openly and truly listen, and by those followers who lack the courage to speak their truth.
As we evolve our philosophy of leadership, perhaps we will begin to see leadership as being not a powerful and charismatic individual, but as a transitory role many individuals may assume given the right time, place or circumstance.