Austrian Freedom Party's Leadership Analysis
Austrian Migrant Crisis in Leadership
Introduction and Analysis
Heinz Christian Strache is the political leader in Austria associated with the Freedom Party of Austria (Bell, 2014). The Freedom Party is considered to be a right winged populist group and is seeing a rise in support due to mass Islamic immigration (ibid). Strache's party has been making slow but steady gains in popularity amongst native Austrians over the past several years (Dinham, 2017).
Strache's party has been fighting the established Austrian government regarding a growing number of Islamic refugees in their country (ibid). The European Union (EU) has called for an increase of immigration although many countries have recently begun to reject such measures as impractical (Robert, et. al., 2015). Austria’s population is now over seven percent Islamic migrants and this demographic of migrants continues to grow annually (Dinham, 2017). These migrants gather from many war-torn countries that the West has invaded in the past few decades, with Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan being the chief exporters of migrants (Migrant-crisis, 2016). Austria is one of the top countries affected by the crisis, outstripped only by Hungary and Sweden (ibid).
As a result of the rise of Islam through migrants, Strache has called for a ban on ‘Islamic Fascist’ symbols (Dinham, 2017). He argues that migrants, as a whole, have no desire to assimilate into European culture and would rather bring about the Islamisation of Europe (ibid). Austria’s ban of Nazi symbols has led Strache to the conclusion that Islamic symbols should also be banned to help prevent migrants from taking over Austria (ibid).
Because Europe has a migrant crisis, and a large percentage of Islamic refugees have no wish to assimilate, the leaders of Europe will have to come to a consensus on exactly how to handle the situation. The heads of the EU are finding resistance at the country/state level while still trying to dictate action. With the rise of Islamic Jihad in the western world (Hegghammer, 2011), a clear and concise method needs to be reached, balancing between both compassion and logic. This problem is exacerbated by the data that shows that when a crisis arises involving Muslim and non-Muslim combatants, non-connected Muslim combatants are likely to enter the fight on behalf of their fellow Muslims (ibid).
The entrance of Jihadists on behalf of Muslims causes a problem for European leaders who wish to either assimilate or remove Muslim refugees. Actions taken against any Muslim by the state has proven to create an escalation and potential violence that causes many leaders to pause. The idea of removing Islamic migrants from one's country will almost certainly lead to an uptick of terrorism.
The ramifications of any action have the potential to be serious and long lasting. When leaders stand up to resist the invasion of Islam, they mark themselves as targets for the global Jihad. The battle raging between European leaders will push the EU to either greater centralized power or greater decentralized power. The former calls for a singular leader to arise and handle the problem and guide the union. The latter calls for a plurality of leaders to address the problem inside their own countries. This paper utilizes the migrant crisis in Austria to highlight leadership theory, analyzing Strache’s leadership position and the long and short-term ramifications of implementing his party’s platform. This paper discusses the leadership implications and issues, and proposes potential leadership solutions that would provide a more positive outcome.
Leaders should be able to cast vision in such a way that followers have a clear, compelling picture of the future. This vision can be painted with flowery language meant to inspire and draw a follower toward a goal (Winston & Patterson, 2006). The vision of the leader is often contrasted with a dystopian vision in order to get followers to move toward the selected goal. The source of vision is best found within a leader’s hopes and dreams, allowing the leader to stay motivated and compelled to achieve their objectives (Daft & Lengel, 2000).
The vision that is almost universally cast between all ‘far-right’ parties in Europe and the popularity with which they are received are almost exclusively tied to immigration (Halla, Wagner, & Zweimüller, 2012). These parties are not absolutely against immigration: rather, the vision set forth by the majority of these parties deal with keeping one's culture alive. The French desire to have French culture, the Austrians desire to have Austrian culture, and Danes desire to keep Danish culture.
Cultural ideals are very personal, and therefore, keeping cultural ideals alive is a powerful motivational force. These ‘far-right’ parties capitalize on the diluting of native cultures by non-assimilating migrants and therefore tend to gain in popularity when immigration is high. This result could be seen in the United State’s 2016 presidential election.
Leadership often flows against the grain of pop culture, challenging sacred cows and working to change the course of large and small events. Leaders must rise above the fray and see how to best address particular challenges that face a group or organization (Northouse, 2015). Often the greatest issues that require the most leadership skill are those situations where the sacred cow is most reverently worshipped. A leader must be able to identify the sacred belief and address the paradigm properly (ibid).
In the case of Austria, Strache has identified a problem with immigration. This problem challenges the Western idea of superior benevolence, an idea that many Western peoples hold sacred. To stop immigration is equated to despotism, xenophobia, closed-mindedness, and cruelty. The lens the Western countries use to see the world is one that shuns fanaticism and relies on reason and reasonable peoples. The expectation of Western European countries is that Muslim migrants will come in and embrace their liberal ideas, aligning to Western Europe’s definition of ‘reasonable people’. However, a problem arises because instead of accepting the European culture and value system, migrants continue to hold to traditional Islamic values, which preclude the existence of those who have benevolently allowed them to settle in their countries.
The challenge for Strache and those like him is to convince the masses that their identity as benevolent humanitarians is not threatened or compromised by halting immigration. This is a difficult task that only an individual with superior leadership skill can accomplish. When popular opinion is against a leadership decision, a leader must reach out and attempt to illuminate the mind of those who follow.
Strache's ability to lead against the popular current is a lesson in leadership. Authentic leadership requires that one lead in such a way that what is both right and good is accomplished for those who follow (Northouse, 2015). The immigration crisis is a hot button topic, however, the devastating impact that it is having on Europe cannot be ignored. Although not popular, Strache and those attempting to halt the Islamisation of Europe are showing tremendous courage, attempting to do what is best for their followers.
Observed Leadership Issues
Leaders cannot stop when individuals stop following and move into active resistance (Kouzes & Posner, 2012). A leader is to build endurance, strength, and resilience (ibid). One of the greatest challenges in fighting battles where the opposition seemingly has the moral high ground is adequately addressing the moral issues. The moral high ground can often discourage resistance, regardless of whether or not the opposition’s claim to moral high ground is legitimate. Anytime a leader attempts to assault the opposition who has or seems to have the moral high ground, the leader is often described as callus or lacking empathy. These charges often result in being stigmatized as having a mental disorder or being a psychopath (Blair, 1995). Such stigmas often cause the leader to be ostracized from popular culture resulting in extra stress.
Another leadership issue stems from the limits of power. Anytime a populist government takes over, one must be concerned with the limits of power. A leader must understand that not all will agree with positions, visions, and goals set by the leader. The challenge is for the leader to lead for the good of all and not just the good of a select few (Northouse, 2015).
When immature leadership takes power, focus can be lost. Too often leadership begins to focus on prestige and projection and neglects to aid and assist the main objective. Simply put, the reason for one's leadership can be forgotten. This is exemplified in the United States government’s propensity to sometimes neglect its first responsibility to its own country in favor of advancing a global agenda (Bacevich, 2008). The danger Strache and his political party may face is immaturity in leading and governing. A leader must be able to set an agenda that is both compelling and a strong position that the entire organization can rally behind. This rally point cannot be exclusive, alienating vast groups of the populace.
Another danger arises from the degradation of trust due to lack of performance. Strache's party proclaims their ability to save local culture and keep the native populace safe. Trust is built by consistently accomplishing what one has set out to do (Winston & Patterson, 2006). In this way, if Strache is not able to consistently protect both culture and civilian lives from degradation and terrorism, trust will be lost and his party will collapse. With this understanding, if Strache is able to preserve the culture and prevent terrorism through immigration control, trust would be built and morale would be increased. Morale of followers is increased when trust levels are high (Sonnenberg, 1994). When morale is higher, a positive leadership feedback loop is more likely to exist.
The basic issues with Strache's situation are leadership isolation, perceived moral low ground, and the fulfillment of promises. Without diligent effort, Strache and those like him could find themselves making little or no impact upon the migrant crisis. Solutions include building culture (Wood & Winston, 2005), honesty (Chaleff, 2009), and follow-through (Northouse, 2015).
Culture is perhaps the single most powerful activator of human decision making (Cashman, 2008). Culture can be created, influenced, or redirected by leaders (ibid). Even the best cultures have both positive and negative attributes that are brought to the table (ibid). A good leader will seek to enhance the positive and minimize the negative aspects of culture. Having a strong culture within an organization will help mitigate the danger of leadership isolation and the accompanying psychological stressors.
Since a leader has influence over the culture of an organization (ibid), using culture to create an environment of support and camaraderie is important to leaders seeking to change a paradigm. The leaders must find a way to create "relationship bridges" in order to cement a supportive network (Cashman, 2008, p.82). Alinsky (2010) discussed the need for triangulation and demonization of the opposition as the fastest, most secure way to solidify culture. While this method is employed on both sides of the migration argument, it is not the best option for creating harmony between the two sides in the future. Rather, a slower tactic of listening, caring, and honesty (Cashman, 2008) within Strache's organization will ensure that a supportive culture is built and when the objective is complete, the two sides can continue to work together on other issues.
Perceived Moral Low-Ground
Holding the moral low ground is not the preferred position of any leader. In Strache’s case, his group should push to help end the Middle-East crisis and look for alternative ways to lend humanitarian aid other than allowing refugees to enter Austria. A good leader will seek out solutions that offer individuals opportunity for improvement (Northouse, 2015). Allowing the refugees the ability to return quickly to their home country and helping build new cities in safe zones could possibly work, satisfying Austria’s need to be viewed as humanitarians as well as providing safety and opportunity for those that do not wish to assimilate into European culture.
The idea is that Strache's group should be thinking about how to aid the migrants and ensure that both the culture of Austria is intact and that terrorism becomes neutralized by utilizing forms of servant leadership and transformational leadership. A leader should focus on bettering others (ibid). By focusing on making the lives of both migrants and Austrians better, Strache will be able to climb to meet his opposition on equal footing.
Integrity and trustworthiness are two of the most vital traits a leader can have (Northouse, 2015). When a leader has integrity, followers do not need to fret over promises (ibid). This peace of mind allows followers to more fully commit to achieving the organization’s goals.
Promises are the most difficult aspect of leadership. Often, inexperienced leaders over promise and under perform. Strache has promised great things that are quite possibly outside of his ability to accomplish. As a leader, he must keep in mind that any public promise is attached to his leadership credibility. If his party cannot achieve the goals they set out to accomplish, followers will lose heart and leave the organization.
Strache's argument to ban Islamic symbols from Austria has major leadership repercussions. Along with isolating a significant group of people who now reside within his own country, the implied promise of reducing Islamic terrorism through the banning of Islamic symbols is improbable. Making such a radical suggestion could potentially derail the long-term success of his party.
Those like Strache are now required to have the ability to act as multi-cultural or global leaders. Multi-cultural leaders should have a thorough knowledge of the cultures they come in contact with (Lovvorn & Chen, 2011). By taking such radical and culturally ignorant positions, such as banning Islamic symbols, Strache has lost the ability to lead any native Muslim citizens of Austria who share concern about the migrant crisis.
Aline Robert, A. S., Angela Lamboglia, Daniel Tost, Eliška Kubátová, Fernando Heller, Georgi Gotev, Krzysztof Kokoszczy?ski, Lucie Bednárová, Martina Dupáková. (2015). EU countries say “no” to immigration quotas. Retrieved from http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/many-eu-countries-say-no-to-immigration-quotas/
Alinsky, S. (2010). Rules for radicals: A pragmatic primer for realistic radicals: Vintage.
Bacevich, A. J. (2008). The limits of power: The end of American exceptionalism: Macmillan.
Bell, B. (2014). Austria’s freedom party sees vote rise. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-eu-27572494
Blair, R. J. R. (1995). A cognitive developmental approach to morality: Investigating the psychopath. Cognition, 57(1), 1-29.
Cashman, K. (2008). Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life: Easyread Super Large 18pt Edition: ReadHowYouWant. com.
Chaleff, I. (2009). The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (2000). Fusion leadership: Unlocking the subtle forces that change people and organizations: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Dinham, P. (2017). Ban ‘fascist Islamic’ symbols like you ban Nazi memorabilia says leader of Austrian far-Right party. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4120170/Austrias-far-right-Freedom-Party-calls-ban-fascistic-Islam.html
Halla, M., Wagner, A. F., & Zweimüller, J. (2012). Does immigration into their neighborhoods incline voters toward the extreme right? The case of the freedom party of Austria.
Hegghammer, T. (2011). The rise of Muslim foreign fighters: Islam and the globalization of Jihad.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The leadership challenge : how to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lovvorn, A. S., & Chen, J.-S. (2011). Developing a global mindset: The relationship between an international assignment and cultural intelligence. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(9).
Migrant-crisis. (2016). Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in seven charts. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Leadership : theory and practice (Seventh Edition. ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Sonnenberg, F. K. (1994). Ethics: Trust Me… Trust Me Not. Journal of Business Strategy, 15(1), 14-16.
Winston, B. E., & Patterson, K. (2006). An Integrative Definition of Leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(2), 6-66.
Wood, J., & Winston, B. E. (2005). Toward a new understanding of leader accountability: Defining a critical construct. Journal of leadership & organizational studies, 11(3), 84-94.