April 24, 2015

Liberty Day: a lesson for leaders

One of our Acts at The Performance Theatre in Lisbon will explore entrepreneur and publisher Malcolm Forbes’ famous assertion that no one is a leader if there are no followers.

An interesting backdrop to this statement is 25 April in Portugal (this Saturday), the date on which Liberty Day is celebrated annually. It was on this day in 1974 that the authoritarian dictatorship of the Estado Novo (‘New State’) was overthrown and Portugal began its transition to a democracy.

A surprising feature of the toppling of Estado Novo’s regime is that it began as a military coup but was soon coupled with an unanticipated and popular campaign of civil resistance. The revolutionaries made repeated appeals on the radio to ask the public to stay at home, but thousands of Portuguese ignored these broadcast pleas and descended onto the streets, mixing with the military insurgents.

Liberty Day is sometimes called the ‘Carnation Revolution’ because almost no shots were fired – and when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship, carnations were put into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army.

This moment in history provides an interesting lens through which to consider the leader and follower dynamic. In this instance, elemental civil liberties and political freedoms had been repressed by the Estado Novo and its secret police; and this created a groundswell of opposition that eventually put paid to the dictatorship.

During the Lisbon theatre we will explore the increasing disconnect between leaders and the people who would normally be their followers, and consider what we as leaders can do to rethink our approach, rejuvenate our relevance, and re-earn the respect, trust and dedication of those whom we wish to lead.

We wish everyone in Portugal a happy Liberty Day!