Within the realm of leadership, there is an ongoing debate about immoral leadership, namely on whether or not it is possible to be an ‘immoral’ leader. One’s perspective on this is likely determined based on the particular definition of leadership an individual subscribes to. In the following section, this idea will be examined through the lens of two characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Serena and the Commander.
The Argument Against Immoral Leadership:
Within the realm of leadership, morality if of the essence, with many of any given leader’s core characteristics stemming from their ethical capacities and the effect this has on their actions and behaviors. Immorality, on the other hand, directly contradicts many attributes commonly accredited to leaders. For instance, “The Student Leadership Challenge” relays two primary factors of being a leader as “affirming shared values” within a group” and “aligning actions with shared values.” Furthermore, the worth of generating meaningful relationships both between individuals and with the community as a whole are also emphasized (Kouzes et al). The dominating idea of immorality, by nature, counters this, as dissolution does not foster such environments, but rather engenders its power solely from fear, manipulation, and other wicked methods. Much like this, Serena and The Commander contradict the very qualities that make for not only effective leadership, but leadership in general. For instance, during their campaign to institute the Republic of Gilead, neither had the consent of all those the implementing regime would affect, but rather only the approval of a small number of armed extremists. This demonstrates a disregard for others, a neglect of different values, and a disregard for establishing any meaningful connections, communication, or relationships between themselves and the people they ‘lead.’ Serena, acting as an advocate for this cause while demanding other women take on a subservient role within their homes is not only hypocritical, but also challenges the needed aspect of ‘practicing what you preach.’ Additionally, the totalitarianism used in this specific immoral instance opposes the necessary feeling of celebration within communities explained by Kouzes and his co-authors. Within Gilead, everyone is to look on others with skepticism, and the institution of The Eye is used to commit small-scale, ongoing terror campaigns against the population to assert sadistic control. Even actions as small as shopping are interpreted as ways to spy on others, as is true with the handmaid’s practices of doing so in pairs, so that, from one handmaid’s recollection, “The truth is that she is my spy, as I am hers” (Atwood, 19). With this depraved combination of a full breakdown of any kind of sincere relationships between people and a disregard for the consent of the governed, it is reasonable to conclude that Serena and The Commander, under the lens of leadership, fail to emerge as any type of leaders.