Our world is crying out for strong leaders. But when we look around, what do we see? A sorry state of affairs!

Take the US. The two main candidates for president need to instil more hope in voters. Each comes with his baggage, leaving many Americans stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But it’s not just across the ocean, either. In the EU, extremist ideologies are gaining ground. This trend is also popping up in many other countries worldwide, leaving us to wonder: where have all the good leaders gone?

But here’s the problem: this lack of solid leadership isn’t just happening in politics. We’re seeing it everywhere, even in our schools. Remember when classrooms were places where children learned respect and discipline? Those days seem like ancient history. Basic manners and social norms between people are vanishing fast and it’s a worrying sight.

So what’s behind all this? If we had to point the finger, everyone would accept that our core values are crumbling. Think of society like a house of cards. If the bottom layer isn’t stable, how can we expect the top to be strong?

In my humble opinion, the problem is linked to the decline of religious influence on society. Now, I’m not referring to the belief system behind every religion but more to the loss of clear moral guidelines it used to provide.

If children are not getting these rules from religion, how are they getting their sense of right and wrong? Some might say from their families. But let’s be honest: in a world where parents often work long hours and barely see their kids, how much guidance can they give?

The truth is that most young people are picking up their beliefs and values from social media. Studies show kids easily spend three to five hours daily on these apps and websites. But what are they getting from all this screen time alternating between weird cat videos and dodgy influencers? They are being alienated and exposed to confusing ideas from a tender age. Is this really what we want to shape our kids?

One day, when it’s too late, we’ll look back and wonder how our society ended this way. But the writing is on the wall. We need to restore solid values in our schools and homes. We should expose kids to respect, kindness and responsibility for their actions.

We parents need to step up, too. Even if life is busy, we must make time to talk with our kids about what’s right and wrong. Family dinners should be a chance to chat about important stuff, not just a quick pit stop between activities.

It’s time we dealt with social media seriously. These apps and sites have a massive impact on young minds. We need better rules to protect the young from harmful content and teach them how to think critically about what they see online.

Most importantly, we need an alternative to replace the moral guidance that religion used to provide.

But how do we go about this? It’s not an easy task but we must tackle it head-on.

First, we need to examine our education system. Are we teaching our children the right things? Math and science are essential but what about lessons in ethics, critical thinking and civic responsibility? We need more.

We need to look at the role of families in shaping young minds- Alexiei Dingli

Schools should not just be a place where young minds are filled with facts but one that shapes them into thoughtful, caring citizens. We must bring back the idea that education is about more than just passing exams – it’s about preparing the next generation for life.

Next, we need to address the elephant in the room: social media. It’s not going away, so we need to learn how to use it wisely. This means teaching children (and adults) how to spot fake news, use these platforms responsibly and balance screen time with real-life interactions.

We also need to look at the role of families in shaping young minds. In our busy world, it’s easy for parents to outsource their kids’ moral education to schools or the internet. But nothing can replace the influence of engaged, caring parents.

This might mean some tough choices. We may need to rethink our work-life balance. We may need to prioritise family time over that extra bit of overtime. It won’t be easy but the payoff – raising kids with strong values and leadership potential – is worth it.

We need to start demanding more from our leaders. We’ve become too accustomed to politicians who promise the moon and deliver nothing. It’s time to raise our standards. We should look for leaders with integrity, empathy and a genuine desire to serve. Leaders who can admit when they’re wrong and who put the greater good above their interests.

This means we, as voters, must be more engaged and informed. We can’t just show up on election day and hope for the best. We need to be active citizens, holding our leaders to account all year round.

Lastly, we need to remember that leadership is about more than just those at the top. We can be leaders in our own way – at work, in our communities or even in our own families.

We can show leadership by setting a good example, standing up for what’s right and helping others. And, if enough of us do this, we can start to change the culture from the ground up.

The road ahead is challenging but the alternative – a world without robust and ethical leadership – is too grim to contemplate.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let’s rebuild the foundations of values and ethics, nurture the next generation of leaders and create a society we can be proud to pass on to our children.

The time for action is now. Our future depends on it.

Alexiei Dingli is a professor of artificial intelligence.

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