Monday 5 January 2015

What is good leadership?

Good leadership is:

1. Recognizing what most crucially needs to be done.

2. Discovering how to do it.

3. Doing it.


It is not about being without faults - not about avoiding mistakes/ blame; it is not about doing 'something' useful (but not doing THE thing that needs to be done).

It is not about doing something, then persuading people that that was what needed to be done.

It is not about saying  things, giving speeches, making plans, embarking upon consultation exercises,starting 'conversations', taking polls, making votes.

Fake-leadership is complex and easy; Real Leadership is simple and difficult.

Real leadership is difficult, because what needs to be done is often obvious; and the reason that has not been done is because of the obstacles which stand in the path of doing the right thing.

A real Leader overcomes those obstacles ad does the necessary; but a fake leader explains why the obstacles mean that the right thing cannot be done, and something else easier (which is not the right thing) should instead be done -  and then takes credit for doing what was easily do-able, instead of what was needed.


Real leadership is very rare.

But rarity is no reason to pretend that fake is real.

When there is no real leadership - when the leader is merely a corrupted careerist figurehead (which is nearly all of the time in high status and powerful institutions, nowadays) - then the best thing is to acknowledge the fact.


(Note added: There is another situation where there is a real leader who recognizes what needs to be done, discovers how to do it - and tries hard to do it, but is thwarted by other people so it doesn't get done. This has been the fate of some potential real leaders in recent years - such as Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps. In the event, the odds (and the system) were too heavily stacked against them. But, this is a bit conjectural, because without success it can never be known for sure that what they wanted to do really would have worked, or whether a better leader might have been able to overcome the thwarters.) 


David said...

Agreed. Unfortunately humans have a rather bad track record for choosing leaders who recognise 'what is good' and then to exact the changes in the manner you describe. The Hitlers, Mussolinis and Stalins of this world had their own visions of what is 'good' and countless millions of souls perished as a direct consequence. I'm afraid we will simply have to await for a divinely appointed leader to save us from ourselves. The democratically appointed ones never do what they say on the tin after all (as you have covered in other posts) and frankly at this stage of human history, does anyone REALLY believe that the next Prime Minister or President or whoever is actually going to accomplish anything more than feeble posturing and promising the Earth? like a Tony Blair or a Barack Obama before turning out to disappointingly flawed, corrupt and HUMAN or less powerful and able to make the changes advertised in their impressive job descriptions. People often criticise me for being cynical about politics and disinclined to engage with it anymore. They somehow still believe whoever follows David Cameron can somehow be better in an important and signifant way. I just can't honestly see it, even though I would really like to. When I cite every historical government and all of human history (especially in modernity) before as evidence to support the likelihood that the next lot will keep getting it wrong when we try to go it alone (I.e. without divine support; which at any rate can't possibly exist and is excluded from arguement de facto very forcibly) then they stand agog at my perceived cynicism and lack in faith in humanity to manage its own affairs. They seem to stare reality in the face and still not see it. As a Christian I can only imagine one true leader to save us from ourselves. I can't imagine any human leader getting more than within a shadows breadth of his virtue, strength and love for us all. Any human who tries to be a leader of this quality will fail. But, that does not mean, as an important caveat to be hopeful for, that a humble servant cannot follow Christ first and then lead other humans effectively by always acknowledging his or her flaws and tendency to corruption honestly to themselves and to those whom are being led. I understand the Church of Latter Day Saints have managed to do this rather well with a striking humility and dignity in the face of ceaseless apostacy. It is hard not to be deeply impressed by the qualities of the men and women of the LDS when one watches a general conference speech on the church website, whether one is a believer or not. They seem very REAL in a way that is poles apart from the carnival of theatre and rhetoric that is now what has become of the United Kingdom house of parliament.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I mostly agree; but good leadership is *possible* and there have been *some* good leaders: Alfred the Great was a shining example!

But more recently, in the second world war Churchill *did* the main thing that most needed to be done; and in 1979 so did Margaret Thatcher.

David said...

Yes, and so as modernity progresses good leaders are fewer and far between. Let us hope that the modern world will see another(s) in the near future, that may reverse the tide, at least for a while. As far a Thatcherism is concerned, I remember being staunchly against her in my liberal early 20', not for any particularly coherent reason, but simply because that was the ideological bandwagon I wanted to ride like my peers and didn't really stop to look at the facts objectively. I was wrong about a lot of things then. I suspect I still am but hopefully there has been some progress. I think perhaps the lesson I have learned is not just to vilify and react unthinkingly based on some kind of "group think" but to be prepared to totally reevaluate in the light of new information. Ironically, I am sure the rebel leftists students and youth, then and now, still regard themselves as ideologically trailblazing 'free thinkers!' The folly of youth indeed but that seems to be what young people do. Im not quite sure how to excuse the older ones though.

knifecatcher said...

Two flawed but true leaders:

Pinochet in Chile
Fujimori in Peru

The present situation must be horrendous before real change is possible.

Bruce Charlton said...

@kc - The situation could become horrendous but still there will be no possibility of positive change unless there is first a religious revival.