Where are the meaningful political leaders? Where is the meaningful political leadership? Where are the emerging political leaders? What are colleges and universities doing to evolve political leaders? What are governments doing to evolve political leaders and political leadership?
The genius and global perspective of Henry Kissinger are alive and well in Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy (2022, NY, NY: Penguin). Kissinger takes the reader through the storied lives of Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Lee Kuan Yew, and Margaret Thatcher; and offers a clear perspective of the evolution of political leadership from aristocracy to meritocracy and to the current state of visual political persons advertising and packaging via the internet and social media. Viable political leaders and leadership are absent!
Great leadership results from the collision of the intangible and the malleable, from that which is given and that which is exerted. Scope remains for the individual effort-to deepen historical understanding, hone strategy and improve character. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote long ago, ‘We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.’ It is the role of leaders to help guide that choice and inspire their people in its execution. (416)
Some of the highlights captured from Kissinger’s journeys and genius…(399-416) are as follows:
Yes, leaders offer vision and depth of character and play the cards dealt! We need leaders and political leadership with common ground, common standards, a common frame of reference, intellect, and hardiness required to meet the challenges facing world order. A few of the essential qualities are humanistic education, academic performance earned with hard work, personal discipline developed during childhood, self-improvement in the genes, self-control and self-restraint, patriotism, self-belief, national identity, committed to common good, desire to serve people, and embodying the greatest traditions of society. We need to re-capture the growth and development that evolves when folks read, reflect, have group discussions, and experience the wisdom and inherent perspective of complex books. Today’s interferences, stimuli, and personalities are distractions and entertainment, not leaders modeling leadership and offering visions for global cooperation and humanistic evolution.
The evolution from print to visual, to internet, and to social media has created global interference and distraction dividing humanity into warring tribes offering polarity, diversity, and conformity relying on chosen group members for guidance and direction. Consequently, we are shunted into groups and the group polices our thinking. The result is that there are followers and influencers, no leaders.
The challenge in today’s world is to create thoughtful leaders with virtues and talents, humanistic education, character, reading and discussion experiences, philosophy, politics, human geography, modern languages, history, economic thought, and literature. At the top of the list are nurturing of courage, positive attributes, and achievements. Absolutes are integrity, persistence, determination, historical vision, strength in decision, comprehension of interlocking international situations, spiritual elevation, imagination, principled leadership, and tenacity. The vision is for national security and peaceful, international coexistence. This demands exemplary leaders with character, intellect, and hardiness.
Max Weber contends the essential qualities for transformative leadership,
The only man (-person) who has a ‘vocation’ for politics is one who is certain that his (-her) spirit will not be broken if the world, when looked at from his (-her) point of view, proves too stupid or base to accept what he (-she) wishes to offer it, and who, when faced with all that obduracy, can still say ‘Nevertheless!’ despite everything. (415)
Leaders show up as authentic self and model the way as persons, in relationships, socially, institutionally, culturally, and by helping others and caring about others. They put quality, common good, compassion, and virtue in all they are and all they do. Politicians who need to be packaged and advertised are not leaders, they are either tribal followers or influencers. They merely create the hyper polarity and division of today’s world.
We have a lot to get done. Start by selecting folks for political positions who are visionary, have character, intellect, and hardiness, and are committed to the fact that leadership is an influence relationship between other leaders and followers that is earned, not advertised and not packaged for visual attraction, interference, and distraction from today’s reality.