Leadership is a subject of fascination for the readers of South by Southwest. Today’s post is an updated republication of a post from October 12, 2005, that has long been popular with readers doing a Google search on the word “leadership.” I am posting it because this is such a crucial time in our nation’s history when new leadership is so desperately needed.
EADERSHIP. . .
What qualities define good leaders? How deep is their need for recognition? How important are people to them? Who do you think about when the word ‘leader’ is used? Which of your childhood teachers inspired you, and why? Whose biographies did you as a young person? Whose now?
The Time 100 is the magazine’s list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. The list might contain the names of people the previous questions brought to your mind. Why – and how – did they become leaders? How do these people compare to today’s leaders?
Leadership is not confined to the famous. Do you recall any good bosses, mentors or supervisors you have had at work? Years ago I was trained using Blake and Mouton’s The Managerial Grid. Their questionaire asks whether the manager has more concern for people or production. Leaders at the extreme corners of the grid quadrants are characterized by type as Missionary, Executive, Autocrat or Deserter. At the center is the Compromiser.
The academic and business worlds devote a tremendous amount of time, thought, energy and money to nurturing leadership. Many former therapists and counselors are now “coaching” potential leaders. This coaching site lists the basics about leadership.
The James MacGregor Burns book on leadership is a classic, and yet has pertinence for today. The above ‘book’ link has an excellent exerpt from his book. MacGregor talks about our inability to distinguish leadership from mere power-holding. Does that sound like the problem in the last two presidential elections? Have the voters been good followers? Did we do our job of examining our potential leaders well enough?
This recent Politico.com story illustrates an example of the consistently poor leadership exercised by the Republican candidate for president, Senator John McCain. It says that the “McCain game plan worries insiders.” To quote:
Four months have passed since John McCain effectively captured the party nomination, and the insiders are getting restless. Top GOP officials, frustrated by what they view as inconsistent messaging, sluggish fundraising and an organization that is too slow to take shape, are growing increasingly uneasy about the direction of the McCain presidential campaign.
My blog S/SW has mostly focused on our government’s national leaders. I have been largely critical of Republican leaders, while examining Democratic leadership, as well. Alan Stang at BATR wrote a useful article on Corporatocracy, asserting that the Republican administration is leading the country in the direction of massive privatization of many heretofore governmental roles and obligations. Many of believe that corporations are now far too powerful and dominate the leadership role in the direction our nation is taking. The recent Iraqi government contracts signed with U.S. oil companies is a prime example.
Many ask whether religion is too dominant in Iraq. The religious/political rivalries struggling to become dominant there regularly give us news stories. The current constitution, approved by Iraqi voters in October of 2005, is the central document laying out how people are to lead in the present and future. Juan Cole at Informed Comment explains why the Provincial Elections, scheduled for October, 2008 may be jeopardized by these continued struggles. To quote:
The UN special envoy to Iraq is casting doubt on whether provincial elections can be held in October, since parliament has still not enacted an elections law.
Al-Zaman explains in Arabic what the hold-ups are on the election law. It says that the big parties are now clearly trying to postpone the elections beyond their scheduled date in October. Three big issues remain to be resolved:
 Whether Kirkuk Province will be including in the voting, even though it has not yet held the referendum mandated in the constitution on whether it will join the Kurdistan Regional Government, a provincial confederacy that has already absorbed 3 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
 The legitimacy of using religious symbols in campaign literature and on banners.
 How to prevent voter fraud.
Here is a actual way for citizens to act in the direction of encouraging good leadership. Ryan Singel at Wired: Threat Level reports on an effort to influence Senator Obama’s wrong-headed FISA bill stance. To quote:
An online campaign to scuttle a deal giving retroactive amnesty to telecoms that helped the government warrantlessly wiretap Americans is growing in strength, catching Senator Barack Obama between the Netroots that helped vaunt him to the nomination and a presidential campaign desire to seem strong on national security.
In conclusion, I want to say to everybody that leadership is not a lost cause. We just have to exercise our own kind of courageous citizen leadership by demanding good performance from whom we elect or plan to elect.
I am traveling to visit my family of origin in Wyoming. Therefore blog posting may be much more sporadic. But I will be tuned in to the web as much as possible, given technology and circumstances.
This day in History: Constitution Convention, July 2, 1787. Convention appointed grand committee to resolve representation in Congress.
View my current slide show about the Bush years — “Millennium” — at the bottom of this column.
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.