Leaders and leadership
When people sense that some important world leaders are playing risky games of brinkmanship, perhaps it is time to pause and take a new look at what learned men have had to say about leaders and leadership throughout the ages.
Pictographs which have been discovered on cave walls give us a glimpse of the earliest form of leadership.
There were skilled hunters and brave warriors. We can infer that those who put their trust in those leaders relied on them to provide their day-to-day survival.
Recorded history brought forth prominent individuals to share their views about leaders and leadership. Their advice is useful, but often disregarded.
Confucius said, “He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all of the stars turn towards it.”
Lao-Tzu advised, “Be the chief but never the lord.”
Mencius declared, “It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not to offend the noble families,” (In modern times, noble families might be replaced by the industrial-military complex.)
And Plato wrote, “(The tyrant) is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”
Fast forward to the A.D. centuries, Goethe stated, “Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead is the watchword of the wise.”
An anonymous writer maintained, “The essence of superior leadership is the inspired application of principle to circumstance.”
John P. Kotter asserted, “Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there.”
James MacGregor Burns suggested, “The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended real change that meets people’s needs.”
And Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed, “Favor comes to the political leader because for a brief moment in the great space of human change and progress some general human purpose finds in him a satisfactory embodiment.”
History has shown us that power-hungry leaders have ignored wise advice. Rather, throughout the centuries, they have waged successive wars, under various banners, for countless causes and radical isms.
In the here and now, wars continue and leaders concentrate their efforts on developing the most lethal and accurate nuclear weapons.
If it were possible for you to deliver advice to the leaders who directly and indirectly impact your daily lives, what would you say? Robin Rhee (rrko[email protected]) is a former weekly columnist for The Korea Times.