Lead­ers and lead­er­ship

The Korea Times - - OPINION - By Robin Rhee

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.

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