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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leadership and what it means and what it must be.

Oftentimes miscast, misunderstood, and misrepresented.

by StFerdIII



Within the story of the last century we see the rise not only of the great Liberal – Darwin – Freud conflict over the question of human nature and human freedom, but we see towering above the masses the crags and peaks of peculiar individuals, our human ancestors and comrades, called leaders, that seemed to stand out against the background, as the catalysts of change. What then constitutes the cellular and molecular makeup of these rare characters ?

Harry Truman, erstwhile President during the later and following stages of the Second World War, stated a definition of a Leader that is pithy and simple; “A Leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it.” This was the man who had on his desk during his presidency “The buck stops here.”, broadcasting to his people and underlings that his desk was where the last court of appeal would rest.

Interestingly Truman was never thought to be much of a Leader before he acceded on the death of FDR to the highest office in the world. Yet his conviction that a Leader must take the ultimate responsibility within a clearly defined organisation and set of goals have led revisionist historians to rank Truman as one of the most influential presidents this century, with the dropping of the atomic bomb and the commencement of the Cold War marking this era as one of the most difficult and messy in the history of modern International Relations.

But the greater point at issue is the seeming dearth of leadership skills in our public officialdom and in society and business at large. Something has gone rotten in the state. As Walter Bennis a scholar respected for leadership studies once commented: “But now, try to name only one larger-than-life Leader, one who could fill the role of FDR, or Ike or De Gaulle, or Churchill.’” Most of our leaders today are decidedly average, and do not promote or lift us or our hopes on the wings of higher purpose and energy. They miss the leadership skills that Bennis and others are dedicated to teaching. The skills that are according to Bennis are so vital for leadership are:

-Judgement and character.
-Persuasive ability to get people to accept the idea.
-Candour.
-Constancy.
-Conceptual skills
-Strongly defined sense of purpose.
-Potent point of view
-Limited number but clearly defined objectives.
-People skills.

Importantly Bennis believes that leaders are not born -- but are self made. All the above points are a framework of skills that combine character traits and psychological dispositions. It is a complicated and interesting mixture of these two ‘concepts’ that seems to produce the leaders of human society. First we shall look at the issues of character and use Bennis’ ideas (below in Italics) to provide a framework and then we will look at Churchill and other leaders of this century. For simplicity I have grouped Bennis’ ideas and other concepts of leadership into the following categories;

In time of change and tumult, extraordinary effects are expected from the ordinary human. The modern Christian and secular era which began with the rationality of Descartes, was a keen departure from the more fatalistic, deterministic concerns that had befuddled man since the time of the ancient Greeks. In the philosophy of antiquity, progress did not exist. The human condition was cyclical, in the hands of Gods, and deterministic.

The three fates, picked, pulled and then cut the thread of each life. Pagan rituals, myths of various kinds and then institutionalised religion, bounded the masses into acceptance. However with the coming of the enlightenment and the power of individualism these shackles were thrown off. Progress and equal access to power were demanded by the dull but brute mass. Standards and expectations have progressed and now we have the question of how to achieve an open Liberal order within the framework of human frailty, egoism and banality ? How should, in this culture of equality and ‘me too’ rights, a person lead ?

The evolution of leadership usually matches the evolution of societal development, albeit for some regions of the world at a retarded pace. Different eras will throw up different leadership paradigms. In the mostly militaristic and tribal and primal eras that were in vogue for most of history before the industrial revolution and the spread of technology and democracy, most leadership was rather authoritarian. The authoritarianism could take different guises and forms, and have different points of emphasis, but mainly until about the 19th century, rule was by force, by a small oligarchic elite, and without any real regard for popular expression.

The degree of this atavism would be influenced by the degree of the particular empire, city-state, or tribe’s collective mission, religious worship and strength. But there is very little difference when looking at the attitudes and actions of early Sumerian or Babylonian rulers with those of Rome, the Mayans, the ancient Manchu’s or the Gold Coast Princes, or even those skills demonstrated by Napoleon, Stalin or Mao. But in a world where the Internet runs amok, technology creates new markets and extends the human life each year, and mass communication has rendered a class system an anachronism, some redefinition of the leadership paradigm is required.

In the re-appraisal of leadership during the past century, many experts have concluded that the priority of the Leader is to guide, co-ordinate and empower. Only in this way could he avoid the primitive struggles, revolutions and intrigue that seemingly crippled or destroyed the leaders of history during the more primitive era of human societal development. Not eschewing the principles of power it was deemed that all leaders could achieve control through persuasion in a democratic environment with the inclusion of their constituents.

It can be witnessed in reading history that the most effective leaders are those that have presented a drama that unfolds over time, with a pregnant message and a theme that is dynamic. For those who are revered as leaders they have given or are giving their people the impression that they have, all together, embarked on a journey. Importantly for the followers this journey will in some way resolve the issue of their individual identities and their place in the order of this chaotic universe. As such the strong message and vital theme is linked to the self worth and egoism of the constituents.

Therefore the skills that we have identified – communication, persuasion, and people skills – will be necessary to democratise but at the same time civilise the group mission. Leadership occurs in the human mind (s) of the Leader and followers – especially in the cognitive processes of those that are following. Power must be yoked to cognitive processes and specific messages that can appeal to the needs of the followers, especially the human need to feel included, wanted and respected. In this regard there is no need to guide policies by the latest opinion poll or force complex ideas into sound bites.

Churchill for example exerted influence directly through the stories he communicated to his audience. Einstein was an indirect Leader using the ideas he developed and his treatises to appeal to these basic human yearnings and thus win wide acceptance as a Leader of science. Thus persuasion and communication are extremely important, in fact crucial, for any Leader. When a Leader tells stories to sophisticates it can be complicated, but when the Leader is dealing with a diverse heterogeneous group the story must be sufficiently basic to be understood by the untutored mind.

In the thread of communication the Leader must focus the group on the goal (s) (limited it should be stressed for the sake of clarity), that they will collectively achieve. To realise the goal the Leader must drive for quality, achievement and results. However the Leader must be steeled and resistant and ruthless in dealing with those who demand unwarranted change in the group’s direction or those who demand that every step be performed to perfection. Rebels and those who corrupt the cause must be effectively dealt with, either they are brought into the group as effective participants or they must be ejected. Perfectionism on the other hand is the enemy of effectiveness. An effective plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next year.

A true Leader will be able to make, communicate and implement an effective plan. He must really resist those who demand perfection. In my experience these perfectionists are more in love with delay and babble then in achieving something. They are also incapable of taking judicious risks. This is not to deny quality, but elevate results. In this regard, the skill of communication will be vital as the Leader manages the art of improvisation to achieve the stated goal; “Petty minds attempt to accomplish everything; wise men pursue only the most important.” The large goal must be always communicated and present and perfectionism and other obstructions found intolerable.

The sophisticated and untutored mind will believe and subscribe to the achievement of the goal if the story told by the Leader is carried into force by action and determination. The Leader must lead by example and by hard determined work. Importantly a true Leader will have the self discipline and associated skills to not only enjoy quietly the triumphs along the way, but more importantly to maintain calm during a crisis. Patience and knowing when and how to achieve victory are important qualities that the Leader must relate, tell and exemplify.

To satisfy goal attainment we are not only dealing with the skill of convincing others, but we must integrate into the message the skills of intelligence and knowledge. Effective communication without knowing what you are doing or talking about is dangerous. Knowledge, is the foundation of success. Knowledge is the fundamental, strategic, and tactical understanding of the entire process at work, and what the goal(s) should be and how to achieve these goals. To understand what you do and do not know is true knowledge and the type of knowledge a Leader needs to strike the right message, communicate the right signals to the right people at the right time, and get those with the skills he does not possess on the team.

Intelligence

Communication skills are therefore a component of intelligence but what exactly is intelligence ? IQ tests though providing some standard to measure raw, Western based concepts surrounding how we in the West view intelligence, are not accurate indicators of success in life. School achievement is not an indicator and does not provide a direct mathematical correlation to the success people enjoy or do not enjoy in professional and private affairs. Intelligence is in essence a combination of skills and aptitudes over a wide range of areas, with, it appears an applied focus on a particular domain, by a person with perseverance that generates success. Natural genius in some is evident but this genius by itself is not the only variety of intelligence that humans offer and is not even the most important when people discuss intelligence. The hard intelligence – scientific, mathematical, calibrated – is not the same as the soft intelligence of human skills, communication and common sense. Einstein could not remember his phone number, Churchill could not fix a car engine, Bill Gates is celebrated as lacking in human skills; but are any of these people less intelligent in general than the other ? Who knows.

In general we can state that there are some forms of intelligence that an effective Leader should possess. The first of these is technical ability. Technical ability is the application of skills relating to the discipline at hand. The tools, the methods, the programs, and the general knowledge around the subject, constitute technical intelligence. It can be highly mathematical and refined. Even non-scientific, non-industrial or non-technical areas, can be calibrated and quantified and the understanding regarding what constitutes the subject can be considered ‘hard’. To be effective and know what is really going on a Leader needs to be well versed in his technical discipline.

Important in this aspect is the application of innovative thought. The ability to change or add more value to the technical area by using common sense to solve problems or change some technical feature of the topic at hand elevates the prestige of the Leader. Innovation is then another key component of intelligence. Capitalism as a theory is founded upon innovative destruction. Creative chaos breeds challenges, changes and chance. People can then add to their speciality some form of applied innovation to solve some issues or create opportunities. Innovation however is rather difficult to quantify. Some innovations are achieved by sheer dogged courage, others by a combination of sweat and luck, others by circumstance and collaboration across time and people. How are we to measure the creative creatures who are building electronic commerce systems for internet shopping, against the local garage engineer who cheaply and efficiently finds, fixes and tests a novel solution to your car engine’s trouble ?

A Leader must have the technical and innovational skills demanded by his environment or the same skills to create his environment. However, I would submit that this is not enough. A Leader must also understand history and people. This is a completely different interpretation of intelligence, utilising different spheres of the brain and neo-cortex, yet vital for a Leader. I mean not just the history and people of his chosen area of professionalism, but a Leader must have in general an appreciation of history, culture and time.

People follow leaders who can demonstrate a multi-faceted approach and understanding to life and who can show other people the skills and ideals that they aspire to and want to hold. For the leader a general appreciation of history, people and time is indispensable for self–perspective, and to understand his place in the universe. It also forms a part of the group’s mission and vision in the grand sweep of historical progress and civilisational development. A Leader who understands history can elevate the current and mundane to the sublime, through an enthusiastic interpretation of the group’s mission in historical terms. He can also spot trends, repeated occurrences and learn from the past to avoid mistakes. The good Leader recognises that history does indeed have a nasty habit of repetition, albeit in different disguises.

Vision

A true Leader develops an intense determination to achieve his vision. This creates high morale and spirit among the constituents. The Leader will use this power to control the efforts of his followers. The path to command therefore starts with a purpose. The most notable leaders in history have possessed an overarching vision relating to their goal; the philosophy and meaning of achieving the vision; and the ethical doctrine (which can be very much debatable depending on the principles espoused by the leader), supporting the vision. This vision is usually premised upon the skills and traits mentioned already. There has to be some valued added and ‘exciting’ agent at work in marking this person out as a Leader and distancing him from the rest. Usually this agent is catalysed by innovation, resolve and intelligence – all related to a vision that the followers buy into.

This vision should not only be a stated goal – or a hard objective. It has to also be a moral statement or a position that is recognised at the very least as neutral regarding the basic beliefs that underlie all human religious activity – patience, hope, understanding, humility, civilised conduct and co-operation. The vision cannot come into conflict, at least not with people who have some ethical construction – with these basic ideals. This is very true in an integrated world. Despite the many horrors of human history and the swings in the pendulum of human morality, one can point to the gradual emergence of more sophisticated ways of thinking in the areas of morality and civility.

Leaders are also evolving their morale themes -- Jean Monnet, Churchill and Gandhi would be examples since they developed in their constituencies a more complex way of thinking; in effect they communicated a vision with a meaning. Many leaders fail the vision test since their stated goals are material and ignore the ethical. As Freud expressed; “the voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing. Ultimately, after endlessly repeated rebuffs, it succeeds. This is one of the few points in which one may be optimistic about the future of mankind.” The intellect is concerned not only with achievement but also with emotional needs.

People need spiritual as well as material meaning. The vision then has to conform to many different pressures and levels of expectation. It must be pure in ethics, strategies, and philosophy to garner complete and unchanging support from those involved. The handling of this vision and its changing character or adaptation to a changing environment, and in response to comments ‘from below’ is the responsibility of the Leader. The vision may justly be amended if circumstance or comment warrants and as along as it satisfies the material and spiritual demands of the constituents.

If this has been accomplished it becomes the Leader’s responsibility to embrace the duties and obligations that grow from trust and power in doing what is necessary to make the vision happen. The Leader must therefore lead by example, show an overriding concern for the constituents. He must also do the essential things well – be proactive, reduce complexity, and seek improvement – all in the name of achieving the vision. In essence – action: “When the chips are down, the main question is not how you go about meeting your objectives, but whether you succeed in doing so.”(9) . The vision is nice. But without results it becomes hollow. To achieve the vision takes extraordinary energy, discipline and the judicious usage of power.

Power

The attainment and use of power is one of the most interesting investigations that we can undertake. It encompasses the fields of psychology, political relations, philosophy and biology. Yet much about power remains rooted in the primeval nature of man. As with any part of the primate family the human tribe has a pretty well developed organisation of power. In human society there are dominant hierarchies, with dominant males and some dominant females.

These dominant leaders will exhibit certain levels of serotonin, and lower overall levels of stress, demonstrated in higher neurotransmitter activity. Within an organisation it can be observed that when a male’s position changes in the hierarchy so do these psychological markers. As well it can be observed that within these hierarchies there is a proclivity to imitate, and this is unidirectional, with lower primates imitating higher status animals. In the 20th century corporation the above principles are still valid. We call it company culture.

Thus we can state that if a Leader attains power he can expect his subordinates to imitate his movements and attitudes. But how then does the Leader establish this power ? In bygone eras force or hereditary status was enough to mark the primate’s role in the hierarchical league. But today this is hardly sufficient though brainpower replacing strength can be used to elevate one’s position in society. But power is not about the supremacy of muscle or grey matter, it also has to do with capturing the cognitive and emotional impulses and designs of others.

The motive force of much of human history has been the desire of individuals to achieve. To leave a legacy is a basic human need. From Cheops to Imperialists, to graffiti artists at the foot of the Great Wall, to encrypted radio signals scanning the universe and broadcasting our existence, the human seems especially concerned with his role in the order of time. Yet for most of us we must be concerned with daily survival and obtaining necessities and we have little of our energy is left for other purposes. Yet through chance, design or circumstance some of us, driven by imagination, or a combination of extraordinary skills, strive to reach the pinnacle.

Bertrand Russell paints succinctly, this struggle to attain power:
“Of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires for power and glory. These are not identical, though closely allied....As a rule, however, the easiest way to obtain glory is to obtain power; this is especially the case as regards men who are active in relation to public events. The desire for glory, therefore, prompts, in the main, the same actions as are prompted by the desire for power, and the two motives may, for most practical purposes, be regarded as one.”

The study of power is vital. Men who love change and glory, utilise and usurp the levers of power. Key components of this journey are the concepts of intelligence, integrity and energy. But like the above, power has many forms. None can be thought of as subordinate to the other. Some weave power through communication (or oratory), some through example, others through sheer hard work, others through knowledge, and yet others by understanding the system and using it to their advantage.

Or perhaps all of the aforementioned are employed. Though the conduits may vary, the result always justifies the means for those who seek to lead. Power is somewhat amorphous and dense. Much as some men’s characters lead them to command, some to follow, with the great majority stuck somewhere in between, so is power utilised by different people, in different ways to attain different results.

At the core of power seekers we have the great self confidence that lies not only on the surface, but penetrates deep into the subconscious. This self confidence necessary to a Leader may be caused or formed in various ways. It may come from childhood experiences, through early familial pressures, educational processes, years spent in independent struggle, support and advise by someone close, or a combination of these and other factors. Indeed the psychological profile of self confidence is one of the great holy grails of those who seek to measure intelligence and success.

From my less scientific and casual observations I have noticed that those people in my life who are truly self-confident have a high degree of honesty, a past in which they really had to struggle to survive and achieve, and the support of someone close who acted as a sounding board and a buttress. Invariably they are open but stubborn in pursuing what they want. Interestingly as well they are optimistic people, optimistic not about the human character but optimistic about eventually achieving their own goals.

In any event these types of personalities and power seekers will inevitably run into other power seekers. If we observe for instance Cromwell, Napoleon, and Lenin, all dominated their respective countries and secured the willing service of able men who were not be nature by submissive. All three had boundless courage and self-confidence, combined with sound judgement. Crowmell and Lenin also happened to be men of profound religious faith believing themselves to be the appointed ministers of a non-human purpose. This faith gave them the courage to carry on when the task seemed lost. Yet they had the technical, human and visioning skills to suppress or direct highly competent and ambitious colleagues.

These men recognised that if one aspires to leadership one must acquire the position of leader, and he must excel in the qualities that confer authority: self-confidence, quick decision making, and skill in deciding upon the right measures are especially sought after by the mass when times become too confusing, threatening or generally incomprehensible.

In the realm of politics or matters of state, issues are deemed by the mass to be too arcane, and have in the representative systems in use in the West, proxied their political interest to elected officials. This allows the toiler to subsist and focus on the immediate world and immediate needs.

Leadership is in a very real sense, the combination of the profane, the fecund and the spiritual.



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