Is leadership the answer?

We have seen some pretty rum versions of leadership in recent years. Philippines does it with murder, as does Saudi, though they are more selective. Putin does it with creative internet lies. Trump favours Twitter, quite appropriate in my view. May does it with stamina, her opponents with internecine warfare. Johnson, B, and Johnson, J, do it with confusion. Justin wonders what is it all about and discovers that asking Macron doesn’t help. Angela has given up. Bizarre.

You cannot have effective leaders without effective followers. In our search to find the formula for leadership have we forgotten the need to prepare those to whom we assign the job of voting for, and working with, leaders? If so, what can be done about it? Great leaders have contributed to many successes of humankind; poor leaders to many downfalls. What are the common characteristics of the former? Could we prepare voters and workers to recognise them?

Leadership depends on an adversarial society for leaders to be effective. A collaborative society wouldn’t need leaders. Of course, we will never become wholly collaborative. Or will we? In writing the specifications for Artibuttle* it may well be necessary to project a model as totally collaborative. Artificial intelligence is potentially cleverer than we are. For the present, however, competition drives progress and leaders are necessary to navigate its rocky passage.

Traditional criteria for leadership were intellect, education, knowledge, personality / stature. Intellect in this context means quick thinking. Clearly that is still important. As decisions are needed faster and faster, quick thinking becomes increasingly important. Not, however, if it is at the expense of deep thinking, which it often appears to be. President Trump is a quick thinker but the well from which he draws his thoughts is in need of a major spring clean.

Some people say that history plays an important part in leadership. True that dynastic leaders have made their mark in the story of the world. True that an environment of leadership exposes the young to a style that induces command, the essence of what a leader does. Tradition has its place but with the pace of new knowledge it is possible for others to benefit from backgrounds of all sorts and to acquire skills formerly thought to be honed only by familiarity and experience.

Leaders of the past lacked many of the leadership tools available today. One leader, millennia ahead of his time, showed the true meaning of command. Socrates understood that what is learned is greater and better than what is taught. He recognised that push communications has the force of a firearm but pull communications has the durability of intellectual seduction. What we push-in fades, what we draw-out lasts. Our greed to impart – often in the name of generosity, even kindness – has allowed us to forget that the greatest love we bestow is independence.

Great leaders hold torches, shine lights, nudge occasionally, shove very rarely.

Humankind is not only neglecting our physical climate, we are neglecting our mental climate, too. The first will soon leave parts of our planet uninhabitable. The second will, if developed, make all of us unlivable with. The specification we seek for the next humanoid species is urgent.

Because it is the specification we need for ourselves.

Right now.

*Artibuttle – the next humanoid species. Terrific Mentors International is putting together a prize for the best non-technological specifications.

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